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: Sarah Boville
Company: Barefoot Travel, TravelOnly
Location: Grimsby, ON
How long have you been a travel agent?
I have been in the industry for close to 30 years, starting years ago at Treasure Tours. I've worked as an agent for the past 15 years in brick and mortar and as home based.
What is your speciality?
Groups of all types, from leisure to affinity. My heart is in destination weddings.
What do you love most about being a travel agent?
The connections I make with my clients, getting to know them and creating a lifetime of happy memories. I had a client say to me once that I am her happy.
What's one travel trend you've noticed as of late?
That the general public is coming back and believing in the benefit of using an agent. I do a Travel Talk Tuesday on Facebook, on most Tuesdays. I started it as a way to educate people on what the actual role of a travel agent is. After started this, I was surprised by how many calls I got from people saying that they had not used an agent but would like to try me out. They are now repeat clients.
Over the years, how have you had to adapt to changes taking place in the industry?
For myself and for my business, it's about understanding how to reach clients. They are not going to find me, so I have to find them. As a home-based agent, I have done that by educating myself on self-promotion through Facebook and Instagram mainly. I am not shy about asking for referrals on my Facebook page and a nice handwritten thank-you note for referrals goes a long way. I have had to think outside the box.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary and/or travel package are you most proud of?
Honestly, it was not an extensive or complicated itinerary - a straight-forward, all-inclusive trip to Mexico. This was my client's chance to see a sister she had not seen in a long time, but was terrified of the whole idea of travelling. Other than going on the flight with her, I walked her through every step so that she had the courage to do it (trust me, she almost backed out the morning she was leaving). But she went, arrived safe, and we Whatsapp'd through every stage of the trip. She is now travelling on her own with women's groups to explore the world. That terrified her before. That is what makes this job worth all the hours of hard work.
What's your number one piece of advice to other travel agents?
Get to know your client. In this world of instant pricing for trips, along with requests through Facebook, texting, emails, etc..., insist your new or repeat client call you and have a conversation. What they are asking for is usually not what they want. They have just heard a deal. Build relationships and that will build trust, which leads to repeat clients and referrals.
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