The 'Monday Minute' is a weekly feature at PAX dedicated to highlighting the movers, shakers, leaders and rule-breakers in Canada's travel agent community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Andrea Arkell
Company: Arkell Travel, hosted under The Travel Agent Next Door
Lives in: Sunderland, Ontario
How long have you been a travel agent? Six years. Before that I had the opportunity to explore the world working on cruise ships.
What is your speciality? Everything from flights, hotels, cruises and packages. I specialize in family and romance travel. Recently, as my clientele has started to shift, I have been focusing on Europe as well.
What do you love most about being a travel agent?
What isn't there to love? The fact that I get to play a part in helping clients create memories they will hold dear for a lifetime. Whether it be helping them get to say 'I Do' in paradise, spend quality family time or even explore their family history, it is so rewarding to know what you do makes people happy.
Also, the opportunities we as agents have to explore this wonderful world. In what other profession do you get the travel experiences we do? This year alone I have been to Jamaica, Florida, on the Rocky Mountaineer and later this year, I will be heading to Poland. Sharing these experiences increases my sales as clients know I have travelled personally. Last but not least, I love the amazing friendships I have made with fellow agents and suppliers. They truly make all the stressful times worth it.
What's one travel trend you've noticed as of late?
Clients are wanting to personalize their vacation and steer away from larger group travel. A lot more clients are asking for something out of the box, whether it be a new location that they haven't been to or something that allows them to experience the culture.
Over the years, how have you had to adapt to changes taking place in the industry?
Last July, after working at a travel agency, I made the decision to go on my own as a branded hosted agent. I had established a professional reputation and a solid Facebook page, so finding clients for my new business was easy.
Going home-based allowed me to adapt my hours to when my clients were available (as opposed to a 9-5 schedule when most of my clients are at work). I have plans to expand my agency and hire associate agents that have different specializations. I plan to continue educating clients on the value of using a travel agent over booking online. After learning some interesting facts at a conference recently, I am also going to start utilizing live video and YouTube, which is a bit out of my comfort zone (but no pain no gain right?)
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary and/or travel package are you most proud of?
It's hard to choose just one itinerary or client as I pour so much into each client's trip, but here is an example of when I was able to prove the value of using an agent: In September 2017, I had a wedding group that was heading to Punta Cana.
Three days before they were scheduled to leave, there was a warning that a hurricane was heading to that area. I immediately got on the phone with the tour supplier, and also with a resort in another country (Mexico).
Within four hours, a new wedding date and time was secured at a Karisma property in Playa del Carmen, all thanks to the relationships I had built with hoteliers through industry events and having the right contacts. The bride and groom ended up in a better resort and at a better price (as I knew the tour supplier had exclusive space and the last-minute pricing worked so that it didn't cost the wedding party more). What could have been a very stressful time for the bride and her guests was solved before lunch, and they had an amazing wedding with no weather issues.
What's your number one piece of advice to other travel agents?
Learn your value. Know when to drop clients that are shopping around. This can be hard at first if you are new to the industry as you want the sale, but you will soon realize that loyal clients are much more important to your business then one-time clients. Also, you never will know everything, so attend product launches, webinars, training and FAMs that are in line with your current client base or the clients you want to attract.
It is much easier to sell a product that you have experienced and can share personal experiences about. Finally, build relationships with your suppliers and other agents. It's priceless and so important.
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