Sometimes the best career advice comes from those who have already walked the walk. “My best advice really came years before working as a travel agent and was from other sales experiences,” said Al Richman, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist in Lantana, Florida. “It was ‘Forget the ‘What’s in it for me?’ attitude and always make it all about the client.’ This was how to create repeat and referral business, which is key to being successful in the travel industry. I preach value over price whenever talking with or mentoring others in the industry.”
Steve Griswold got into the travel industry by accident, but he started his career by focusing on what he knew and, more importantly, what he loved. “I wanted to earn a little extra money to be able to take a vacation now and then and what better way than to share my travel experiences with others,” says Griswold, the owner of Pixie Vacations in Atlanta, Georgia. “I love Disney and all Disney vacation destinations, so I started with what I knew and focused on Disney Cruise Line, Disney World, Disneyland and Adventures by Disney. I think sharing your enthusiasm in travel with your clients is what really made a hobby into a business overnight.”
For those just entering the industry, Griswold advises them to “start with a specific niche,” he says. “Don't try and be an expert in everything when you start out. Learn about cruise lines, or African safaris, or focus on a niche client group. This will allow you to become an expert in a specific area and grow from there.”
Once you decide on what you want to sell, Bill Schneider encourages travel agent newbies to learn the products that they are selling. “After training, I quickly discovered that I knew how to sell and I also knew about travel, but I had no idea how to sell travel,” says Schneider, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist in Tampa, Florida. “I lost my first sale simply because I did not know the product well enough.” He also advises new agents to read travel publications on a regular basis. “Your clients will be exposed to the same information and I found being up to date is very helpful in building a long and profitable relationship with those clients,” he says.
In an interview, Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International shared his career advice, “Try to stay in one place. ... That’s not really very realistic in today’s day and age, but there are so many advantages if you can have a long and fulfilling career at one place.” Goldstein explains it’s all about building relationships.
When asked to give his career advice, Kirk Kinsell, president of the Holiday Inn Hotels said, “Don’t take yourself seriously because no one else will.” Although he wasn’t a travel agent, you could also take heed of the famous words of Walt Disney (who created some favorite consumer vacation destinations) when he said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”