Rita Perez, RitaVentures

Rita Perez, Rita Ventures headshot

This episode we meet Rita Perez, a Millennial that has married together her talent for organizing events and her love of cruising. While she started as an agency focused on girls getaways in 2012, she did a major overhaul of her agency in 2018 and began to focus more on her passion for corporate events at sea.

As the travel agencies around the world face unprecedented hardship, join us for an uplifting conversation about how Rita has balanced her full-time job while still running a successful agency and how she uses lead magnets like downloads and her new podcast to find new clients.

Grab a seat and listen in as she gives more details on how to book corporate events at sea and where advisors interested in learning about being a meeting planner can find more information.

👇👇👇👇 Read the full transcript below 👇👇👇👇

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Show Notes

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  1. CLIA's Meeting and Events at Sea program: CLIA's certification course they produced in tandem with MPI.
  2. Meeting Planners International: The largest meetings and events association in the world.
  3. Professional Conventions Management Association: They also claim to be the largest association of business event planners.
  4. Stronger Tides podcast: Rita's new podcast aimed at funneling in new corporate events at sea clients.
  5. TAC Vol. 2, Zach Russell: Our interview with a new advisor who works FT in addition to his agency.
  6. HAR's 2020 income survey!: Take the survey to help us paint a picture for benchmarking income, how much to pay employees, etc.
  7. GIFTE's Travel Entrepreneurship Week: The Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs' program that Rita attended.
  8. Travel Marketing and Media: Founded by Sandra McLemore, a marketing agency focused on travel advisors.
  9. Bon Vivant Copy: Created by Emily Matras, Rita used Bon Vivant Copy to help rewrite her website's content and create an editorial calendar to keep her publishing on schedule.
  10. NAWBO: The National Association of Women Business Owners, an organization Rita belongs to.
  11. Mary Cravets "More Referrals, Less Hassle" program: Rita recently took this class and is now in a unique networking group that will hopefully lead to more clients.
  12. HAR's 2020 income survey!: It's so important, it's getting listed twice in the show notes! Please help us out by taking the survey.


You are listening to Travel Agent Chatter: Volume 16. Today we’re sitting down and chatting with a travel professional who created a business she loves by marrying her passions of event management and cruising.

RitaVentures logo

Travel Agent Chatter is an audio series produced quarterly by the team here at Host Agency Reviews.

Speaking of Host Agency Reviews, we just launched our annual travel agent income survey and we need your help! Visit hostagencyreviews.com/incomesurvey and make sure your voice is heard. Two things to make clear:

1)This is for last years (2019s) income so it’s pre-pandemic

2)This is not just for hosted agents, this is for employees, owners, , independently accredited agencies and hosted advisors. The survey results are published free on our site and helps travel advisors benchmark their income against different metrics like years in business and niche. It’s also an important source of data for suppliers and industry groups on the travel agency distribution channel. We have great partners on board this year like ASTA, Ensemble, Travel Leaders Network, CCRA, and of course, our host partners, so please help spread the world!

We’re still pushing forward with our 20/2020 campaign, which is to say, we’re looking to bring in 20 new reviews in 2020 for the show! We’re so close to our goal, we just need 3 more ratings. I don’t have a whole lot to bribe you with at the moment, but perhaps you’ll be persuaded if I tell you that we’ve got a fabulous show on the books just for you?

So grab your phone, add a quick rating and let’s wait no longer. On to the show!

⭐️Shortcuts to podcast topics: ⭐️

  1. Beginnings
  2. Corporate Events at Sea
  3. Lead Magnets
  4. Warm Fuzzies
  5. HAR's Travel Agent Income Survey

Steph: [00:00:00] Well, we've made it halfway through 2020, and that is no joke. This has been a devastating year for the travel industry, but we want to lift you up today because heaven knows there's already enough bad news out there, to fill you up for quite a while. So today I won't pretend that things are great in the travel industry. They're not. I know things are very tough for agents, but what I want to do is focus on a story of an advisor who created her dream job by marrying together her two passions. By finding this focus for her agency, she says she's found something that lights a fire in her.

[00:00:40] So we'll chat on the different iterations of Rita's business that she's gone through before she found her sweet spot as a corporate event at sea planner. We'll chat on how she uses lead magnets, like opt-ins and podcasting, to grow her business.

Rita Perez, Rita Ventures
Rita Perez

[00:00:57] And just a reminder, we've got a lot of ways to digest the podcast. We've got the video, the transcripts, the audio, and you can find them all by visiting hostagencyreviews.com/TAC and clicking on the episode of your choice.

[00:01:13] So for today's schedule, we'll be breaking things down into four segments.

  1. The first one will be beginnings.
  2. Next step, we'll talk more in-depth about corporate events at sea,
  3. and then we'll lead into lead magnets
  4. and we'll finish it off with our warm fuzzy segment.

