More and more people are moving into the travel industry after having long, successful careers in other fields. Cate Caruso is one such agent, having made the transition from technology to travel. We recently sat down with Cate and talked to her about the transition into travel, and some best-practice sharing as well.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Before entering the world of travel as a career, what was your prior profession? And how did you make the transition to travel?
Cate Caruso (CC): Out of college I went into the technology industry working in sales and marketing, as well as project management. I was in that industry for over twenty years when I had to take about five years off to care of an elderly parent.
In 2013 I was looking for a new venture when I was recruited to work for a brick and mortar travel agency in the Chicago north shore area.
TRO: At what point did you decide to move from brick and mortar to becoming home-based?
CC: After about two years. In 2015, I started my own agency (True Places Travel) and affiliated with Cadence Travel as my host agency, and they are still my host today. Through them I am also part of the Virtuoso Consortium.
TRO: How hard was the change from technology to travel?
CC: Actually, my previous experience really helped me prepare for a career in travel. I had experience in project management, account management, and managing people. All of that prior experience turned out to be important to making my transition to travel a success.
TRO: Did you start out with a niche?
CC: When I first started at the brick and mortar agency, I was a generalist. But over the years I have moved to highly customized luxury travel, such as expedition travel, private jet travel, and custom small group garden travel.
TRO: What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first entered the travel industry?
CC: I wish I had known more about the “business of the business”. There’s all of the travel information, destinations, suppliers, etc. But then there’s the business knowledge; about how to run a travel agency as a business. I eventually joined GIFTE and have learned a great deal!
TRO: What tips or advice would you share with other travel agents?
CC: First, be yourself! Approach the way you do business in a way that works best for you! Of course you should seek advice from others, but at the end, you have to decide what fits you and not try to conform to what others say you should do.
Second, this is a career that requires you to be detail oriented. Do a self assessment and be honest with yourself. You won’t do yourself any favors by lying to yourself. If you are not detail oriented, then hire an assistant who is!
And finally, work on your day-to-day processes first; practice on your own travel, be your own guinea pig. That way you’ll be ready when you start taking on clients. And when I say “day-to-day processes” I am talking about having all of your forms in place, have formal policies formulated and written down. By the time you take on your first client, when you’re booking for someone other than yourself, you want to come across as professional by having all of your policies and procedures in place.
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.