Travel Agent Interviews
CLIA Travel Agent Cruise News features an interview with a CLIA Individual Agent Member each month. This feature provides an opportunity to hear directly from our members, who provide a unique perspective on the industry, tips of the trade, key learnings and insight into Travel Agents’ love of cruise travel. Check back next month for a new Travel Agent interview!
Carol Dyck, ECC
Cruise and Vacation Consultant, Expedia CruiseShipCenters
West Vancouver, British Columbia
I was concerned about finding time to answer these questions to be honest! At 11pm tonight, I was busy quoting, answering questions, and holding cabins for clients. It is now almost 12:30am, and I am now answering the questions. This is my life as a travel agent! It is 7 days a week with never a day off, from morning until very late.
I have been in the business almost 10 years. I started in February 2009. I never thought in a million years that I would be in sales. I ran a research lab in soil chemistry – about as far removed from sales as you could be! Then I went on a cruise with a friend whose roommate had to cancel. That cruise changed my life. After many more cruises, people were asking me for advice. I got laid off from the lab, and was looking for something else. I saw an ad in the local newspaper about opportunities with Expedia CruiseShipCenters, and here I am, 10 years later.
Shawn Power, ECC, LCS
Co-Owner, Powerventures Travel Services Ltd. (An Independent Agency in the Avoya Travel Network)
Vancouver, BC, Canada
I’ve been in the business for 12 years. It was truly due to my love of cruising… I took four cruises and loved them. My family and friends started cruising, based on Nancy’s and my experiences, so I figured why not get involved and make some money since people are already cruising due to my recommendations. Read more...
Owner, It's Your Day Vacation
In 2008, I was introduced to the travel business by a high school classmate who heard that I was doing group cruises with my friends and family. She contacted me to see if I would be interested in joining a travel company she was with. I immediately declined. I didn't care about making money. She convinced me to take a look at the business. After a couple of weeks of hesitation, I watch the presentation and joined. After being in the business for 2 months, she quit. I had to figure a lot of the business on my own. I was up for the challenge. Read more...
Paul Parker, ACC
Owner, Searcy Travel (An Independent Affiliate of OASIS Travel Network)
My business partner, Gina, and I have a combined 30-plus years of experience in the travel business. I never planned on being in travel; my great aunt was a travel agent, so I think that she passed the travel bug onto me. My first experience with a cruise line was during college, when my parents booked a half-dozen cabins for a family reunion. Read more...
Gary E. Smith, ECCS
2018 Elite Cruise Counsellor of the Year
Vacation Specialist/Owner, Dream Vacations - TravelPerks
I was speechless, which for me is very rare. I am so very proud to have been bestowed this award. Although I know it was given to me, I do believe that it was earned by the contributions of many others. It was earned through the relationships I have with so many in this industry. In any relationship, I am at best only 50% of what makes it work. Hence, I’d like to thank CLIA, Dream Vacations / CruiseOne / World Travel Holdings, our suppliers, my incredible staff, our great clients, and most especially – my wife. Without these amazing relationships, I would not have been able to achieve this honor. I’ve been very blessed in my life, and I try each day to live up and give back to the life I enjoy so much. The honor of this award both gives me proof that I’m giving back as I should and gives me the need to do more. Read more...
Jason Coleman, ECCS, LCS
Business Development Manager/MentorU Coach, UNIGLOBE Travel Center
I started in the industry in 1998 as a meeting planner at an educational association in Washington, DC (yeah for my 20-year anniversary!!!). In that role, I planned dozens of events and conferences each year—from small board meetings to large, thousand-delegate multi-day conventions. But I was getting bored with the monotony and repetitiveness of that. In 2001, I took my first cruise on Disney Cruise Line. It was just a three-night sailing to the Bahamas, but I was hooked! During the day, I would people-watch on the pool deck, and realized that I wanted to work with people going on vacation. They looked like they were having a great time and I wanted to be in that environment. I immediately started researching how to get into the cruise industry when I stumbled on a CLIA VHS tape titled “Principles of Professional Selling” on EBay. On the reverse side, I saw the video instructor was Dr. Marc Mancini, who then taught travel at West Los Angeles College, a community college in my area. I registered for my first semester of classes two months later, and the rest is history! Read more...
