Travel Agent Chatter Vol. 3: Deb Fogarty, Be Well Travel

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Here’s our third interview from our audio series, Travel Agent Chatter. Served up on a silver platter of travel agent wisdom! Check out the entire catalog of interviews here. For the third recording, Stephanie interviewed the very talented and free-spirited Deb Fogarty of Be Well Travel. 

Deb Fogarty | Be Well Travel

On Deb Fogarty’s website, Be Well Travel, it states, “my expertise knows no bounds,” and that is no exaggeration. When I first spoke with Deb Fogarty a long ways back for an article, I knew as soon as I hung up the phone that we had to interview her for Travel Agent Chatter. Simply put, Deb is a natural travel agent, with a ton of charisma, tenacity and charm. She’s a wealth of resources when it comes to booking groups (she was ahead of beer tourism craze, in my opinion). I couldn’t keep all that knowledge to myself—I instantly knew that our HAR readers would learn a TON from her about breaking into groups and about the industry at large.  

Deb went from CPA receptionist to a highly successful travel agency owner, despite starting her agency during a recession. Listen to our podcast to find how Deb booked a $220,000 African safari and 45-person group cruise without relying on traditional marketing!

How did she do it? Check out the full audio or transcription below!  

Show Notes: 

  • The Groove Cruise (14:08): Deb started working as an agent for the Groove Cruise. Check out the root of her travel agent beginnings here. 

Transcription: 

Stephanie: You’re listening to “Travel Agent Chatter” volume three. Today we’re talking with Deb Fogarty of Be Well Travel. If this is your first time listening, welcome. “Travel Agent Chatter” is an audio series produced by the team here at Host Agency Reviews. Some housekeeping, the show notes can be found at hostagencyreviews.com/tac. And, of course, if you like what you’re hearing, don’t forget to add us, “Travel Agent Chatter,” to your RSS feed or subscribe to us on iTunes. Now, let’s get into the show.

Well, top of the morning, everyone. This is Stephanie Lee, the founder Host Agency Reviews, and your host for today’s show. I’m incredibly excited to have Deb Fogarty, the owner of Be Well Travel located in Florida, on the show today. So, as you’ll find out, she’s got spunk, she’s got charisma, and I think many of you will find tons of inspiration in her story today. I met Deb years ago at a travel industry event, and from the get go I was like, “I love this woman. She’s got what it takes to make it,” and she really did make it.

So she joined the travel industry in 2008, right when the market crashed, but that didn’t dissuade her or put her down at all. She branched out to her own agency about four years ago. So today, we’ll hear about how she markets her agency, how she nabbed a 45-person group wine cruise, how she came upon a $220,000 African safari sale, and maybe a bit more, like how she just added a fabulous new sub-agent.

So before we dive in, this is really good stuff and I wanna make sure that you’re able to focus on Deb’s story. So don’t worry about scribbling down links or jotting down notes. We’ll be listing the resources and there will also be a full transcript of the show in the show notes. So to find the show notes, visit hostagencyreviews.com\tac, and click on episode three, and there you’ll find the show notes.

We’ll break down the podcast into five segments today. The first will be beginnings, the starting of Be Well Travel, marketing and group sales, advice in the future, and then we’ll end with our warm, fuzzy segment, because the world could always use a lot more warm fuzzies, right? So just relax for the next 40 minutes or so as we get to know the lovely Ms. Deb, and she can plant some seeds of inspiration for your travel agency. So Deb my dear, welcome to “Travel Agent Chatter.”

Deb: Hi, Steph, great to hear from you.

Stephanie: I know, it’s always still lovely to connect. I’m so excited for today’s show.

Deb: I think we met back in 2011.

Stephanie: Was it? Oh my gosh, that’s so long ago.

Deb: I think so.

Stephanie: Or feels so long ago.

Deb: I know it does.

Stephanie: Was it at Cruise World?

Deb: It was either 360 or Cruise World.

Stephanie: Okay, some cruise-related show. But I’m really glad our paths crossed because it’s been fun to see your agency grow.

