Husband and wife duo Alexander and Annabelle Valdes took their relationship to the next level when they decided to open a travel agency franchise, combining the skills from their previous careers to manage their business. While both share the load when interacting with clients, Alex usually focuses on the marketing and operations side while Annabelle focuses on the vacation planning side.
A Navy Veteran who was stationed on the USS New Orleans and made two overseas deployments, Alex worked as a Senior Director of Sales Operations for a major software company after retiring from the military. In the travel agency business, he uses his technical background to leverage social media and video to market their business. He also uses his customer service and sales operations experience to engage customers and solve problems. Annabelle was an administrative assistant for C-Level executives, planning the professional and personal travel for her employers. Annabelle leverages her professional experience to ensure client’s expectations are met and they are satisfied that they are receiving the best possible value.
After two years in business, they have experienced a 180% increase in business. They find that 50% of their business comes from new clients, 25% are referrals and the remaining 25% are repeat bookings. They credit their growth to several factors:
- Persistence. The Valdeses continuously reach out to their contacts. Don’t assume that they always have you top-of-mind.
- Social Media. You don’t necessarily need to spend money, but consistently create travel-related posts to keep your company at the forefront.
- Education. Don’t assume everyone knows what you can do for them (they do not). Be prepared with the usual objections (I can do it myself cheaper, the internet is my “friend”). Once you explain the value you provide, then selling becomes “easy.”
- Qualify your clients as best you can. Avoid price-shoppers who are only looking for the best deal.
- Get involved in your local community. Alex and Annabelle got three bookings immediately after joining their local Chamber of Commerce.
To those who are interested in learning how to become a travel agent, the Valdes’ recommend evaluating your motivation. If working hard and building a business is for you, then go for it. There will be occasional perks but most of the time it is about running a business. If you are looking at getting in strictly for the “free stuff” then you will be disappointed and should look elsewhere.
Alex’s Dream Vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime African Safari visiting Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana & South Africa. He’d like to visit the world’s best wildlife parks, exploring spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, flying over breathtaking Victoria Falls and exploring Africa’s finest cities by private guide.
Annabelle’s Dream Vacation is a three-week European Adventure starting with a Magnificent European River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest following the route of emperors, kings and queens along three rivers through five countries! Her vacation would continue with an extended tour of Austria and finish with a week in Tuscany.