Linda “Casey” Rainey, MCC
Independent Travel Agent, Goldrush Getaways
I believe in always giving the client what they want, and more than what they expect. When they state “I get good pricing online by myself”, I educate them on how I take care of all the little details, like keying in their guest check-in information. I even get their boarding passes and luggage tags for them. I listen to what they want and imagine myself going with them and how could I make their vacation better. My three main steps to selling cruises: 1. Listen 2. Imagine 3. Sell.
Owner, Vacations By Cheryl (Independent Contractor of the KHM Travel Group)
ECC, Plantation, FL
I was first inspired to enter this profession because of a lifetime love of travel instilled in me, by my parents, at a very early age, taking their seven children cross-country every summer in their '64 Chevy. As we grew older my parents liked the idea of taking family vacations, and my father always wanted me to be in charge of organizing these trips. This led me to the idea of leaving my career in the hospitality industry and moving into the travel field. I have now been in the business almost 11 years. Read more...
General Manager of Network Engagement and Performance, World Travel Holdings
Chairman, CLIA STARBoard
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Thank you so much and Happy New Year! You are too kind. I am truly blessed to be able to do what I do and for the amazing organization I am part of. It is a great question. As I look back on my childhood, I can attribute my passion for travel to my parents. Every year they would take us on a family vacation to a different state. They made sure we had unique experiences along the way. I always loved packing a bag and heading out on the road from that point forward. I did not realize then that it would translate into a rewarding career in the travel industry for more than two decades. Read more...
Jen Cron, ACC
Owner, Dream Vacations
I had taken some time off to stay home with my daughter and when it came time to go back to work, I was looking for something legitimate that I could do from home and my husband found CruiseOne. We had already fallen in love with cruising, but I was one of those people who didn’t even realize that travel agents were still a thing. Now that I know and understand the value that agents provide, one of my favorite things is educating people about the value that we add. Read More...
Jeannie Lipphard, ACC, MCC, ECC, ECCS, LCS
Travel Agent/Independent Contractor, Cruise & Travel Planner (hosted by Nexion), Centreville, Maryland
In the late 1990’s I started cruising and loved it – not only the fun aspect of cruising/traveling but also the behind scenes operations and the industry including the history of the major cruise lines, the ships, and more. My travel agent at the time, Diane Mason (also an ECCS, CLIA Individual Agent Member), suggested I consider getting into the business so I went to work for her and her husband Jim Mason in 2001 as a home-based agent. After getting accredited (ACC, MCC, ECC, ECCS, and LCS), traveling to new destinations, attending conferences/seminars, as well as learning the business, I went on my own in 2005. It took those first few years working with mentors like Diane and Jim as well as building a client base to set myself up for success. Remember the business does not fall in your lap – it takes many hours of hard work and investment in yourself and your business (travel, certifications, education, etc) to be successful in any type of sales plus a huge passion for cruise travel – you have to love what you sell! Read More...
Destination Event Producer, Eventful Voyages by Dream Vacations, Belle Isle, Florida
My career as a travel agent completes the full circle, dating back to 1993 when I was working as cruise staff on the famous Big Red Boat by Premier Cruise Lines. I will never forget my first embarkation, what an exciting day! There was something magical about stepping onto this massive vessel bound for new adventures. To this day, embarkation happens to be my favorite day of any cruise. There is a heartfelt rush that makes me feel like an adventurer or an explorer. I can’t deny it, I simply love cruises. Read More...
President/Owner Travel Consultant, Pack Your Bags Travel, Pinckney, Michigan
I am an Independent Contractor working with my host agency and it has been amazing for me and my business. I loved to travel myself and now I get paid to help others do what I love so much! I have been in the Travel Industry for 12 years, started in Corporate then Government and now my own agency. Read More...
