Why Now Is a Good Time to Become a Travel Advisor

Travel may be at a standstill at the moment but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time to become a travel advisor.

Sandy Saburn of Gifted Travel Network sat down with Steph Lee of Host Agency Reviews for a webinar discussing why and how potential travel advisors should think about starting a business now.

Saburn is the ideal person to tackle this topic since she launched her own career in the travel industry right after September 11.

“I was passionate about travel and that’s what I wanted to do and like then, now is a great time,” she said.

Saburn defined what she meant about timing, noting that you need to be driven by more than just a love of travel.

“What we are talking about is people who are serious about starting a travel business—not a hobby,” she said. “It may not be full-time but the goal is for this business to support you and your family.”

New travel entrepreneurs have a lot of decisions to make which takes time and that is why it is good to start now.

“You have some time now,” she pointed out. We have lots of time to do things that we want to do…like finish Netflix or instead, you could be working on starting a travel business.”

Travel advisors are in the spotlight now in a positive way and new advisors can take advantage of that. Saburn pointed out that demand for travel advisors is higher now after this event. Online travel agencies or OTA’s have received a lot of negative press while travel advisors have received praise for their handling of this pandemic.

“The travel industry is coming back,” she said. “Americans are not going to stop traveling. How they travel may be different for a little while or a long while—we don’t know that yet, but we do know that travel agents are in demand. A lot of people have said that this ‘do it yourself thing’ is not as great as I thought it was.”

Saburn points out that Virtuoso, to which Gifted Travel Network belongs, says that there is more demand for luxury travel advisors than there are advisors specializing in this type of travel, illustrating that when travel does return, there will be a need for more travel advisors.

Saburn goes on to detail how to launch a travel business the right way to lead to success.

“You are not going to just flip a switch and turn this on and suddenly the money starts rolling in,” she said. “This is not that kind of business.”

If you want to make money, Saburn says you need to make three critical decisions: Who are you going to serve, what makes you different and how will you reach your ideal client.

Saburn also advised potential travel advisors to pick a specialty. This will help drive marketing and can earn advisors more money.

“There are riches in niches. It doesn’t limit you, but it expands your opportunities,” said Saburn.

Saburn walks potential travel advisors through the critical steps they need to tackle before deciding to launch a travel business—most importantly your pitch to potential clients.

“You need to be really clear about what it is you have to offer,” said Saburn, who stressed the importance of picking a specialty and having a marketing plan that will guide future decisions and build trust.

Saburn goes on to recommend those considering becoming a travel advisor partner with a host agency and not go it alone.

“You will make more mistakes, you will be more frustrated and you will have less opportunity because you are operating in a vacuum,” she said.

Many prospective advisors are concerned about the money that they will have to put forward but Saburn points out that you are going to get so much more from your host.

“You can’t start a business without making some sort of investment. You need to invest in things in order to get this business off the ground and being part of a community has immeasurable benefits.”

Saburn also noted that, for potential advisors, choosing a host is an important decision and a site such as Host Agency Reviews, which provides detailed information on a wide range of host and franchise opportunities for advisors, is an ideal resource.

“We send people there all the time…because you read the reviews that are there and set up appointments to talk to different hosts and find a fit.”

Advisors should look for hosts whose vendors match their goals, provide resources that meet their needs and a community that is a good fit.

In addition to a host agency, future travel advisors are going to first and foremost need a training program.

“The host agency’s job is to provide support and infrastructure for experienced agents,” said Saburn. “You need a training program and a mentor.”

To evaluate and find a good training program, Saburn recommends looking at the curriculum, the community, mentorship opportunities and selling opportunities.

“You need to find a training program that meets you where you are so that your learning style is taken into consideration when you are making this decision,” she said.

Saburn also steered new travel advisors away from focusing on aspects of host agencies that sound tantalizing to new adviors, but that aren’t really as beneficial down the road, such as lead generation, websites and dedicated booking engines.

An excellent resource for new agents is the Travel M.B.A. program. The program trains new agents to operate successful, rewarding businesses without working 16-hour days.

The program is exclusively for travel entrepreneurs and designed for people who want to focus on service, putting new travel advisors on a path to success.

The Travel M.B.A. includes 12 months of mentorship, comprehensive e-learning modules and it is part of the Gifted Travel Network, which offers an engaged community of supportive entrepreneurs. It also includes hosting so that travel advisors can start selling when they are ready.

The cost is $4,997, payable in 12 monthly payments.