Deb: Thank you, me too.

Stephanie: Well, let’s start from the beginning. So, even though travel professionals come from all walks of life your background is one I wouldn’t necessarily envision a travel agent coming from. Your prior career was working in banks and CPA firms, right?

Deb: Correct, yes, and I absolutely hated my job, but it was something that I was good at. Not the numbers part, just the personality.

Stephanie: Yeah, I bet you added like a lot of fun to those offices.

Deb: Yeah, I was the…

Stephanie: I’ve never worked in a bank or CPA firm, but I envision them being a little bit dry.

Deb: No, I was the personality and I was a receptionist and file person and Christmas party coordinator, but really just not very satisfied with my position.

Stephanie: Yeah, and when we…

Deb: It was just something I was good at.

Stephanie: Yeah, when we spoke earlier you were able to recite from memory the Craigslist ad that kind of changed the direction of your life and your career. Tell us about that.

Deb: Okay, I moved to South Florida in 2005, and I wasn’t working at first. I was helping my son who was 12 at the time get adjusted to life from living in the north east to Florida. And once he had his feet on the ground, I started feeling guilty that I wasn’t working and really wanted to contribute to my household financial situation. And I saw an ad in Craigslist for a semi-retired stockbroker looking for a part-time personal assistant in his Hollywood home, must love dogs. So I…

Stephanie: I love that.

Deb: …sent him an email or I sent to whoever…it was like, you know, a specific link to send an email and I said, you know, “I’m a stay at home mom but I used to be a, you know, secretary. And I have two Shih Tzus and a Cockapoo.” And he called me back and he wanted me to come for an interview. And I’m driving there and I’m thinking I didn’t tell my husband, because who gets in their car and drives to someone’s personal home from an ad on Craigslist?

Stephanie: Deb does, Deb does.

Deb: Then he opened up the door and he was an older man and he was so nice, and I introduced myself, and he had me come in, and we sat. He had his Shih Tzu, and his wife had worked for a travel agency before and she was an administrator in a nursing home, and he was gonna also open his own travel business. So, we talked for about two hours and I said, you know, “Have you interviewed a lot of people?” And he said, “You have the job.” So I was so excited and I drove home and I… First of all, I texted my husband that I actually had a job, and he brought me home a dozen roses that night because he was so happy that I was gonna go back to work.

And then I dove headfirst into CLIA and applied for my ACC, and then I got my MCC and my ECT, and followed all the stringent guidelines and achieved the top certification of ECC. And probably I wanna say the middle of 2012, and, you know, really just learned everything there was and realized that I wanted to, you know, specialize in cruises because that’s what I know.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm. Now, when we spoke you said…you mentioned that when you started out, you tried focusing on booking your friends and the family but that didn’t work out so well for you and…

Deb: No, and they’re all fired.

Stephanie: Well, it’s interesting because I think that that’s the direction that a lot of agents start, like when they’re starting out that they take. And so why did you…why…?

Deb: Well, that was I thought was the easiest. Because just from, like, the courses that I took and the books that I read, you know, where the network…of course, the first place to go are friends and family, but I…not friends so much, but family, because family is so demanding and just really difficult to work with. So that wasn’t really working out for me.

Stephanie: Did the friend’s angle work out for you?

Deb: Friends, a little bit. I started but not really that successful. I think more because I didn’t have that much experience in the beginning and it was when the stock market had crashed, and people either weren’t traveling or, you know, really into the internet at that time booking their own travel.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm. Well, I love the story about the pizzeria booking when you first started out. I think it embodies what new agents need to be doing, well, any agent really, and that’s, like, thinking creatively, putting themselves out there, and asking for the sale. Would you mind sharing your pizzeria story?

Deb: Oh, no, no. So I had applied to my ACC, my Accredited Cruise Counselor certification, that’s the first certification in August of 2008, literally the day after this man hired me. And I wanted to make sure that I didn’t lose the status because, you know, the guidelines were more stringent back then, and you had to complete everything within two years, and the biggest part was you had to book 25 cabins.

