I love to travel to different places.
It allows me to experience how people think, experience and relate to the world – each shaped by their upbringing, culture, nature and what they have seen, read and felt. I have found, as a universal truth, although our culture, idioms and language make us different, unique, individual, our basic humanity and feelings of happy, hungry, sad, mad and glad unite us so we can still form a connection with others despite these differences.
I am a traveller, writer, teacher and a travel professional (i.e. a travel agent). I not only plan my travel but take the journey along with others as I help them plan theirs as well.
One day, my travel agent host company, asked a question to us travel agents to describe their first year as a travel agent.
This is what I wrote.
REFLECTIONS ON MY FIRST YEAR AS A TRAVEL AGENT
Written by: Guest on February 21, 2018
Written by: Allison Ali, KHM Travel Group Travel Agent
Once an agent reaches the one year mark with with KHM Travel Group, we send them a congratulatory email and a survey to share their feedback with us. It also gives them the chance to tell us about their struggles, and their successes.
One agent, Allison of Allison’s Travel in New York, went above and beyond with her response to the prompt, “We would love to hear a success story from your first year! Whether it be about a training you completed, or your first booking, or just something you are proud of accomplishing with your business…let us know about it!”
The first year as a travel agent can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Stories like Allison’s are a reminder that you are not alone in your experience, and that a little time spent reflecting on what you want from your business can result in powerful realizations.
“How was your first year as a travel agent?”
This question required me to revisit my thoughts and activities from my recent past. In Speak, Memory, the author Vladimir Nabokov summoned his memory to “speak” what it had consciously and sub-consciously stored. This journey into the past can be quite revealing. It can reveal some defining moments of concentrated, calculated efforts and bear fortuitous rewards when asking the right question at the right time.
So Speak, Memory….
I remember I said to a colleague of mine, “I am a travel agent.” She said she was just looking for a travel agent because her long-time travel agent had just retired. This told me this individual is loyal to her travel agent. The way we possessively and loyally refer to “my doctor”, “my mechanic”, or “my haircutter”, I wanted my clients to have me in their mind when they think of “my travel agent”, and call me. As a professional colleague, she was already familiar with my work ethic and knew that I was thorough, organized, professional and knowledgeable and that these abilities were transferable, so I became her travel agent and she has made several bookings with me already.
I love to travel and see the world. I believe and have experienced the truth of Nelson Mandela’s words, when he says you visit a place, and although you left it unchanged, you, yourself walked away changed. During my travels, this has happened to me many times over.
It is as though I think different thoughts when I am in different countries, not necessarily through interaction with the people and landscapes, but perhaps more with the interaction of myself in those places.
I became a travel agent to help others plan and enjoy their destination of choice,while expanding my knowledge and understanding of different places and how others have enjoyed their time there.
Many travel industry articles speak of creating your niche, either through being knowledgeable about certain destinations, or by working with particular categories – newlyweds, groups, reunions, etc. A first year travel agent, or rookie, may or may not be able to develop a niche either because they may feel they don’t have enough specialized knowledge, or not enough clients to support their particular expertise, so they accept almost any interest and business.
I can certainly see the wisdom in developing a niche, but my goal for the first year was to build my client base through my reputation. I want them to remember and talk about the service I provided and not just the money they saved on their vacation. I met this goal. One of my clients I booked a vacation in Punta Cana for September, had two date changes because of the hurricanes. She was happy with my service and going the extra mile and referred two clients to me.
This is what I have spent my first year as a travel agent doing. For many of us, we are
home-based and may still hold other jobs. For clients to see you as legitimate and here to stay, and that this is not just another job you do, you need to provide excellent service, show commitment to building the relationship, make them a priority, and be well-researched and prepared. This will let them know you take it seriously and will continue to be a support for them.
So in searching my memory, I looked back at my year and saw that my focus was to provide quality service that is as memorable as their vacation. It is what I am known for and want to be remember for.
Perhaps one day I will work on carving out a niche based on a destination or continent or category or not. I like the journey the clients take me on as well through the planning and research of where they want to go next and how they want to spend their time there.