[00:01:30] So let's get onto the show! Rita, welcome to Travel Agent Chatter!


[00:01:35] Rita: [00:01:35] Hi! Thank you so much for inviting me on today.

[00:01:39] Steph: [00:01:39] It's so great to have you on Rita. I appreciate you taking the time to hang out today because I know you have a full time job that you're working besides your agency. So thank you for taking the extra time.

[00:01:50] Rita: [00:01:50] Yeah. Thank you. I'm so glad to do it. Anything that gets me back in my travel mode during the day I'm in for.

[00:01:59] Steph: [00:01:59] Well, I think we should start by painting a picture of your background and how you came to be in travel. So, if I'm remembering correctly, you entered a hospitality program in college, but the program was, focused more on things like hotels and restaurants and golf course management and not travel agencies.

[00:02:21] Rita: [00:02:21] Correct.

[00:02:22] Steph: [00:02:22] And it wasn't until you started your masters program and, this is random, but your master's program in nonprofit management and that kind of coincided with the trip to Tunisia. And the that's where the idea of the travel agency kind of became rooted in your mind. So would you mind sharing your, kind of your agency's origin story and how those like Tunisia and, Your master's program, how those events came together to create your agency?

[00:02:54] Yeah. So, and even back in my, when I was pursuing my bachelor's in hospitality management, I had always been drawn to the event management side of things. So lots of the coursework and a lot of the volunteering I did was in event management. So when I got to my masters, my very last semester, I was taking an elective course on creativity because I thought it would be fun and neat and something great to add onto the, onto the list of things that I had taken.

[00:03:24]Rita: [00:03:24] And in that creativity course, because I am not an artist in any way, but I learned that entrepreneurship is a form of artistry. And a form of creativity. So, as this was going on, and I was learning more about that and we had a creativity product project to complete, I was also going to one of my best friends in the world, wedding Mandy and Avin, and it happened to be in Tunisia.

[00:03:55] Just the 10 days we were there with family and friends and friends that became family. It was, it was, almost like the travel industry was pulling me, like calling me, because the, the bonds that were formed on that trip, I mean, I knew we were really great friends back then, but I can call them my brother and my sister now.

[00:04:17]And that was just, a life changing, clearly, vacation that had happened in Tunisia. And so at the end of my creativity course where it kind of like was the beginnings of my travel agency, I decided that that's what I was going to do. And I initially came in with the frame that I was going to specialize in girlfriend getaways.

[00:04:40] And that was the start of my travel journey.

[00:04:43] Steph: [00:04:43] Well, that, that's amazing because you're your agency... so you started with girlfriend getaways and this was back in 2010. So you've been at this for 10 years. A lot of agencies find themselves morphing through the years, kind of as they settle into things or responding to different things in the environment. But your focus is now corporate events at seas, but that's relatively new.

[00:05:08] So how did you go from girlfriend getaways to corporate events at sea?

[00:05:14] Rita: [00:05:14] Most agents that start, you kind of want to be a Jack of all trades. And so I had gotten into that, but I wasn't finding anything that I was like really, really passionate about. I knew I was passionate about cruises but I hadn't like found that spark.

[00:05:35] Like I had told you, a couple of days ago that I am very introverted and I do, I go out, but it's not like I will not initiate the going out like I did maybe ten years ago. And so, family friend, a neighborhood friend, was having a birthday celebration.

Rita Perez, Rita Ventures

[00:05:57] I think it was a piano bar and my mom's like, "You're coming with me. I need to like bring a date and you're going to be my date." So I went. And on our way out. We had already chatted and gotten to know everybody and had fun and all that. And so we were heading now and the, I think it was her birthday, the birthday girl, comes to me and was like, "Hey, you know, Jennifer, her daughter works for a tech company and they plan an annual cruise retreat every year, but things are just slipping, they're falling and they need some help. Like here, she's over here. Let me connect to you guys."

[00:06:37] And in the most random of ways, the best gift fell in my lap. It was a combination of luck, but also hard work because I had worked with her on a couple other group cruises before, and that is how I got into it.

[00:06:54] And I had been working with this company for about five years and it wasn't until recently that I was kind of like, I'm really great at event planning and I love cruising and I get the best feeling when I'm doing these. That this is where I should be putting my focus on in my business.

[00:07:16] Steph: [00:07:16] Yeah. So, so I'm hearing two things from there. The first is that you're really excited about this pandemic because now you don't have to go out at all as an introvert.

[00:07:26] Rita: [00:07:26] I'm okay being home!

Corporate Events at Sea

[00:07:29] Steph: [00:07:29] And the second thing is that you found your, your sweet spot for your business. So, let's kind of shift gears and dive in and learn more about corporate events at sea because it's an area I'm not super familiar with. So, I guess the first question I have is what's the biggest selling point that when you're pitching to companies, what's the biggest selling point for hosting these events just in general, in the first place, whether they want to be on sea or land. What do you see the value in?