So I was like, you know, I applied and I paid the money and I took the courses, and the most difficult part of it was how am I gonna get 25 cabins? So, you know, I had learned that, you know, groups are the best way to get business. So I went into a local…not intending to do this, but I went into my local pizza place and it was around Christmas time, so I had the application in for about five or six months and I was ordering a pizza. And I was chatting with the owner and I gave him my card, and I said, you know, I’m a travel agent. And he said, “Oh, I book a group of people from the Dominican. Every year they come up and we take a cruise on Royal Caribbean.” And he said but he wasn’t really happy with his agent. And I said, “Well, I’d love, you know, to have you book a group with me.” And I said, “I’m gonna come in every week and order pizza from you until you book a group with me.”

And so every week I went in and ordered a pizza, and then in March of the next year, he called me and he said, “Deb, I’m ready.” And he booked 16 cabins on Royal Caribbean three-day cruise to the Bahamas. And it was actually even more funny, I didn’t tell you this part. So they’re all from the Dominican, all the guests, and they were all emailing him in Spanish. And so he would have to translate like all the communication, and I entered everyone’s passport and did all their online checking and everything.

But then after that, it was like that lit a fire under me to get me so excited, and it was just a domino effect, and then I started getting referrals. And I wanna say it was by June I had my 25 cabins. I had taken my two cruises on two different lines, completed all the courses, and got my ACC. I was so excited.

Stephanie: Yeah, and for those of you listening that aren’t really sure what these acronyms Deb’s talking about, they’re CLIA certifications, and we’ll put a link in the show notes to the CLIA certifications and kind of…so you can learn more about what they are if you’re interested.

And Deb, going back to kind of the evolution of Deb the travel agent, so you had worked for this man that you found on Craigslist for a little bit, and then you kind of moved on to working as an agent for the Groove Cruise with our mutual friend Jason.

Deb: Right, for Whet Travel?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Deb: Right, he’s who introduced us.

Stephanie: Yes. And so how did working at the Groove Cruise and this other agency, how did that help prep you for going on your own?

Deb: Well, I ended up… Jason is one of my mentors, even though he’s younger than me, I consider him to be a mentor in the industry. And we had a great relationship and I was referred to him…and I met him simply just to run my travel through his company because I wanted to get a higher percentage of commission than I was making with the other agency that I was with. He asked me if I would answer the phones for the Groove Cruise, so I ended up doing that from like 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night. And then me and the other people I was working with asked him for some guidelines that maybe we can have weekends off, whatever, and he was still…he wasn’t as…now he’s so successful.

It just wasn’t my focus group. But in the meantime, I got tons of referrals from him for booking, you know, FIT Travel. And also I was able to bring my own clients and run my business through him. But when I turned 50, 4 years ago, I just realized that that just wasn’t my crowd, the 21 to 35 or 45-year-old professional, crazy wild group cruise experience.

Stephanie: Yeah, and for those of you that…

Deb: They partied.

Stephanie: People need to Google the Groove Cruise if you’re not sure what it is, and you’ll see how maybe it isn’t the best fit for a 50-year-old travel agent.

Deb: Right, but we parted on the best of terms. So then I went on to do something up, you know, to really start my own agency.

Stephanie: So it really…like this experience in the other agencies helped you get experience booking all sorts of things, and then with Jason specifically, he was a great mentor as an entrepreneur and how to run your agency.

Deb: Right. And even helped me have confidence speaking on the phone with people and, you know, I think he…I definitely would give him credit for shaping part of who I am in this industry.

Stephanie: Let’s move into the starting of Be Well Travel. So you have almost 10 years under your belt as a travel agent, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that you decided to go out on your own. And now your agency is incredibly successful. You had mentioned in our call earlier that you narrowed down your niche to groups, luxury FIT travelers and luxury cruises. How did you narrow it down to that?

