Freedom isn’t Free! | Travel Research Online


Freedom isn’t Free!

We often hear this expression around patriotic holidays about the sacrifices made by our service men and women over the years. Many have given life and limb, so we can continue to enjoy the personal freedoms we have, and this is something that should never be taken for granted.

Personal freedom is not free, and neither is financial freedom. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and personal sacrifice to be successful in any field – especially one as competitive as travel sales.

When I am speaking around the world, it is common for agents (especially new ones) to ask what it takes to get up on stage and pick up awards. Many of them equate sales achievements to financial success. Unfortunately, it’s just not true.

Suppliers reward those who sell in large volumes. It’s not just in travel, but in virtually every industry and with every product that there are volume discounts. Some in our business rely on the low margin / high volume model. With high volume, you must hire a lot of people to handle the business. It’s not for the faint of heart or weak bank account.

You don’t have to win sales awards to be successful. For many, awards are more ego driven than anything else. Studies have shown that recognition is often more powerful motivator than money. I am the first to admit, I got caught up in this trap myself.

To an outside observer, we were on top of the world! We were one of the top sellers in North America for a particular cruise line, and I often shared the stage with a few top producers at industry conferences. However, recognition and awards don’t pay the bills, nor would they produce the financial freedom I was seeking. Even though sales were terrific, I discovered that we were losing over $150 per transaction with this company and on the verge of bankruptcy. I was forced to check my ego and began focusing on profits, not sales volume.

Unless you have experienced it personally, it is hard to understand. It is a sick, helpless, and hopeless feeling. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon and there was no “Plan B.” I had let my ego almost destroy my business. I wanted to see my name in the trade magazines and sit at the big boy table.

That was then, this is now.

It is all about the numbers and I became driven by profitability. I hired experienced business coaches to hold me accountable and asked customers who owned successful businesses to help mentor me. Without this combination of paid and free advisors, I would have never succeeded and have acknowledged their contribution in the first pages of my book.

Every penny I invested in labor, marketing, overhead, and strategic discounting meant I was putting money in someone else’s pocket. From then on, there was always the question of Return on Investment (ROI).

A friend of mine, who happens to be in the CLIA Hall of Fame, once shared with me early in our careers that I was probably earning ten times the revenue they were on ten percent of their sales volume. At the time it may have been true.

Here is some advice from an old pro.

  1. Don’t compare yourself against the superstars. In most cases it has taken them a number of years to get to where they are today and it’s not realistic for most to achieve that status overnight. You are better off comparing yourself to your peer group.
  2. Sales success does not equal financial success – I believe I have already made this point abundantly clear.
  3. Stay focused on your own business. Work on things you can control, like finding clients that are a good fit for your business. Be cognizant, but don’t waste the time or energy worrying about what your competition is doing.
  4. Always know your numbers – my coaching clients will vouch for this. If you know nothing else – know your numbers. The last thing you want is to experience the same OSM as I did after it’s too late to change course.
  5. Sometimes it’s hard to ignore, but vacation travel sales is still primarily a person-to-person experience. There are thousands of travel professionals who run small, yet highly profitable businesses – you just don’t hear about them.

The opportunity to achieve financial freedom in the travel industry is greater than it has ever been. It is a choice and there is no better time like the present.


Very few achieve success without help from experienced coaches and mentors. If you want to learn more about how we can help you achieve financial freedom and become the Wealthy Travel Agent, visit or send me an email at

Dan Chappelle is a professional business advisor, sales consultant, author, and speaker. His personal development and consulting firm helps develop sales oriented business leaders and entrepreneurs, His best-selling book, Get Your S.H.I.P. Together: The Wealthy Travel Agent Guide to Sales, is available on

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