I’m a travel nerd. I love travel, hotels, airplanes, cars, tuk-tuks, feet, bikes, hotels, ships… If it’s involved with journeying, I’m interested in learning more about it. Anyone who knows me knows I love to talk travel, but what I like more is to listen.
Let me tell you something about my industry…
In the travel industry, there are many, many trade shows. In this business, knowing who will do what, how, and where is extremely important. This becomes more true in the world of high-luxury, when who you know is more important than what, most of the time. This sets the stage for the kind of attitude I use to approach these kinds of functions; I want to find people at trade shows that know things I don’t.
In my experience, so-called “experts'' are all too common in the field of travel and tourism, and quite frankly are a waste of time. Tried-and-true experts are harder to find, and that’s who I want to connect with. I may not call myself an expert, but I love to learn from people with specialized trades. I’m willing to sort the wheat from the chaff to find these specialists. I love to ask questions, to learn something new, and to connect with different kinds of people. And, at the end of our discussion, we exchange business cards. Sometimes I’ll even write on them.
To illustrate this, let’s talk about the most common destination for a travel agent in the Western US: Mexico.
I have a list of standard questions I generally ask, like car transfers to San Miguel de Allende from Mexico City and Leon. Later on, I’d ask about seaweed in the Yucatan. Sometimes I’m addressing actual things I’m working on for a client, but mostly I’m just curious and want to know the best of “who, what, and where” for potential destinations.
What’s disappointing is that I’ve met travel agents who claim to specialize in Mexico that have never heard of Palenque or even Huatulco! At most, they are just experts in the Mayan Riviera, the Riviera Nayarit, and Los Cabos. Even then, they are only privy to the information they were spoon fed by big travel companies. Some of that information is gold, some of it is manure--only agents with critical thinking skills that expand their knowledge further know the difference.
That’s one reason why I don’t call myself an expert. It’s too easy for someone to be a self-proclaimed expert, even if they are new to the field. Their knowledge and curiosity ends at a certain point. I seek to find those whose curiosity knows no bounds, much like my own, and also seek to help others with their intel. These true experts with years of experience and knowledge are who I yearn to connect with in order to provide the best experience I can for my clients.
If I ask somebody about a car ride from Mexico City or Leon and they tell me they can do Quetaro too, I’m getting that person’s card. If I ask them about seaweed in the Yucatan and they not only know, but know where it piles up like crazy and what’s being done to remove it and by whom? Again, that’s another card and connection I want to keep.
In many ways, being a good travel agent is more about what you can discover rather than what you know. The world constantly changes, I can’t keep up with all of it on my own. However, I can stay in contact with people worldwide who keep up with different parts of the world. I don’t BS my clients, when I don’t know, I say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.”
So, what do I specialize in?
First, I specialize in moving people globally, mostly through airfare. Most destination experts are too focused to keep their eye on the global situation. I also specialize in my clients. That means knowing what they like and need; if I go to another company, I make sure it’s a good fit for the client, then I assess the value. Whether it’s a $1,000 vacation or a $100,000 vacation, I make sure the value is good.
Most of all, I specialize in connecting with people and asking deep questions in order to create tailored and exceptional travel experiences.
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