Deb: Well, I realized that if I had even one group every year, a successful group, you know, I made more money than I ever made in my whole entire life, you know, even if it was only $25,000. As a secretary, I don’t think I’ve ever made more than $10,000 to $12,000 dollars a year. So it’s really exciting to always make sure I have, you know, one good group. And then by meeting all my groups and going on the groups, traveling with them, then they got to know me personally. And then they come back to me and book their own singular travel because now they know a great travel agent that they have a good relationship with, and then I get tons of referrals from that.

Stephanie: Yeah. And then you recently rebranded and came up with a new tagline for Be Well Travel. What’s the new tagline and why the change?

Deb: It says, “Everyone has their own definition of wellness.” Because in the past…I guess, well, since 2013, so I’ve done a yoga cruise, a craft beer cruise, two wine cruises, and I’m working on another craft beer cruise, and I’m working on another yoga wellness cruise. So I had a new business card made with a wine glass, a lotus flower, and a beer glass. And it’s also on…the background of the card is Tiffany blue. So it combines like luxury because who doesn’t want the blue box from Tiffany, and then beer, wine, and yoga, so that it’s all encompassing of a little bit of everything that I do.

Stephanie: Yes, because probably the beer drinkers for the beer cruise, idea of wellness is very different from the yoga persons.

Deb: Right, exactly. And I only drink Pinot Grigio with ice on the side, people are always like, “Well, do you drink rum? Do you drink beer?” But that’s my drink of choice.

Stephanie: You’re so fancy.

Deb: Yeah.

Stephanie: Well, let’s switch gears and talk about your host agency.

Deb: Okay.

Stephanie: You’ve been with Nexion for quite a few years now. How did you go about choosing them?

Deb: Well, Jason [inaudible 00:17:58], his host agency is Nexion, and even though he does charters he’s still with Nexion. And he introduced me to Jackie Friedman at Cruise World. I mean I have to give you credit to you, Steph, because after I left Jason and you and I had become friends, and we were talking about what I should do, you said that you thought Jackie Friedman was one of the most respected women in the industry. And I went to the NACTA Convention that October, and it was Jackie and some other presidents of host agencies. I wanna say it was a panel of six or seven different people. And I listened to everyone and I just like looked at her, and I just felt in my heart that I was still home with Nexion.

And I wanted to be with a host agency where I could get credit for all of my own production and performance and recognition. So with Nexion I really feel like, you know, I’m an independent contractor, no one tells me what to do, but I know that support is there if I need it. And, you know, I respect Jackie and she supports me and believes in me, and that makes a big difference in how I run my business every day.

Stephanie: Yeah, Jackie is incredibly well spoken and definitely a great role model. And with Nexion, is it just this year that you’ve earned their Circle of Excellence?

Deb: This is the second year. Well, I won three awards with them. I won the Circle of Excellence and I won an Ambassador Award in 2014. I won the Circle of Excellence in 2015. And then I was $400 short last year, I was so bummed out, I’m like, “Can’t just make an exception?” The commission is gonna come in next month, but they have to be fair to everyone, which I get. And this year I won the Circle of Excellence. You have to reach a certain amount of commit…you have to reach $48,000 between July and August, but that’s when their year ended. So this January, because of my two wine cruises, I earned a $48,000. And then if you earn $75,000 in commission, they have a trip to…like a resort. This year it’s in Cabo. You win the trip. And if you reach $75,000, you get a guest ticket. So, in January, I was at $75,000, so in like half the year I won Circle of Excellence and the guest ticket. And now I’m like way over that, but we don’t need to tell everyone what the exact amount is.

Stephanie: Just that you’re amazing, Deb.

Deb: Thanks. So that’s a really cool motivator about Nexion too. It’s like every morning I wake up, and first I check my bank account and then I check my production, and that’s what keeps me going through my day.

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, let’s take a minute to talk about some of the specific sales you’ve made because I think they’re inspirational when I was listening to you. So it will be inspirational to any entrepreneur, especially for those agents that are just starting out, who, like you said, like when you first started out you think you’re never gonna make a big sale. But once you get…when you’re like, “Oh, I can do this.” So one of the large sales I wanna talk about is the one you didn’t even market for. Do you wanna go ahead and share the story of your upcoming African safari?

