Born and raised on a dairy farm in Virginia, Katie Fravel always had a sense of adventure, with a love for nature and travel. She began in the travel industry in 2008 working for a ticketing company, followed by a job with a supplier that specialized in the British Isles. At the end of 2013, she embarked on her biggest adventure to date, with the launch of Fravel Travel.
Beginning with just Ireland, Katie would later add Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to her specialties. These places are known for their gorgeous, natural beauty. They remind her of where she grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, a place where stunning scenery and friendly people are abundant. With Fravel Travel she is able to connect with clients, sharing the places she loves and helping them to plan a memorable getaway.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What motivated you to pursue a career in the travel industry?
Katie Fravel (KF): Growing up I always had the desire to see new places and experience new things, but to be honest I didn’t know that a career in the travel industry in my future. I always had a strong desire to travel, but it wasn’t until later that I would decide to build my life around it.
My first travel industry job was at a ticketing/reservations company. I started out answering phones and later moved up to working on the business development team. It was there that I started to really understand the relationships with suppliers. I was still working there when I met a friend of a friend at a social gathering. She told me about her job working at a travel company that specialized in travel to the British Isles. I was immediately intrigued, and knew right away that I wanted to work there as well. Shortly after, I met with the owner of that company and followed up every month for some time, until an opening was available and I was hired.
I worked there for a few years, and then decided it was time to break out on my own. My journey here was a fun one, and I’m so grateful to be a part of this industry.
TRO: Tell us about your day-to-day role at Fravel Travel.
KF: That would be every role! As a small business owner, I’m constantly working on and in my business. I still handle client work, and spend most of my hours creating custom itineraries based on client requests. When your business is based on personalized service, no two days are alike.
TRO: Ireland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island; these aren’t destinations usually grouped together. What was your decision behind focusing on these locations together?
KF: It’s true they don’t seem to add up at first glance. Previously to starting Fravel Travel, I was the lead for Ireland requests at another company. I fell in love with Ireland the first time I went; it holds a really special place in my heart. When I started my own business, I knew that’s where I would begin my focus. It was what I loved, and it was where I already had established relationships and years of experience.
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island was a decision that was years in the making. Again, in my role at my previous job, I handled all of the golf requests. My boyfriend’s grandfather grew up on Cape Sable, a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. An avid golfer and traveler, he had played courses around the world, including those I was booking in Ireland and Scotland. For many years he described Nova Scotia and PEI as a hidden gem. Once I had Fravel Travel up and running, I knew I had to go and see for myself. I traveled there, and was taken with the natural beauty and rich history of the area. He was right. It was a hidden gem! I didn’t understand why more suppliers weren’t focused on this amazing area. I’ve been selling it ever since.
TRO: Fravel Travel emphasizes the relationship between the travel agent and the supplier in a consumer-driven, online booking world. Why focus on building the relationship between yourself and travel professionals?
KF: Excellent question. I could talk about this all day! I am 31 years old and my generation, and those that follow, love doing things online. I prefer text over calls, I have more chat conversations with friends than in-person ones, and Amazon boxes arrive to my house on a regular basis. So I get it. I understand why there is a consumer-driven, online booking culture when it comes to travel. I also don’t think there is anything wrong with people who want to DIY their vacation and book it all themselves. It’s great that consumers have options.
That said, I strongly believe in travel being an experience. One that should match a client’s travel style, energy level, and goals for that trip. And that’s something that isn’t going to show up on a google search, for vacations to whatever destination. Most people have precious few vacation days, and I want to help them make the most of it.
I focus on the relationships with travel professionals, because I believe we serve clients best when we work together. When people ask, “Why work with a travel agent?” I have a litany of benefits I can give them, things like extra amenities or preferred rates. But the most important reason to work with a travel agent, is relationships. A good relationship between agent and supplier is, to me, the single most important thing to provide clients with the most value. And it’s not something consumers are going to find through online booking sources.
What I love about my business model, is that it allows travel agents to be in their zone of genius and for me to be in mine. Agents – you know your client best. You know what trips you’ve planned for them that hit the mark and you’ve learned more about them with each trip and each bit of feedback. My value is in planning itineraries to match the client, creating a custom trip for them. The knowledge I’ve acquired from years of experience in booking specific destinations, allows me to help clients maximize their time, their money, and achieve their travel goals. The combination of the experience and knowledge between myself and travel agents, creates amazing experiences for the end client. That’s where the magic happens. And that’s why I focus on that relationship.
TRO: What is one area or service of Fravel Travel that you wish more agents were aware of?
KF: Fravel Travel is known for creating complete itineraries, with accommodation plus driver guide service or rental car and more. I wish that more agents knew that we can also assist with doing just private touring as well. For example, we can arrange private shore excursions for cruise clients. We can set up an amazing day for your client; they don’t have to join the masses on the large bus excursions.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination to date?
KF: This is tough. When it comes to the destinations that I book in my business, I honestly can’t choose a favorite. That’s why I created my business around them, because I’m passionate about Ireland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
Now if I had to pick some favorites outside of my business that I’ve traveled to personally, I have a few. I always love spending time in Charlottesville, VA. It’s near where I grew up, and my brother lives there. It’s such a beautiful area and I love visiting the local wineries and breweries. I also have a special place in my heart for Turks & Caicos. A group of girlfriends and I travel there from time to time, and it’s always incredible.
TRO: What is on the horizon in the upcoming year for Fravel Travel?
KF: This is an exciting time for Fravel Travel! When this interview is published, I’ll be en route to Newfoundland, followed by a trip to New Brunswick. I am adding both destinations into my business, so I will be booking all four provinces of Atlantic Canada. If you want to follow along on the journey, you’ll find me posting pictures and videos on our Facebook page (Fravel Travel) and my Instagram account (@fraveltravel).
For more information on Katie and Fravel Travel, visit them online at www.fraveltravel.com.