Jim Tedesco is an 8 year veteran of the Flight Centre USA brand portfolio. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a Masters of Business Administration in Management, Jim began his career in retail and has made wholesale his home for the last five and half years. Throughout his experience, Tedesco has a proven track record for taking ideas from concept to market with successful results. Through his interactions with the many facets of the business, Tedesco has learned new ways to grow the brand and the business of this only customer, The Travel Agent. Knowing the importance the travel agent plays in the vacation planning experience has helped Tedesco create many new marketing opportunities for GOGO and its travel agent partners, including the launch of On The Go: A Magazine for Travelers, which is published quarterly and is designed to help travel agents market their business within the community they operate. Tedesco was also influential in the development of Paradise Found, a web series designed to give agents an educational tour of GOGO’s top properties, while giving the agents a fun link to provide their clients to help aid in closing the sale. Because of this, Tedesco is a leader with strong connections in the travel and agency communities.
In his current role as leader for what GOGO is considering their Emerging Business, Tedesco is looking after the growth of the Worldwide Traveler and Go Groups brands. These brands are sister brands to GOGO Vacations, but work hand in hand to offer the travel agent an overall one-stop-shop with GOGO Worldwide Vacations – offering a place to call for long haul destinations with Worldwide Traveler, Group Experts with GO Groups, and over 40 traditional branches with GOGO Vacations for short haul FIT vacation packages. Tedesco has been tasked with leading the overall operational plan for the emerging business with a big focus on its people and the customer experience
Travel Research Online: Which travel experience has impacted you the most?
Jim Tedesco: Tourism has just as strong an impact on the traveler as it does the destination you are visiting. I wish I had one experience that I could say impacted me the most but the beautiful thing about travel is that it creates stories. It’s those stories that we carry around with us from party to party and conversation to conversation, eagerly sharing our experiences. I’ve been impacted by the people of a destination, their culture, their history, or simply seeing how the value of my tourism dollar is affecting their daily lives. This industry is so powerful that it can create jobs and infrastructure and while we visit a country and create our life stories that mold us into who we are, the people of that country are having their lives changed as well. Each experience makes me realize how lucky I am to do what I do. Travel is the most exciting industry one could work in. We literally sell dreams and smiles. We bring to life the culture and history, or the sun and fun found in each unique destination. I’m proud to be a part of that.
TRO: How and why did you get into travel?
JM: Funny enough, I fell into it accidentally. While in grad school, I wasn’t actively looking for a new job but just kind of felt I needed a little change. A classmate of mine was working for Flight Centre, then Lib Go Travel, and I randomly asked if I could give her my resume in case any jobs opened up in the marketing team. I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least ask and see what happened. Before I knew it, I was having an interview less than a week later followed by giving my two weeks notice to start my new job with LibGo. It all took about 3 weeks in total from the time I handed my resume to her to the time I was sitting at my new job.
TRO: Why the transition from retail to wholesale?
JM: I started on the retail side of our company and loved it but it was time for a change. I wanted to move from a marketing position to more of a sales position because I felt I needed more sales experience to grow in the company. I became a BDM for GOGO and fell in love even more with the industry. I was able to use my marketing experience to work one on one with travel agents and help them grow their business. It became a true partnership and I felt like I had really found my niche. It was a decision I debated back and forth on but once I made the switch, the travel agency and wholesale travel community welcomed me with open arms and I haven’t left since.
TRO: You have held many different positions within the industry, what is one challenge that always seems to be reoccurring?
JM: One challenge is differentiation. Every company knows they can’t be everything to everyone. It just isn’t possible. But finding how you can be the most meaningful relationship your clients have in travel provides value. I am always trying to think of new ways we can provide value without changing the core belief system in who we are as a company. I think we’ve done a pretty good job at providing new ways for agents to market themselves and new ways to help agents close the sale but the challenge will always be the question “what’s next?”. One can never stop asking “How can we enhance what we have?” “What do agents need and want?” “How can we provide it?.”
TRO: What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
JM: Some would think I’d say travel but the truly enjoyable part is the people. I have met some of the most incredible people from around the world and I love spending time with them! I am a firm believer that success comes in hard work, and strong relationships and I really value my relationships with everyone I’ve met along my way. You never know when you may need them and vice versa.
TRO: What is the biggest obstacle for travel agents? What can they do to better approach these challenges and overcome them?
JM: Just like with any salesperson, we become very close to our work. And often that makes it hard to take a step back and do a true analysis of what your business needs. There is an old quote that says “The most dangerous phrase in the English language is We’ve Always Done it This Way” and quite often, if you are honest with yourself, you’ll find a change in how you operate certain procedures may do the trick in turning your sales around. The real tough part is not being afraid to fail. A failure does not mean you should go back to the old ways, it just means you’ve learned something new and can now avoid making that same mistake again. Never be afraid to fail forward. It’s not easy, we all go thru it. It’s part of the joys and struggles of being in sales.
TRO: As a leader in the travel community, what do you think travel agents seem to ‘miss’ when working with clients?
JM: The fun of it. Remove the Online Retailers, remove the other travel agencies, even remove your commission. Listen to what your client wants and provide a true travel experience they will love. And get excited about it because when they see your excitement and that you are truly listening to them, it will form a level of trust. In all the times I’ve planned a vacation, or even arrived at the airport for a flight, I still get excited. It’s amazing that we get to sell that. Don’t worry about the competition and all the external things that may affect what or who you recommend, do it for the smile and have fun.
TRO: You are currently leading the overall operational plan for GOGO Vacations’ emerging businesses. What does this plan look like? what can travel agents and customers alike, expect?
JM: Our emerging business are Worldwide Traveler and GO Groups. Worldwide focuses more on the long haul packages while GO Groups can book 10 passengers or more and ensure group concessions on almost all groups. Our plan has a strong focus on making sure the travel agent has knowledgeable consultants to work with that make the overall booking process memorable. Over the next few months we will be taking a good hard look at our emerging businesses and creating processes to ensure we are delivering on that promise. If we can provide an exceptional booking experience to the travel agent and provide them with all the information they will need to help close the sale, the customer will ultimately feel comfortable booking with that agent and feel the same love. By knowing who the end customer is from the agent, we can help tailor packages designed specifically for them.
TRO: In your opinion, what is the number reason a travel agent loses a sale? How can they improve?
JM: Every agency can be different but I find that a lot of agents don’t always sell themselves with each package. I often find the same within our own branches and our competition as well. Consumers pick who they will book with because of the overall experience. If a consumer can get the same price with an online travel site, but the travel agent explained that their price includes 24/7 support (available thru GOGO with every booking), a better payment option plan that only requires a deposit, and personalized service, the consumer would almost feel it would be a no brainer to book with the agent. Sell yourself with every booking!
TRO: Anything new or exciting travel agents and customers can expect from GOGO in the upcoming year?
JM: There are a lot of great things coming from our brand this year. Keep up to date with your Inside Sales Manager or Business Development Manager for all the information or take a look at our website at www.gogowwv.com for any events in your area. Our Worldwide Showcases have become very popular and are great ways to hear what’s new!