Deb: Well, I reconnected with someone on Facebook that I met when I was 12, a few years ago, and she saw that I was a travel agent, and she sent me a message on Facebook. It was like Christmas Eve, I wanna say three or four years ago, and she was like, “Hey, Deb, we always book our own cruises through Celebrity, but if you wanna do it I’d love to give you the business.” And this is like not even ever speaking on the phone and just reconnecting on Facebook since 2008.

And I was like, “Sure.” So I gave her my email because I didn’t want her to send everything through Facebook, and I said, you know, “Email me your name, date of birth, and everything and what you’re looking for, and I’ll book it for you.” What I didn’t realize was she and her husband take two back to back cruises on Celebrity every year in the penthouse suite. And I was like, “Oh my god,” like I didn’t even…you know, I thought it was gonna be just like a tiny little cruise, whatever.

So then, after that they just let me be their travel agent, and we’ve chatted on the phone, and she ended up moving down to Orlando, so we are planning on, you know, reconnecting and meeting sometime. But she referred her mother-in-law to me who lives in Connecticut, and she’s a widow and she travels with another widow, so they started booking with me every year for a cruise.

Referred another set of friends. And then one of the women, her friend called me last…I wanna say August or September, and she said she wanted to book a trip to Africa and she had a travel agent, but she really liked working with me and she wanted to give me the business. And she was taking all of her kids and her grandchildren to Africa for this Christmas. So I booked 22 people to Africa, and it’s a $220,000 sale.

Stephanie: That is one lucky family.

Deb: Yeah. And we’ve become great friends. I drove up…they actually winter…all these older people, they winter in Florida in the winter… Well, it’s hard to say winter in Florida, but they’re all from the northeast. So I actually drove half way to meet this February because I was so grateful for all their business and treated them all to lunch at Season 52 to thank them.

Stephanie: Oh, that’s so sweet. And I think it goes…as long as we’re talking about some of your specific sales, I think it goes without saying that you need to share the story of how you got your big wine cruise booking once you went off on your own.

Deb: Right, sure, sure. Well, I do, Pinot Grigio is my favorite, but I also do like Red Blend every now and then. And I was in Total Wine and looking for a few Red Blends for, you know, stocking up on wine, and the salesperson came over to me and she said, you know, “Try this Pinot Noir,” and I said, “I don’t really like Pinot Noir. They’re too dry,” and she’s like, “No, no, try it, you’ll love it.” So I brought it home and my husband I drank it and we’re like, “Oh my god, this is so good.” And it was actually so good that we didn’t even wanna drink the other blends that we had.

So the next morning I woke up and I was like, “You know what? I’m gonna contact this winery.” I looked them up and I looked at all the players and I said, you know, “The senior vice president of marketing looks like the best one.” So I sent him an email, I told him the story, and I said I work hand-in-hand with Celebrity Cruises because they have a great wine program. And I said, you know, “I’d love to do a wine cruise with you and your wine club members.” And I hit enter and I never thought I’d hear back. It was like a cold call email. And the next day, he called me and he said he got my email, he’d love to do a wine cruise. He sent me a case of wine and the next day he flew out…I’m sorry not the next day. The next week he flew out to meet with me and the director of sales through the east coast to Celebrity.

We created this amazing wine cruise, and it also became an incentive cruise for their whole their wholesalers because they end up spending so much money to incentivize their wholesalers and distributors that they thought…because the pricing was basically so reasonable for the cabin that they were actually saving money by doing this. So it was a 45-cabin cruise, and then all of the owners and the people that worked for the winery booked Royal and Celebrity suite. So it was, you know, the biggest group cruise sale of my life also.


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Stephanie: Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Deb: Which put me over the top.

Stephanie: And then for agents that are looking to break into the group market, how far in advance would you recommend they start planning for their groups?

Deb: I think definitely nine months.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm, that works for you?