Founder and CEO, MilesAhead, a proud associate of Valerie Wilson Travel, New York
I’ve been in the business for a little over four years and I am about to begin my junior year at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. MilesAhead was founded back when I was 14. Today we are a team of 10+, on track for a $5m+ book of business and to help clients redeem 50m frequent flyer miles in 2017. My initial passion for the travel and hospitality industry was airlines; I love them, I love flying and I love to design itineraries. Throughout my middle school and high school years, I learned all about turning frequent flier miles into (nearly) free airfare. My friends and family inspired and encouraged me to go out and start a business. It started out where family, friends (and then friends of friends) would call me to find out how best to use their miles, and I would gladly help them. A client base built up quickly, and those clients started to ask me to help them make their arrangements—air, hotel, cruise, everything. People saw value in working with an expert to help them optimize their miles, and their excitement led to seeking a full-service travel advising experience.
Deborah Fogarty, ECC
Owner, Be Well Travel, LCC (an Independent Affiliate of Nexion) Pembroke Pines, FL
Being a travel agent is the best decision I ever made – I started it as a side job (always working for banks and CPA firms and “hated” my job). I fell into the industry working as an assistant for a semi-retired stock-broker that also had his own travel agency – he encouraged me to join him in the business. I went home the afternoon I was hired and immediately signed up for a CLIA Membership and enrolled to earn my ACC. I started booking friends and family and then through natural organic networking my business grew in leaps and bounds. I love working for myself and setting goals and seeing it all come to fruition. My specialties are Yoga/Wellness Cruises, Craft Beer and Wine cruises and Corporate Incentive cruises. The travel industry is one of the most viable successful industries to be in. Read More...
Joni Cohen, Elite Cruise Counsellor of the Year
President, Travel Advisor, Northbrook, Il
I began my career as a travel agent in 1981. After 9 years of cruising and enjoying it so much, I wanted to spread the word to let others know the great experiences and value they can have by cruising. Assisting and guiding my clients to their dream vacations has always given me a sense of satisfaction. Selling travel is a wonderful gift making my “job” a pleasure. My business is mainly repeat clients and referrals which tells me I am doing something right. I look forward to each day to bring happiness to them. Read More...
Dawn Ogden, ACC
Travel Agent Concierge, Xstream Travel,
I have always truly enjoyed being the go-to-person for my family and friends, spending endless hours online exploring destinations for the next big vacation. I launched my home-based travel agency Dawn’s Destinations Travel Service in March 2007 turning my passion for travel into a nice part-time income. My niche markets are now primarily cruise groups (class and family reunions) and romance travel (anniversaries, vow renewals, destination weddings and honeymoons). Cruisers are the greatest percentage of my travel business clientele! Read More...
Ferne C. Sapp, ACC
Independent Travel Agent, InteleTravel.com
I’m able to enjoy the best of both worlds—the working world and entrepreneurial world. By day, I serve as a Campus Pastor of our multi-site church, where I spend my time helping, serving, leading, training, and equipping people. It is a challenging, yet rewarding role because I have the privilege of creating and adopting new initiatives for our rapidly growing campus. In between my weekly sermon preparation, I often find my mind reflecting over the places I’ve been and people I’ve met in my “night job” of being a Travel Agent and business owner. What’s most amazing is that my role is essentially the same; helping and serving people as they travel the world and live out their dreams. I am a Cruise Specialist, certified by pretty much every cruise line, including being a Princess Commodore. I am blessed to be a wife of over 20 years, a mother of two “kid-adults,” and a Grammy to two amazing grands.
Rebecca Needham, MCC
Independent Travel Counselor, Triumph Travel
Travel has always been an important aspect of my life, from my family childhood vacations to studying abroad in Scotland while in college. Four years ago, I took this enthusiasm for travel one step further by becoming an Independent Travel Counselor with my Grandmother's Agency "Triumph Travel." She helped me learn not only the technical aspects of travel, but the human side of travel, such really getting to know your client and understanding their travel needs. I specialize in customized vacation itineraries and a lot of my business involves cruise packages.