Levi Sanchez began with Blue Sky Tours 17 years ago and currently holds the position of Travel Agency Engagement Manager. He has worked extensively in various departments within Blue Sky Tours, and worked on the promotion of Hawaii to the travel agency community through his extensive knowledge of the region. He is involved with travel agency engagement, policy, training, technology, and product strategy within Blue Sky Tours.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Levi Sanchez (LS): I love to travel and I’ve found that people have an emotional connection to the places they visit. It is extremely fulfilling to help someone plan their dream vacation knowing it will forever change them. Being able to share in the excitement and hear their stories upon their return are great motivators!
TRO: Tell us about your role at Blue Sky Tours.
LS: I oversee our Travel Agency Engagement initiatives. This includes all of our marketing material and brand direction. I also help with policy and product decisions, conduct training seminars, and help to drive the technology giving travel agents the tools to create sales.
TRO: Where did your passion for Hawaii stem from? Did that influence your decision to pursue a career with Blue Sky Tours?
LS: I always dreamed of going to Hawaii. It seemed so far away, like it was a paradise I wouldn’t be able to reach. I think it’s entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been before. Flying to the islands the first time was incredible. The smell of the flowers when you step off the plane is indescribable. It was a destination that very much lived up to my imagination. So, yes, pursuing a career with Blue Sky Tours was the realization of that dream.
TRO: What aspect of the services that Blue Sky Tours provides do you want travel agents to be aware of?
LS: Blue Sky Tours offers a superior product at a great value. We realize that price is a major factor when travelers are planning their trip. Extensive research keeps Blue Sky Tours ahead of the competition when offering a competitive price to travel agents and the vacationers. Our reservation agents are all Hawaii experts and we are also easily accessible through VAX VacationAccess. Designed exclusively for travel professionals, VAX VacationAccess gives you the flexibility you need to easily research and book complex, custom vacations.
TRO: What can travel agents expect when they book their clients with Blue Sky Tours?
LS: Our knowledge of the islands is hard to beat. Our agents are among the best resources in the industry when booking Hawaii packages. We are focused on providing as many tools and resources to the agents to help them sell Hawaii, serving as an extension of their Hawaii knowledge. Our emails can be passed on to the customer to give them an idea of what great specials are available. We provide training through our master specialist FAM trips to help agents develop the knowledge to become specialists themselves in the destination. Our customer service is very important to us and we want to make sure that the vacation is successful end to end.
TRO: How is Blue Sky Tours unique from other tour companies that claim to specialize in Hawaiian vacations?
LS: Blue Sky Tours is unique in that it only sells Hawaii and only through travel agents. It is a destination and a distribution channel that we are absolutely committed to. Our customer care agents are only focused on this destination and visit the Islands each year to make sure they have the personal experience to pass on the most up to date information to the travel agents.
TRO: In September of 2014, Blue Sky Tours announced the Agent FLEX program. What is the Agent FLEX program and what does it mean for travel agents?
LS: The Agent Flex Program will give the power and flexibility to the agent to keep the sale when the best price is needed. The Agent FLEX program will provide rates that will beat the competition. With these rates, we’ll both share in the discount to ensure the travel agent keeps the sale. We’ve also now removed land only cancellation penalties outside of 35 days from departure as part of our FLEX program for agents. We’ve created these policies and tools to give agents the flexibility to keep the sale very time.
TRO: Which island of Hawaii would you most highly recommend to travel agents?
LS: It is difficult to pick the best island in Hawaii. Each one of them is so unique and offers such a different experiences. Hawaii is really six destinations in one. Each island has its own character and charm. What is great about Blue Sky Tours’ reservation agents is that we can help qualify the customer and get them to the best islands for them and that guarantees return customers. For the first time client it is nice to see O’ahu as you can get two different experiences. You have the great beach and night life of Waikiki as well as the quite outer-island feel of the North Shore. It is also nice to do a two island experience if you have over seven nights in Hawaii. O’ahu and Kauai or Maui and the Big Island are great ways to experience a mix of night life, adventure, and culture.
TRO: What is your favorite travel memory?
LS: There are so many it’s hard to narrow down just one! The exploration is the most memorable aspect of traveling for me, but I would have to say that back in 2003 my best friend and 4 of our friends went to Hawaii for the Pro-Bowl. That in and of itself was great, but the next week we went to the Big Island. We went to see Kilauea, and it was further than we thought so the drive took a while. When we got there it was dusk but that didn’t stop us from venturing out in flip flops and board shorts onto the volcano. It then got dark. You can imagine how challenging it was to navigate a volcano by the light of our cell phones, in flip flops. So, halfway through trudging back we stopped and watched the stars. I saw more stars that night than I had ever before seen in my life. I felt somewhat connected to all those people that looked upon those stars before me. There was this glow against the clouds from the volcano and at that moment I realized how special this place was.
TRO: What is on the horizon for Blue Sky Tours?
LS: We are constantly looking at ways to be innovative when it comes to travel agency sales to Hawaii. The goal is to always provide useful tools that give travel agencies the edge in selling Hawaii. Innovations in our technology also have us looking for new ways to engage our agency partners and ways for them to engage their customers. Creating that personal connection is key to success.
To learn more about Levi Sanchez and Blue Sky Tours, visit them online at blueskytours.com.