Now more than ever, the travel industry is bursting with talent. But, for agents and other professionals trying to break into the field and achieve success, it’s best to do so by learning from those around you.
Four travel industry executives shared the secrets of their success, during the Land and Cruise panel at Travel MarketPlace in Toronto this week.
1. Travel, travel, travel
Don Forster, the product manager for South and Central America at Goway Travel, started traveling independently when he was 14 years old — something that helped him carve out the path to his future success.
“It’s my experience in traveling,” he said. “Talking firsthand about my travel experiences …experiencing local cultures and the technical side about how to get to and from places plays a big part. It’s a big plus.”
Forster was able to turn that experience into a career, first as an expedition guide for five years, taking tour groups around South and Central America, then as a groups and FIT manager at G Adventures. He eventually founded Adventures Incorporated in 2002, a full-service travel and consultancy company specializing in niche market sectors of international travel, before moving onto Goway in 2006.
Today, Forster sees a new travel market, where both clients and suppliers are pushing toward a higher level of luxury.
“From a land point of view, what we’ve been seeing over the last four or five years is that there is a growing request for four or five luxury travel countries in South and Central America. The countries down there are gearing themselves for that at the moment,” he said.
“It is a push to a much higher level of travel … we are definitely seeing an increase in high-end requests from the Galapagos cruises and the Amazon, through the hotels and luxury cruises.”
2. Don’t shy away from mistakes
Though they may not seem like it at the time, mistakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Taking things that went wrong and turning them into a learning experience is something that helped Janet Bava, the vice president of marketing at Silversea Cruises for the Americas, achieve the position she holds today.
“I think mistakes have been my biggest education. Rising from challenging situations that we’re all going to come across, learning from those challenging situations and the mistakes that you made, and moving forward,” she said.
Part of learning from mistakes is being honest with yourself and surrounding yourself with people who are going to be honest with you, Bava said.
“I think it’s also about relationships and honesty. So, there are a lot of times when you get caught making a mistake, and just be honest with the people around you.”
3. Learn from those around you
For Derek Lloyd, the new national director of sales for Canada at Norwegian Cruise Line, one moment of learning came early in his career.
“One time very early in my career, I was a BDM out in the field and I was trying to work on a group, and in my eagerness … I put some stuff in writing in terms of pricing that quite frankly I shouldn’t have.”
The mistake “came from the right place,” Lloyd said, explaining that he was trying to move the business forward, but he didn’t take advantage of the full support and knowledge of the people around him.
“You can’t do everything yourself … know where your strengths are, know what you should really be doing on a day-to-day, and learn from the people around you,” he said.
4. Be persistent
Early in his career, Jared Gelfand, the current district sales manager for South Ontario at Collette Tours, thought he had a surefire group sale. But, things didn’t work out.
“I was working with a church group, doing a presentation with the Holy Land, and I butchered the city names,” he said. “Twenty-five people came into the church ready to go on a trip and then left not wanting to go."
Despite that, Gelfand was able to chug along by being persistent and “overcome any sort of rejections you have.”
“Don’t be afraid to fail," he said. "The best hitters strike out 7 out of 10 times, but if the three hits are homeruns, that’s where you’ll find your success.”