Deb: Because now most of the cruise lines want final payment 90 days before sailing. So I used to say that six months would be good, but you really plan it so that you also know, you know, you’re not holding space that the cruise line needs, or you need to make sure that they have enough cruise space available for you at least nine months, if not more.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm. And you talked about how for your own sanity that you only do one group cruise at a time, why is that?

Deb: Well, up until now because I do everything myself. I do all the…I talk to all the people, I do all the customer service, all the calling into the cruise line, all the payments, and everything. And I also didn’t have a CRM that I was comfortable with. I’ve tried a few and I didn’t like them. But Nexion just got AgentMate, we’re in the first stages of it. So were getting the CRM included with our membership, and that’s gonna be like my own personal assistant. I can’t wait to take all my files and enter all my information into AgentMate. And I also brought on… That’s probably your next question, but I met an amazing guy who I’ve been mentoring, brought him on as my sub-agent, and he…

Stephanie: I’m gonna stop you there because that is a later on question.

Deb: All right, okay.

Stephanie: I don’t want you to bring the story of him because it’s kind of funny.

Deb: Okay, okay. So by having a CRM I’ll be more organized and have all my clients, you know, in the… I can organize my groups better and, you know, just feel the weight of doing… Even though I would still be doing it by myself, I’ll just feel more organized and not a little overwhelmed, so I’m looking forward to that.

Stephanie: Yeah. So in terms of marketing, when we’re on this line of conversation, you tried email marketing, you didn’t really like it. And in terms of social media marketing, you have passport online does a lot of your social media posting, but other than that, you aren’t too active. How do you market then?

Deb: Well, I found that the emails, I used Engagement, which was part of vacation…it used to be vacation.com an it’s Travel Leaders now. I added my list and I found that when I was getting the report, so many people were opting out and that it was annoying. I’m not…just to make an assumption that it was annoying or they weren’t interested and whatever. So I just decided, you know, that’s not the way to go because they’re not responding. It’s literally natural networking and referrals is how I do it. Like everywhere I go I give out my business cards, everywhere I start a conversation I tell people what I do, and just never stop being creative with what could turn into a group or could turn into a client, and it just works.

Stephanie: Yeah, you have…

Deb: It’s kind of a miracle.

Stephanie: Not a miracle, it’s just you’re a really great salesperson, Deb. And you said a great line too in our earlier conversation that I think is something that a lot of agents can keep in mind or should keep in mind, is that you see every conversation as an opportunity, which I think is something that is why you’re so successful.

Well, let’s move into the next section and kind of talk about advice for other agents. So what advice do you have for other agents that are looking to start their own agency or that currently have their own agency? Like, looking back on your experience, what would you tell them?

Deb: Well, I would say always stay organized and never stop being creative.

Stephanie: It’s really great, and the CRM is something that you advocate for?

Deb: Right, to stay organized, yeah.

Stephanie: And for agents that are wondering how to have a work-life balance, because that can be really difficult with a home-based agency, and they’re unsure of how to structure their hours, would which you mind sharing your philosophy with Be Well Travel and your hours and your work-life balance, how that works?

Deb: Well, on my email in my website I put that my hours are 9:00 to 5:00, but, you know, really when I wake up in the morning, that’s more like for the phones. But when I’m working with my clients, you know, I basically let them know I’m available to them 24 hours a day except when I’m sleeping, and that’s what keeps them coming back. Like, I have a client that called me on Sunday because I think it’s his mom’s 70th birthday, someone created a group with another travel agency, and he’s my loyal client, and he sent me an email and he said, “Look at this, like look at all the other information, and I wanna book with you.” And he booked the Haven on Norwegian. That’s probably one of my…you know, it was my first most exciting Haven sale, and I was available for him on Sunday morning where…and to, you know, go through everything and work with him today even while I was running errands, doing this, and he was like, you know, “Deb, are you available?”