[00:07:59] Rita: [00:07:59] You know, the, the biggest thing is, especially with corporations, is the bottom line. And when you put the numbers side by side, comparing a retreat at sea and a retreat on land, a retreat at sea is going to win hands down by the thousands.

[00:08:16] And not only that, so you were already planning a three day retreat on land, but you have X amount of budget. Your budget stretches further when you're at sea, because of all the value adds in the cruise. You have all the activities, you have all the entertainment and your meeting space is included.

[00:08:39] Steph: [00:08:39] Yeah. Is there anything for when you're talking with them? Just in general, because I remember you saying that you've seen through the years with this tech company that you work with and have been working with, but you've seen through the years what these events do, and how they help with the company and add value to the company.

Rita Perez's corporate events at sea group
One of Rita's corporate groups at sea

[00:08:59] Can you talk a little more about that?

[00:09:01] Rita: [00:09:01] Yeah. and I had interviewed the COO, who I work closely with, and he says that it's not something like tangible, like you can't say we get $500,000 in return every year from this. It's more of a feeling and it's more of the connections that you make. They can directly correlate certain business transactions that may have what sparked from a relationship that was built on the cruise.

[00:09:29] And this is, this is very helpful for companies who have satellite locations. So, not everybody might know each other one. And, two, I don't feel like everybody's going to know each other in a company cause you have your sales people, your HR, your finance, your engineers. So, this is a good way to ... kind of like it's a, it's a forced camp location where it is a forced bonding experience, in a way.

[00:09:58] He described it perfectly, but you can't... it's nothing you can see. It's a really great feeling. Seeing everybody make the connections when they're there, because it's a little timid of course, like the first night or so. And then as the days progress, everybody is like one strong, tight knit unit.

[00:10:19] Steph: [00:10:19] Yeah. So if an agent is interested in selling corporate events at sea, what type of experience and background would you recommend that they have and where can they go for more information?

[00:10:33] Rita: [00:10:33] That I would definitely recommend that one, you should have a passion like for planning. I mean, I know we're all agents, but it's kind of an extra step, an extra tier of planning. So yeah, if you've planned events... I think you'll be okay if you have that corporate background. I think you'll be okay. I have a lot of event planning and then event management from my college coursework and I like planning events in general.

[00:11:03] Within our industry, CLIA actually has a really great meetings and events at sea certificate. And they partnered with MPI, which I think stands for Meeting Planners International, which is a very renowned organization in the meeting planning field. And it's a really great certificate program that kind of like dives in deep and talks about the various components that you need to be aware of when you're planning these events.

[00:11:29] Steph: [00:11:29] Perfect. We'll link as well. In the show notes, to the meeting events at sea program that that CLIA has. Does PCMA have anything then too?

[00:11:38] Rita: [00:11:38] You know, I'm not sure if they have anything specifically for, events at sea, but I know that they are a really great organization in college. That's the one that I attended, lots of their formal events cause they have an annual conference too. So I think another really great place, maybe joining one of those organizations that are local to you and getting to know some of the event planners and meeting planners that are local and networking that way and being able to learn a little bit too.

[00:12:08] Steph: [00:12:08] Perfect. Yeah and we'll also link to PCMA's website for people that are interested in the show notes. So, walk me through the booking process. So you have a company on board — like the one with your, tech client that brings usually about, is it a hundred people on to their event every year on the cruise?

[00:12:27] Rita: [00:12:27] Average 100. Yup.

[00:12:28] Steph: [00:12:28] Okay. So once they're they're ready and they're starting to move forward. What are the things that you need to keep in mind specifically as an events at sea coordinator?

[00:12:40] Rita: [00:12:40] So you're going to want to make sure that you're planning these events. At least 12 to 18 months in advance because the whispers are going out how popular events at sea are becoming, not just corporate retreats, but just events in general. So space is booking up very early. So you need to make sure 12 to 18 months in advance that you can secure not only the meeting space, but also the cabins on the ship.

[00:13:08]Once you worked on that, you're kind of free for a little bit. So I say it's heavy in the beginning and heavy in the ending. So it's going to start picking back up again right after final payment.

[00:13:23]And, kind of like segueing in so that agents don't feel overwhelmed, you are just in charge of planning, the meeting space and the cabins. You're not in charge of the creative programming, that's what the company is in charge of. So just remember that you are in charge of doing what you're best at and that is planning travel.

[00:13:44] So, of course, a couple of months in advance, like before the cruise leaves, your final payment is going to be due. And that's where I, that's where I say the snowball goes in. All of your names are going to be due at that time. Especially with these corporate retreats, Bob and Bill may be Bob and Steve. So that's why you want to turn in your, your naming lists as late as possible in the game.

