Hema Khan is both the owner of Kirkwood Travel in Voorhees, New Jersey, and the CCRA/OSSN Northeast Regional Director & Southern NJ Chapter Director. Susan Schaefer recently caught up with Hema to talk about her experience in the travel industry and with CCRA – Travel Commerce Network, previously known as OSSN.
Travel Research Online (TRO): When did you enter the travel industry?
Hema Khan (HK): I had been leading groups of friends and families on many group cruises since the early 1990s. Around 2000, after 25 years as a tech consultant in IT for a corporation, I was looking for early retirement options. I took a travel course at a local college; the teacher happened to be with AAA Travel and hired me as a group travel coordinator.
TRO: How long did you work as an agency employee?
HK: It didn’t last too long. I got a call from Mark Murphy, he was looking for someone that knew travel and was also tech savvy. He hired me to work with Travel Tribe and to help with developing HotelRewards.com
TRO: When did Kirkwood Travel come about?
HK: I created my own agency and joined Vacation.com in 2007 after leaving Travel Tribe.
TRO: When did you get involved with OSSN?
HK: I became involved with OSSN almost simultaneously with starting my agency in 2007. I have been involved with OSSN / CCRA ever since then. Being involved in OSSN / CCRA has provided me with a lot of knowledge and support in moving my agency forward.
TRO: How do you see your role as the CCRA/OSSN Northeast Regional Director & Southern NJ Chapter Director?
HK: First and foremost, I see my position as helping homebased agents, providing them with educational opportunities, networking, and support.
TRO: What types of educational opportunities do you provide?
HK: As a chapter director, we’re required to have at least 6 meetings a year (every other month). My members are always clamoring for more, so we have monthly meetings. Our membership is around 80 agents, and 30 plus members attend our chapter meetings.
I also urge homebased agents to attend the Home Based Travel Agent Forum (in Las Vegas this March and in Miami this Fall). There are a lot of educational opportunities offered at the forum, benefiting homebased agents, both new and seasoned.
TRO: Is there anything that you know now that you wish you knew earlier?
HK: I wish I had known earlier that it was possible to start your own agency; then I wouldn’t have waited until 2007 to start my own agency.
TRO: What tips would you share with other agents?
HK: For new agents coming into the industry, I strongly recommend that they join a host agency. Working with a host at least for the first year or two provides the education and support that new agents need.
I also encourage agents to network with each other in as many ways as possible; at local events like OSSN / CCRA chapter meetings, online, and at conferences. I especially recommend attending the HBTA Forum at least once a year if possible.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.