Recently we caught up with Eddie Woodham, NACTA South Florida Chapter Director and Southeast US Regional Director, and spoke to him about his experience in the travel industry.
Travel Research Online (TRO): How did you enter the travel industry?
Eddie Woodham (EW): I was working in healthcare finance prior to joining the travel industry. I was an avid traveler, and in 1995 when certain events happened in the healthcare finance field, I decided to make a move. I entered the industry when airlines first cut commissions and agencies implemented service fees on airfare. For approximately 10 years I worked with a couple of different brick and mortar agencies in New Orleans.
TRO: Do you still work with a brick and motor agency, or do you have your own agency now?
EW: Neither. I am an independent contractor with a host agency, OASIS AGENT.
TRO: Looking back to when you first started in 1995, what do you know now that you wish you’d known back then?
EW: A lot of things! I wish I had known back then how important it was to promote yourself in your niche; it is really hard to be a generalist. I also wish I knew earlier how great it is to sell cruise products. There are so many facets to it that clients cannot possibly know it all, making travel professionals even more useful to clients. I wish I had known early that there are a lot of tire kickers out there, indicating they are not ready to buy.
TRO: You mentioned specializing. What specialties have you focused on?
EW: When I first entered the Travel Industry in 1995, I got involved with some visual artists in Bay St. Louis Mississippi and put together art-focused cruises. It was my first niche. As a musician, I often put together music-focused land tours. These work especially well in Europe. Now most of my business is cruises; probably up to 70% of my total business these days.
TRO: 20 years after entering the business, what do you see as your role in the industry?
EW: As a chapter and regional director with NACTA, I see my role as supporting other agents, providing networking opportunities, and facilitating agent access to suppliers. I have been a member of NACTA for about 7 years, a chapter director for approximately 6 years, and a regional director for the past 3 years.
TRO: What types of tips would you share with other travel professionals?
EW: I would emphasize the importance of education. You must know more than your clients. Education can be derived from reading, attending conferences, attending regional events put on by suppliers, networking with other agents, and learning from others through NACTA, host agencies, social media, etc.
I would also encourage agents to specialize. Like I said earlier, it is hard being a generalist. Go with your strengths and focus on your passion. It will show through.
And finally, I would reassure them and tell them not to get frustrated. This industry always seems to be one challenge after another. Something always seems to be changing. Embrace the change.
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 email@example.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.