[00:14:10] Any changes that occur, like maybe they wanted one lounge and now they want to do like four different breakout rooms, stuff like that will also occur towards the end. And then you have your fun part, and that's sailing with with the company. And that's a whole other ball game.

[00:14:31] Steph: [00:14:31] Yeah. So what, what's your role on the ship? Like what do you, what kind of value add do you bring when you're on the ship with the clients?

[00:14:38] Rita: [00:14:38] So I like to say I am the concierge. We get onto the ship and one of the first things that we like to do is meet with the onboard event planner, just so we can make sure that all the meeting space that we had already allocated is still there. And just work out, kind of like the kinks. Like make sure that there's a tech and what type of tech that we need. If there's any food and beverage and that's already taken care of. So we do that in this meeting and then the show starts.

[00:15:12] So you usually have kind of like a welcome meeting event. And at each of your events, I like to be present because I want to make sure that everything is smooth. Like I had said, the company is in charge of their programming, so you just want them to focus on that. And any logistics with the meeting space that's what my job, it's why I'm there.

[00:15:35] And usually the onboard coordinator is with you to make sure, like, if you have any questions or something comes up, they go ahead and fix it right away with you. So you're kind of like the intermediary. You want to take as much off the plate of your client as you possibly can.

[00:15:53]Then I also say I'm a personal assistant at times. Cause I know for our January cruise, for the CEO's keynote speech, he's like, "Hey Rita, I need some props. I need some bananas." So you just run up and go up to the buffet, grab some bananas and come back down. Yeah.

[00:16:14] Steph: [00:16:14] I'm very curious about his keynote.

[00:16:17] Rita: [00:16:17] It had something to do, like, with using the bananas as a telephone...

[00:16:23] Steph: [00:16:23] Very creative!

[00:16:25] Rita: [00:16:25] Yeah. Yeah.

[00:16:27] Steph: [00:16:27] Well, that's you bring up a good tip too, with putting in the names at the very last minute, because when you're working with corporate clients, with their employees and the employees turning over, that's one reason you're not wanting to book those, put those names on so far in advance.

[00:16:44] Correct. And it happens more than you might have imagined. And some years are worse than others, but that's just the name of the game, especially if there's sales involved with the company.

[00:16:58] And when you're working with the corporate events, when you're working with the events team at the cruise lines, that's different than what you would work with with normal groups, right?

Rita Perez
Rita Perez

[00:17:09] Rita: [00:17:09] Correct. Yeah. There's a couple of different departments.

[00:17:12] So when you're shoreside planning everything , I like to go with the cabins first. I feel like the cabins are easier to figure out. So typically most of the cruise lines are going to have a meetings and incentives department, and that's who you're going to contact to secure your cabins.

[00:17:32] Once you've gotten your cabin secured, then you're going to go ahead and talk with the ship coordinator. And usually it's the person, a shoreside person. So let's say like pink cruise ship. You're going to talk to the pink cruise ships meeting coordinator and they talk with the ship to go ahead and get everything taken care of.

[00:17:53]Now it's a like marrying game, because even if you have the cabin, sometimes not all your meeting space is going to be available. So you're, you have to like play Teeter-totter a little bit until everything can work for what your group needs. And sometimes that means like maybe you go on a later date or an earlier date.

[00:18:13]it's just... a big synergy. So you have your cabin cruise line people that you talk with, you have your meeting space, and then you have another coordinator once you get on the ship, who both of the shoreside people should have talked to already and let them know everything that's involved for the group.

[00:18:32] Steph: [00:18:32] Okay. And, and when we're kind of talking about figuring out the best sailing for your groups to go on, do the.... does the TCs and the GAP points play into that at all for you?

[00:18:49]Rita: [00:18:49] When picking a sailing, not really. You know, and I like to keep that close to my chest. I don't like to publicize that. That's kind of a bargaining chip that you can use.

[00:19:04] Now, I use the GAP points as a "Look what I can give you because you chose me as your travel agent type thing." That's one of the benefits of having the GAP points. So things that I'll do is like a bottle of champagne. You have to know who your crowd is, and I know mine... they like to drink so champagnes great! We usually do a modified continental breakfast

[00:19:33] Steph: [00:19:33] also.

[00:19:34] Do you use any of the points for anything else? Because agents have such different ways of how they deal with and dole out the GAP points and the tour conductor credits. What's your philosophy behind those?

[00:19:50] Rita: [00:19:50] So for the TC specifically, I keep that as my cabin. That's what helps take care of the cabin as I sail with the client. And then I just take the rest as like, an extra commission for myself for all the work that I've done to put everything together.

Lead Magnets

[00:20:08] Steph: [00:20:08] Yeah. So you, you have on your website, an opt-in that compares pricing for an event on land versus an event at sea. But that's not your only lead magnet. So I want to chat about lead magnets with you because you've used those to grow your agency.