And I said, “Well, now, I’m at public, but I’ll call you in an hour,” but I feel comfortable being myself with people too. So, you know, I’m running an errand and then during the week, I’ll either take a yoga class, like I have a rowing machine, or I live on a golf course so I’ll take a walk and, you know, just pretty much give myself an hour for myself like a break.

I guess just give yourself a break and to treat yourself too, you know. Like I love to get my nails done. But I don’t tell anybody, like I don’t tell my clients, I’ll say, “I’m going to an appointment.” They don’t need to know that I’m getting my nails done. But with this other client the other day I was comfortable telling him that I was in the supermarket because I was with my husband,” and then like everyone in the supermarket didn’t need to hear his business, and he was fine with that.

But I feel like, you know, my clients are so comfortable with me. Like, I know their birthdays by heart, I know where they like to sit on an airplane, I know, you know, that this guy’s wife loves chocolate-covered strawberries. I actually…it’s almost like I have a photographic memory. I remember all this without a CRM.

Stephanie: That’s amazing.

Deb: That’s why it needs to be in a CRM and out of my head.

Stephanie: Yeah, especially for expansion later on.

Deb: Right, right.

Stephanie: Well, so that will bring us into our next section, which is kind of the future of Be Well Travel. And you recently added a sub-agent that you met, and this could only happen with you, Deb. He was a beer tender for you on the Brew Bus on a FAM you recently took. How in the world did he go from the beer tender to your sub-agent? How’s it working out?

Deb: Well, I’m really good friends with someone that works at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention Bureau, and she invited me on a wedding FAM last summer because she wanted the wedding planner to know that they didn’t need to book directly with the hotel to take some pressure off of them, and they could book through me with my relationship with the local hotels. And it started at the Water Taxi in Hollywood, and then we went to the first event stop, and we went out. And we were greeted by this little 15-passenger bus and a driver and this guy. And he introduced himself, he said, “Hi, I’m Aaron and I’m your beer tender and the company was called the Brew Bus,” and he brought us all a little can of beer and there was like a little cup holder in the seats, and he took us all over.

The wine cruise that I was doing, they were looking for…they were thinking…beer at lunch and wine at dinner. So he had such a great charismatic personality. And at the end of the day, when he dropped us back of at our cars, I said, you know, “Would you be interested in being on my cruise with your company and your beer and, you know, be beer at lunch and wine at dinner?” And he was thrilled, he’s 27, he went to university. Well, I took him out to lunch I found out after, he’s 27, he went to the University of Colorado, he’s from Philadelphia, and he partnered with this guy in Tampa and they created the Brew Bus.

So he went back to his partner, and partner wasn’t really interested, and for whatever reason, he decided that that wasn’t really what he wanted to do, you know, that he had been a partner and that he wanted to just do something else. So it didn’t work out. And then a few weeks later he wanted to treat me to lunch because he was so cute because he was like embarrassed I wanted to treat him to lunch because I’m like his mom.

So, anyway, he treated me for lunch and he said he left the company and he wasn’t sure what he was gonna do, but he just wanted to thank me. And I said, “Well, why don’t you work with me?” and he was like, “Have no idea.” And I said, “I’m gonna send you all the information.” So I went home and I emailed him everything about Nexion, and talked about commission structure, and, you know, what it would be like to work with me that I’d love to mentor him and everything. And so I signed him up for Nexion, and he went to boot camp, and he is my millennial vacation specialist. And he’s also a huge asset to my business because he knows the beer world inside and out, and he can talk the talk. Like I can talk the wine talk but he can talk the beer talk. So together it’s a great partnership. So I can see doing two or three, you know, big groups a year because now I have this great person helping me.

Stephanie: Yeah, I mean, that’s really exciting…

Deb: Not helping me but working with me because, like, we consider ourselves partners.

Stephanie: Well, that’s really exciting. I mean it’s definitely another stage and a travel agency’s lifeline when they’re adding a new sub-agent. That’s something not a lot of agencies get to do, so congratulations on that.

Deb: Thanks. And to have someone so amazing. We completely…

Stephanie: That’s true.

