LeeAnn Roper Cumbow’s career within the world of travel began in 1992 with Northwest Airlink as one of their flight attendants. In 1997, she shifted gears and launched her career with Vacation Express as one of their travel agents. She immediately caught the attention of Vacation Express executives, and in 1998, Cumbow became their Business Development Manager for Memphis.
In 2001, she was promoted to Inside Sales Manager and simultaneously served New Orleans and Nashville as their Business Development Manager. In 2012, Cumbow became the Senior Business Development Manager for Vacation Express. Today, she provides strategic direction for overall business development and implementation. Her knack for developing pricing procedures, contract negotiations, and overall strategies to increase volume and profitability is indisputable. A brand ambassador for Vacation Express, she plans and conducts sales training and communicates critical information throughout the organization. Cumbow’s expertise and unique approach is mostly seen within her motivation, problem solving skills, and optimized results-driven, team-oriented environment.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Your career in travel began as a flight attendant. Tell us a little about that experience and how it inspired your future in the industry.
LeeAnn Roper Cumbow (LRC): My career as a flight attendant played into my passion for travel. Being able to see the world, meet interesting people and knowing that my day would never be the same prepared me for being on this side of the industry. As we know Travel is an Adventure, and working within travel, I still see every day as an adventure. Vacation Express continues to grow with new gateways and destinations, so again, no two days are alike.
TRO: Starting out as a travel agent for an agency that was a top producer with Vacation Express, what qualities do you think executives at VE saw in you to inspire them to pursue you for a higher level position within the company?
LRC: When I interviewed with the Director of Sales for the BDM position, I realized that not only was VE a great company to work with, but with the future growth plans and opportunities available, it would be a great company to work for.
TRO: Vacation Express is one of the leading tour operators in the industry. Tell us a little about what your company offers.
LRC: As a member of the Sunwing Travel Group, Vacation Express has been able to continue our growth throughout the different regions of the US, offering some of the most beautiful charter destinations. With the great airline partners, wonderful hotel partners and aggressive price points, we are the best value for clients getting away. In addition to the amazing programs for clients, we offer some of the best travel agent programs in the industry. Agents can earn cash bonus, free flights and free nights into all of our charter destinations while still earning competitive commission.
TRO: What type of experience is guaranteed through Vacation Express? What can potential clients and travel agents expect from your company?
LRC: I feel the one thing that continues to set Vacation Express apart is our customer service, to both our travelers and travel agents. It does not matter the size of the agency, every booking, every client is important to the growth of Vacation Express. When travel agents are successful, Vacation Express is successful.
TRO: How have your various experiences within the industry prepared you for your current role as Senior Business Development Manager for Vacation Express?
LRC: Being a flight attendant, appreciate the challenge of travel; being a travel agent, appreciate the different situations that they have to deal with on a daily basis and the customer service/demanding of clients; working for Vacation Express, understanding the industry of the development side – all of these different positions have been be very enriching in preparing me for the day-to-day in managing the different personalities of the wonderful people in the Sales Department.
TRO: What are some of the responsibilities you hold in your current position? What are some of the challenges you face?
LRC: I am fortunate enough to work with many aspects of the company. Learning the ins and outs of the business from a tour operator situation enables you to see the many sides when making manager-type decisions. I also manage both the inside and outside sales teams, and work closely with the Director of Marketing, VP of Marketing and the President of the Company.
TRO: Many veterans in the industry say the number 1 problem for travel agents trying to reel in potential new clients is the lack of effective marketing strategies and self-branding. As a former travel agent, do you agree? How do travel professionals set themselves apart in an ever-changing industry, like travel?
LRC: Marketing is an important aspect of growing the business. But as a travel agent, you cannot rely on others to drive the business to you. As an agent, I think you have to find and develop that niche…once you decide what that niche is, you need to become the expert for travel, information, etc. and not only for clients, but for other agents.
TRO: If you could offer one piece of advice for travel agents, what would it be?
LRC: Travel is an Adventure and nothing stays the same, so always be open to change!