Rita's Lead magnet: comparing corporate events at sea to events on land
Rita's Comparison Lead Magnet

[00:20:30] And so you and I just met recently cause you had emailed them and after our last podcast episode, and that was where we talked about how to start a podcast. We had a fun podcast party with other travel podcasters! And, if you're noticing a different audio quality on my end, it's because that was inspired after that and, if you're on the video you can see, I got myself a fancy new microphone!

[00:21:00] Anyhow, I digress. So we were talking about podcasts on that podcast episode and why now is such a great time for agencies to start one, so that they can start getting leads when travel picks up again.

[00:21:13] So first, tell us a little bit about your thoughts, about podcasting before you listened to the episode, and then your thoughts about podcasting after you listened to the episodes.

[00:21:24] Rita: [00:21:24] So, before the episode, it was kind of a thought. I was like, maybe I should get into podcasting. But I feel like it's a little bit, it could be overwhelming, like a lot of different steps. At the same time I had it YouTube channel, or I still do, but I... it wasn't growing as quickly as I would like when I was consistently posting.

[00:21:49] And I have heard another expert in the business say that some content is not meant for YouTube users. That some content is better for podcasts. So I had that ringing in the back of my head and I'm like, "Well, maybe I should just try it."

[00:22:06] So after your series, I was like, well, I guess I'm going to do it. I'm just going to do it!

[00:22:16] You guys had broken it up so easily, like into bite sized chunks and given out so much incredible, tangible information that I was like, I can do this. I've done the YouTube, I can do a podcast.

[00:22:31] Steph: [00:22:31] Yeah. I mean, it's, it's deceptively easy to get started and it's yeah... So your experience has been that it's not very difficult or, or anything along those lines?

Rita's podcast logo, Stronger Tides

[00:22:42] Rita: [00:22:42] Not at all. Nope. I went ahead.

[00:22:45] And I also have a microphone, but it's just not... it's fuzzy today. So yeah, I think that was.... my investment was the microphone and then Libsyn, which hosts the podcast and it's, it's a very cost effective for starting something, I think.

[00:23:03] Steph: [00:23:03] Yeah. So tell us about your podcast. What's its focus and how many episodes do you have out? How often are you pushing it out?

[00:23:12] Rita: [00:23:12] Yeah. I started, I think, mid June, so I think it's been out officially a month now. I have seven episodes out. They do say like when you begin put out a couple episodes and then I've been releasing a new one every week.

[00:23:26]And because I got the a-ha of corporate retreats at sea, that is what my podcast focuses on. So I actually named it the Stronger Tides podcast because I love theming everything.

[00:23:41] And so I do talk a lot about topics regarding corporate retreats at sea. So, some of the ones that I have our group leader characteristics. I'm trying to think....

[00:23:56] I've recorded so many episodes so long ago. I don't remember.

[00:24:00] But something fun that I like to do also is a destination showdown. So I do have two pods up where one of them will compare ocean cruising versus river cruising. And then the other one will compare the Eastern Caribbean versus the Western Caribbean.

[00:24:18] So, I want it to be a podcast that educates you on the benefits and the little tidbits that you need to know about for the companies about why you should do a corporate retreat at sea. But I also want it to be a little bit educational and get their mind thinking just a little bit more outside of the box.

[00:24:38] Steph: [00:24:38] Because one of the challenges we talked about in that episode is you have these podcasts listeners, but you don't really know who they are.

[00:24:46] Rita: [00:24:46] Yeah.

[00:24:49] Steph: [00:24:49] And so, it's, it's difficult because if you want to convert and have them come to you as a client, as an agency, you have to have some way to communicate with them outside of the podcast, hopefully to build that relationship.

[00:25:02] So you do an opt-in for that. How do you use that in your podcast?

[00:25:08] Rita: [00:25:08] Yeah, I, so I got, Inspired by another travel agent that really, that had recently started their own podcast. And so I hired somebody off of Fiverr and they did my intro and outro and kind of as a bonus, they gave me something called a bumper, which is just like music you can add into the middle.

[00:25:29] So with my bumper, I went ahead and I recorded like a mini commercial. and that's where I have the, my lead magnet is comparing, the pricing between a cruise retreat and a land retreat. And so I just have my little commercial, letting them know just a little hints about what that is.

[00:25:49] And I send them to my Stronger Tides podcast website, and they can opt in from there. And then they'll get the lead magnet and then they'll get, also get added onto my email list.

[00:26:02] Perfect. And, and you're a millennial, correct?

[00:26:06] Yeah.

[00:26:06] Steph: [00:26:06] Yeah, yeah. Poor millennials! I feel like you guys get put in a box. And that means like a box that like, "Oh, millennials are always looking at their phone and they're always online..."