Deb: We’re the complete opposite but we completely complement each other. Like he’s 27, I’m 54, he can talk the millennial talk, and he named his own business Vacay Vibe. And I said, you know, “I need you to work with my millennials,” because I do have millennial clients and I’m so happy to get them someone that can talk the talk, and he’s thrilled for the business. And he’s already seeing huge success.

Stephanie: That’s great, that’s a great partnership.

Deb: Yeah, that’s great.

Stephanie: Well, you know, I think a nice way to kind of wrap up the segment on the future and an advice that you have for other agents, is I loved when we were speaking that you said that at the end of every call with your new clients and clients from groups that maybe haven’t booked with you before, you end it with, “I’d love to be your travel agent for life.” And the way you say it is so warm and so friendly and honest. How do clients react to that? And how do you fit into the call if another agent wanted to try this technique? Where do you say it?

Deb: I just say, “Oh, it’s so great chatting with you and, you know, I love…” It started with like corporate people that wouldn’t necessarily think of me for vacation, I was dealing with them for business. And I say, you know, “It’s great working with you. And if you wanna, you know, take your family out on vacation, I love to be your travel agent for life,” and people love that.

Stephanie: I love it, I’m a sucker for it.

Deb: Well, when you’re ready to go on a vacation you know who to call.

Stephanie: I know, you’re gonna my travel agent for life, Deb. Well, we’re getting towards the end of the show and kind of our time, but I wanted to add a warm, fuzzy segment to the show. I started this last time because I thought it would be… Well, I wanted the distinction of being the only business podcast to ever have a specific warm, fuzzy segment, I thought that would be sort of funny. And everyone knows warm fuzzies are the best too. So do you have any warm fuzzies you wanna share, like anything you’ve seen or someone you wanna dedicate something to?

Deb: Well, the man I met through Craigslist, Bill Brown, unfortunately passed away two years after I met him suddenly of skin cancer.

Stephanie: Oh no.

Deb: And when he passed away I decided to dedicate my business to him for the rest of my life. So Be Well Travel runs in honor of Bill Brown, because that’s how I got in the business. And, you know, I’m really good friends with his wife and, you know, I have kind of a second family because of him and achieve success, and I know he’s looking down smiling, and that’s it.

Stephanie: That has me smiling, that’s such a wonderful story. Well, you know, we’re gonna wrap up the show, so that’s gonna wrap up another episode of “Travel Agent Chatter.” You can subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for Travel Agent Chatter and you can read these transcripts of the show on hostagencyreviews.com\tac. And you can also find us on Facebook and LinkedIn by searching in host agency reviews. Or on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram under my handle, which is iamstephly and the “LY” is with an L-Y. And Deb, thank you again for joining us. We had a wonderful time speaking with you.

Deb: Thank you for the honor of asking me to do the interview.

Stephanie: Yay! Well, everybody, thanks again for listening. And until next time, haggles to everyone. We’ll talk to you later.

You can subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for Travel Agent Chatter. To read a transcript of Travel Agent Chatter and to view our show notes you can visit hostagencyreviews.com\tac. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any future show ideas. So if you know of an agent that will be great to interview, and this is including yourself, drop us a line at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you, guys.

And lastly, since we’re just getting started out in the audio world, we’re looking for some review from our fabulous listeners like you. If you’ve got 60 seconds and you like the show, go ahead and leave us a rating and a review. You can find the links to write reviews at the top of hostagencyreviews.com\tac. Until next time.

 


About HAR’s Travel Agent Chatter

Steph Lee Travel

Hey, I’m Steph! Do you ever run into business strategy or marketing dilemmas that make you feel like you’re reinventing the wheel? Why not learn from the experience of other travel agents?

HAR’s Travel Agent Chatter quarterly audio series gives you an opportunity to do just that—offering diverse perspectives from experienced travel agents regarding the trials, tribulations and triumphs of starting a travel agency.

If you think you’d make a great interview, drop me a line, I leave a trace where ever I go! You can find me on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.  🙂

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