Matt’s career in travel began as a hobby. After returning from the Peace Corps in 2006, he began to help family and friends with their own travel plans. By sharing his experiences abroad he inspired and assisted them as they created their own trips and memories. In 2014, by chance, he got the opportunity to turn his passion into a career, and never looked back. In 2017, Matt left his full-time Silicon Valley career to devote 100% of his time to building his travel business.
Matt has been nominated by Carnival Cruise Lines as CLIA’s Rising Star of the Year and is an active participant in many travel industry associations and boards.
In addition to his thriving travel advising business, Matt is the Supplier & Industry Relations Manager at Ticket 2 Travel, where he is responsible for developing strong relationships with trusted partners in the travel industry. Matt has been an advocate to others who want to follow his path, and has become a mentor to many who desire to seriously build a career in travel.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi Matt, how are today?
Matt Wahlgren (MW): Hi, I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
TRO: It seems like going from the Peace Corps, and helping family book trips, to being a travel agent would be a fairly easy transition. What was the chance circumstance that got you into the travel industry?
MW: After my Peace Corps experience, I really wanted to work in the travel industry. I used to Google travel careers to get ideas and articles about becoming a flight attendant or travel blogger would pop-up. Two things I had zero interest in. The truth is I didn’t know Travel Agents still existed. If I did, I would have signed up a decade ago. I met Anita, the owner of Ticket 2 Travel through my boyfriend. I learned about what she did and signed up almost immediately.
TRO: Ticket 2 Travel has been around since 1992, helping travel agents as a host agency. What do you think is the key to this longevity in an ever-changing business?
MW: Rolling with the punches. You need to constantly survey the marketplace, keep pace with changes, and shift your business plan so that you continue to provide a high level of value to your clients. Change is inevitable, how you react to it, determines your survival.
TRO: What was the most enlightening moment of your time in the Peace Corps?
MW: That no matter how different we think we are from others, we really are a lot a like. My Peace Corps experience was the first time I ever travelled abroad and I didn’t come back home for two years. I lived in Bulgaria the entire time and it definitely had some differences, but everyone still wore clothes, they still lived in houses or apartments. They still went to bed every night and and woke up in the morning to go to work. They still laughed and cried and so on.
TRO: You seem to stepping up in the world of travel, being nominated for the award and participating in associations and boards. What can you tell our readers about your daily work ethic that propels you forward?
MW: The fact that there is a lot of work to be done, propels me forward. If it’s all to get done, I need to start now. Slower days can be tougher, but that’s where discipline comes in. I get the the critical items done first and then if there is still time in the day, I reward myself and focus on the parts of the business I really enjoy like coming up with new marketing strategies or sending my clients random acts of kindness such as a card with pictures from their last trip and some cookies.
TRO: What should newer agents know about the benefits of working with a host agency?
MW: The best part for me is that I didn’t have to worry about any of the legal stuff or paperwork. I started focusing on my business from day-1 with training and learning about the industry, developing marketing strategies, and helping my clients design their itineraries or select a cruise or group tour that fits their desires.
TRO: What’s your go-to destination for travel these days?
MW: It’s really a style of traveling I’ve been getting more into recently. Cruising and in particular river cruising. It’s such a nice way to travel. I don’t need to pack up every few days to see the next destination. On ocean cruises, and even some river cruises, you have days on the water in the middle of the trip which I love. It gives me time to relax and re-energize for the next destination. I never thought I’d be a cruiser, but there is a lot of appeal. I also like to go to at least one destination a year that I’ve never been to and really immerse myself in the culture as much as I can. A couple of years ago it was Japan, then China, and last year it was the Amazon Jungle in Peru.
TRO: Does Ticket 2 Travel have any plans for the future that you can let us in on?
MW: We always strive to offer more to our agents each year from more marketing tools to more education opportunities. We do have some new initiatives that we’re working on. You’ll have to stay tuned…
TRO: Matt, thank you for your time. We wish you well in your future ventures.
MW: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my experience with you and your readers.