[00:26:26] Rita: [00:26:26] I often feel like there's a difference between like a 30s millennial and the 20s millennial too.

[00:26:33] Steph: [00:26:33] Really? What do you feel like is the difference?

[00:26:35]Rita: [00:26:35] Well, because, thirties, like we didn't automatically get thrust in the technology world. Like we had technology, of course, much younger than our parents did. But I think a 20 is kind of like really got sucked into all the technology before we did. That's one of the main differences.

[00:26:55] Steph: [00:26:55] Well, I mean, your tech savviness online, you do a great job with inbound marketing and creating lead magnets to kind of showcase your expertise to new clients. And beyond the podcast, you have a few others. Because you have that comparison we chatted about, but you also have the optin that's on the homepage of your site, the Insider's Guide to Booking a Group Cruise. What sort of information do you have on there and how do you promote it? Is it just on the homepage? Or do you push it out other places?

Rita's lead magnet: Insider's Guide to Booking a Group Cruise
One of Rita's lead magnets

[00:27:28] Rita: [00:27:28] It is on the home page. Originally I had it posted it on lots of different venues like my Facebook page and my LinkedIn page. But now I'm trying to use that the pricing comparison a little bit more. So on my insider's guide and I like to theme everything out, so there's like a section on the anchor and a section on the hull, but it's not, it's not really, like, you're not learning about the hull of the ship. I just, name it to like pieces in the group process.

[00:28:00] And that I created actually before I really narrowed down my focus on corporate retreats because it does talk a lot about things that you'll need on a business kind of cruise, versus a family kind of cruise. And the importance of using a travel advisor. So, I have little tips and tricks almost. It's about seven pages long, I think.

[00:28:26] Steph: [00:28:26] Yeah. Yeah, it was full of great information. Like, I mean, for someone that I'm not super familiar with group cruising and is kind of, I'm wondering about what they should be thinking about, it gives them some guidance to go along with that.

[00:28:43] Well, of course the whole goal of creating these email opt-ins and lead magnets is to get the email addresses of prospective clients so you can stay in touch with them and build that relationship. And I noticed on your website that you're absolutely, you're just really great at putting up new blog posts on your website, which a lot of people find challenging. And it's so admirable, especially because you have a full time job in addition to running the agency.

[00:29:14] So I have a couple of questions on that. Yeah. so in one of our episodes in Volume 2, we talked with Zachary Russell, who's another advisor that has a full time job in addition to his agency. What type of advice do you have for people that are working on both their agency and for someone else? How do you end up balancing that?

[00:29:36] Rita: [00:29:36] It's really difficult. And I find that it's more difficult for me personally now. Because I was furloughed for about three months. And in those three months, I was like, "Woooo! This is the best!"

[00:29:54]When the harsh reality came that I had to go back to work, I was like, "Okay..." And then, the first couple of days I was like, how did I like balance this before? It was possible because I was doing it, but it's trying to find that balance again.

[00:30:14] So specifically with the content, I have to keep a calendar.

[00:30:20] And I have also set Mondays are my writing days. At the end of every year, and I only started doing this, I think this is my second year full year of doing the content. And I'm also a big proponent of recycling your content. Because I think that's where a lot of people get very overwhelmed, we think, "Okay, I have to write an article for this. But then I have to do a different one for that and that."

[00:30:46] And I'm like, "No!" And this is not just my concept. This is just the people that I followed throughout the years, the different business leaders that have helped me out. You want to recycle that content.

[00:30:59] So at the end of the year, I have a calendar in Excel that I'll go through. And, I do on my phone, I keep a list of ideas that I have, and then I also have a notebook, and I'll just start plotting them in. I'll have my dates because I send out my information on Tuesdays. That's how I have to stay organized. If I don't stay organized with that calendar, it's not going to happen.

[00:31:25] And I, I like to make things fun also. And so I'll have every month I'll do a destination, either comparison or a highlight of a destination.

[00:31:36]I'll try every month to do something that you need to know, as opposed to what you want to know.

[00:31:42] I also take inspiration from everyday life. One of my friends had posted recently about a trip that he took to South Africa and I saw some photos, and I was like, "Oooo, I don't know about that." So that gave me an idea about an ethical travel article to write. So inspiration, I feel, comes from everywhere and just have something close to you, like a pen and paper, your phone, to write it down. Because if you don't use it, let's say in this week's article, you can use it in an article down the line.

Rita Perez
Rita Perez

[00:32:16] Steph: [00:32:16] Yeah. I mean, we do that all the time at HAR.

[00:32:20] Like, well, I'll chat about our income survey that's coming up, later on in the podcast. But with the income survey, that gives us so much content that we can recycle and so many different ways, and produce content using the same data, with so many different reports.

[00:32:39] Rita: [00:32:39] Yeah.

[00:32:40]Steph: [00:32:40] Let's see... So, hmm.