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Love of Travel in the Time of Coronavirus: Why I Kept Going

“Don’t you ever stay home?”

an orange sunset: Happy traveler waiting for the flight in airport

I get the same question from my mother whenever I tell her I’m traveling that weekend (which is often). She herself is by no means a shut-in, having cruised the Nile on a barge and hiked ancient footpaths in the Andes, but the sheer frequency of my travel is what unnerves her.

Some travelers are exhausted by travel, and need time in between trips to recover, while others are energized by it. Me? I’m an introvert and like my “alone” time, but when it comes to travel my appetite has few boundaries.

So in the midst of (quite legitimate) concerns about coronavirus, I took a weekend trip to Puerto Vallarta. I spent some time rationalizing: there aren’t many cases in Mexico; the flights and airports aren’t very full; I love fresh Pacific seafood.

Some of my assumptions panned out. The flights weren’t very full, and the atmosphere felt similar to what it did in the fall and winter of 2001: everyone polite and patient in spite of their obviously frayed nerves.

After getting through the rationalization, the next question is one of self-actualization: why? Why do I keep traveling, even when it’s clearly much safer and less stressful to stay home?

RELATED: You can virtually tour these 20 landmarks without leaving your couch

a large building: Most travel plans are on hold for a while during the coronavirus pandemic. To pass the time after working from home with the kids or for a fun digital happy hour with friends, take a vacation without ever leaving your couch. Numerous world-class destinations and man-made marvels offer virtual tours that you can take online while you are social distancing. The other benefit? It’s free.

I wouldn’t argue the “safe” bit, but less stressful? After a couple of posts about my journey, I stopped scrolling through Facebook to find endless jokes about toilet paper and admonishments to supply hoarders. There are opportunities for stress wherever you are—even when you’re sipping Pacifico in the sand—and I wasn’t about to let them creep in.

Sometimes I feel like my urge to keep traveling has a documentary quality. There’s something romantic about the correspondents who rushed into the fires to chronicle them, like Ernest Hemingway commandeering a military Jeep to be the first American civilian into Paris in 1944 to “liberate” the bar at The Ritz Hotel. In Mexico, among tourists from the north, it’s as though everyone is taking pains not to discuss the elephant in the room, and that’s the snapshot I’m after.

For me, the desire to see the world isn’t one of postcard idealism. I want to see what the world looks like when it’s not perfect, too. There was a strange beauty in how we traveled just after 9/11. The additional security checks were frustrating, but travelers saw their value. The uncertainty among travel industry workers about their futures put their more authentic humanity on full display; travelers saw that and responded with understanding.

It’s also interesting how humans have the capacity to think of whatever hurdles stand up during their present as extraordinary. Suddenly COVID-19 facemasks are different from SARS facemasks. Post-9/11 security checks were different from Gulf War security checks. A generation from now, travelers of this period will bear witness when the next generation looks upon their struggle as unprecedented. 

The word “Quarantine” itself dates back to the middle ages when the city-state of Ragusa (modern-day Dubrovnik) imposed a forty-day (Italian: quaranta giorni = forty days) waiting period on arriving ships to ensure their occupants didn’t carry the plague. What strikes me is that even during the Black Death, which wiped out roughly a third of Europe’s population, there were still ships arriving to quarantine.

Even in those days, when there was little relief for an ailment of any kind (contemporary prescriptions overwhelmingly did more harm than good) and everything from a sore leg to a sniffle was potentially fatal, there was still a basic understanding that isolation could put a stop to a pandemic. Even then, they traveled on.

Every generation has its intrepid travelers, and as with most adventures, everyone has their endurance limits. Several of my friends were also traveling at the same time. One returned early from Europe, awakening to news of new travel restrictions to the U.S. One had an abbreviated trip to New Zealand after the country announced entry restrictions and airlines began to cancel flights.

I myself am also about ready to pack it in for a while. The calculus has shifted. Concerns of catching and subsequently transmitting the virus have morphed into acceptance of the eventuality that free movement will be curtailed as borders close in efforts to contain the threat.

I’ve seen the warts-and-all realities I was curious about, and it’s time to retire to the couch (yes, Mom, I do stay home sometimes) with a stack of treasured books and films about travel. Instead of the rush I get at the ink of a customs stamp hitting my passport I’ll be transfixed as Bergman is coaxed onto the silver Air France propliner in Casablanca, or Streep, anxious that her crystal and china aren’t broken on the train across Kenya.

And when the next crisis hits, I’ll probably travel right up until the gates swing shut then, too.

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