[00:32:45] Well, when you're, when you're consistently creating this content, are there people within the industry that have helped kind of guide you along the way, on how to build your business? Or different ways to create content? Things like that.

[00:33:05] Rita: [00:33:05] Totally. And like, I feel like that's where the shift has been recently in the past two years. I saw a Facebook ad for Travel Entrepreneurship Week  (TEW) that is yearly put on by an organization called GIFTE, which is the, oh gosh, the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs.

[00:33:30] And, they talked about the business differently than I had heard anybody talk about the business. And what I mean about that, it was about the business of travel and not the travel business. Which, I mean, we all love the travel business part, but we are business owners and it's very important to know certain things, especially in regards to marketing.

[00:33:56] So at the 2018 TEW, is where I had met Sandra McLamore of Travel Marketing and Media. And she has been an incredible help, with all things marketing related.

[00:34:10] And I also met Emily Matras from Bon Vivant Copy and she's actually the one that put on a content marketing course. And that's how I got the calendar and different ideas for topics that I wanted to start writing about as well.

[00:34:26] Steph: [00:34:26] So she had that available then for other people?

[00:34:31] Rita: [00:34:31] You know what? Honestly, I'm not sure. I did take a course with her to rewrite all my copy on my website. And that was kind of like a, I want to say like a value add, but I could be wrong. But that was just a little bonus of a course at the end of the year that I was working with her, and it has been so beneficial.

[00:34:54] Cause I'm also one of those people like give me the template and I will do everything that's on the template.

[00:35:01] Steph: [00:35:01] Yeah. That's why they're so nice, cause you don't have to do the work. You're just like plugging stuff in.

[00:35:07] Yeah. Well, we'll definitely link to those programs that you mentioned in the show notes, so people can check them out if they want to.

[00:35:22] Rita: [00:35:22] Yeah, definitely. There'll be a great resource for whoever's looking for more marketing help.

[00:35:28] Steph: [00:35:28] Yeah. And so do you, Every week then, are you publishing something?

[00:35:34] Rita: [00:35:34] I am.

[00:35:36] Steph: [00:35:36] Wow.

[00:35:37] Rita: [00:35:37] It is, it is difficult, but, that's one of the hallmarks of GIFTE is that in order to create the know like, and trust, that's so important in our, in our industry, we have to send out weekly content.

[00:35:53] And I know a lot of people are like, "Ugh, but isn't that gross? Like sending a weekly email?" And for me, what's gross are the daily emails and then the multiple day emails. I don't want that. But for the other companies that I know that do the weekly email, I look forward to getting the weekly email. I might not read it like right as I get it, but eventually I read it because I know that their concept is valuable.

[00:36:22] And so I'm hoping that my clients feel the same way about the content that I put out. 

[00:36:28] Steph: [00:36:28] Well, one last thing I wanted check in on, because you had talked about how, when you're talking about how you don't want to be a slimy sales person and you had talked about how you've tried it to stay away from like networking cause it can feel really slimy. But in light of COVID, some weird things have happened where you've ended up doing this networking. Can you chat a little bit more about what you're doing? Cause I think it's a kind of a creative idea for agents that are interested and doing some networking during a pandemic.

[00:37:00] Rita: [00:37:00] So yeah, I am not a big proponent of networking. Like I know they say that's what you need to get clients and to build relationships. I don't like, I don't like it. So I was a big, like hard, no.

[00:37:13] But in 2020 at the beginning of 2020, I was like, okay, I was going by that and I don't know who. If it's like somebody's quote, or if it's just like a saying that's in the industry.

[00:37:25] No... I think it is a famous quote. Like you have to do something different in order to produce different results.

[00:37:32] Steph: [00:37:32] Mmm Hmmm.

[00:37:33] Rita: [00:37:33] Like I know like, boom ! So I, I started putting myself out there and going to local events, NAWBO, which is the National Association of Qomen Business Owners had a speaker come on in February and her name is Mary Cravets.

[00:37:51] And I think her business is Simply Get Clients. And she was talking about how to use speaking opportunities to get new clients. So went ahead and did her workshop and I kept in communication with her on her email list and through Facebook. And she has a new program out called More Referrals, Less Hassle.

[00:38:15] And so I took the workshop, I think a couple of weeks, maybe about three weeks ago. And I was like, I wish somebody had come up with this concept! Essentially, it's just a 15 minute Zoom meeting with yourself and two other business owners. Everybody gives their little elevator pitch and then everybody comes with an ask. Either the ask is something like: I'm looking for speaking events for coaching opportunities. Or I need to find a coach. Or I'm looking for corporate executives who want to do something different with their annual retreat. And I have had so much fun getting to know the different business owners!

[00:38:59] Like honestly, and I know the thing is to help me get referrals. I don't even care about that! I've been so fascinated with other people's businesses. And now I'm kind of like, "Oh, okay. I met Mike. I have to... Mike needs this. I have to find this for him!"

[00:39:18] That has been the most fun for me. And I love that it's only 15 minutes. So, even if it does feel a little slimy, 15 minutes is nothing. So you're quickly off the call if anything weird does happen.

Rita Perez, Rita Ventures
Rita Perez

[00:39:32] Steph: [00:39:32] Yeah. I mean, I liked the idea too. That there's two people, or there's three people total on the call. So it's not like this really weird, intense. Having a third person kind of makes it feel a little bit more groupie.

[00:39:45] I'm kind of a chatter. And so when I joined the industry, I just naturally love talking to people and like hearing their stories. And I didn't understand how helpful that would be later on in my career. All these people you're chatting with and introducing yourself to. And, yeah, it's the greatest way to kind of build your company. So...

[00:40:10] Rita: [00:40:10] Yeah, it is. It really is. And, I had just learned, like, you have to put yourself out there. You have to put yourself out there. Just like let it go, because I'm very stubborn thanks to my Taurus, my Taurus in my birth blood. And I was just like, I really want to change. And I mean, I really want to work from home, especially now. So I have to do things that are out of my comfort zone. It's it's not easy, but baby steps get me there.

Warm Fuzzies! 🤗

[00:40:44] Steph: [00:40:44] Yeah. Well, getting ready to drop into our last segment, which is the warm fuzzy segment. And there is no better time to have a warm fuzzy segment in a podcast than in the middle of a pandemic. So Rita, we love this segment because it helps remind all of us why we love the industry we're in... even though it's a little bit dismal right now. But also why we love to do what we do. So help us wrap this up with a, with a warm, fuzzy. What have you got for us?

[00:41:13] Rita: [00:41:13] So I have to hear it. There's a big shout out for AmaWaterways. They were offering agents some postcards so that we can send them. And I am a big proponent for the handwritten notes.

[00:41:27] So I took them up on that offer and I just sent out postcards to all of the, my clients just saying, "Hey, I hope you're staying safe. I know we're not traveling right now, but I hope this beautiful picture at least can take you away of her five minutes while you're at home."

[00:41:44] Steph: [00:41:44] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. We're all dying to get away.

[00:41:50] Rita: [00:41:50] Yeah.

[00:41:53] Steph: [00:41:53] Well, thank you for sharing that. That kind of wraps up another episode of TAC and it feels really good, I have to tell you. Because if you've been anything like me lately, it's a, it's a struggle to be even remotely productive.

[00:42:08] But good news is we did it. We produced a show and hopefully you got some learning in and were inspired by some, for some different ideas for your agency.

[00:42:18] So Rita, thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:42:21] Rita: [00:42:21] Thank you so much for having me. I had a lot of fun. Can't wait to see the agents next after me.

Travel Agent Income Survey!

[00:42:28] Steph: [00:42:28] Yeah. Well, don't go quite yet, everybody because Host Agency Reviews, that's the site behind Travel Agent Chatter, we've launched her annual travel agent income survey.

[00:42:40]This is measuring income pre-pandemic. So we're looking at your income from 2019 . And this year in addition, we usually have a lot of host agency partners that we work with.

[00:42:56] But this year we've got some other great partners like ASTA and Ensemble and CCRA to help us gather data not only on the income of hosted agents, but the income of independently accredited agencies. Look for those income reports to come out in late September, but we do need as many people as we can to fill it out. It just makes the data a lot better. So make sure your voice is heard and head on over to hostagencyreviews.com/incomesurvey, and you can take the survey there!


You can watch a video, read a transcript, and view the show notes of today’s episode by visiting hostagencyreviews.com/TAC and clicking on episode 16.

If listening to Rita’s story has your interested in trying out a niche in corporate events, make sure to check out Episode 5, where we chat with an agent who has one foot in the corporate meetings world and the other in leisure.

And one last thing, before this episode officially wraps, stop by and don’t forget to leave a rating for Travel Agent Chatter on iTunes or Stitchr to help with our 20/2020 campaign! We just need 3 more reviews to reach our goal.

And if you have any thoughts or questions on today's show. We’d love to hear from you! Send a note to stephanie@hostagencyreviews.com

Thanks for listening!

About the Author
Steph Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Steph Lee

Steph grew up in the travel industry, helping on and off with her mom's homebased travel agency. She has worked with thousands of agents in her role as a former host agency director before leaving in 2012 to start HAR. She's insatiably curious, loves her pups Fennec and Orion, and -- in case you haven't noticed -- is pretty quirky and free-spirited.

If you’re looking for Steph, she leaves a trace where ever she goes! You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (her fav) and Pinterest as 'iamstephly'. 🙂 You can also catch her on her Substack, Bumblin' Around, where she writes on things outside the world of HAR.