What made you want to get into the Travel Industry?
My love for travel started as a military brat living overseas in Korea and Antigua then continuing as a military spouse living in Europe. I learned that experiencing different cultures was a privilege, and that each culture was unique. I entered into the travel profession as a way to help provide the joys of travel I experienced to others; taking a trip is one thing, truly understanding the unique, local experiences is very special - and that is what I try to give to my customers.
What was your rationale to go into business for yourself?
After earning my Travel & Tourism Certification, I worked at a travel agency, which was a great opportunity to learn from experienced travel advisors. I gained a strong understanding of what our (potential) clients want, but I wanted more flexibility and more control in what to offer my clients.
Owning my own business means that I can decide my brand, how I want to market my company and who I want to work with in the industry. As I have gained more experience in the industry, my brand has become more focused and it’s exciting to learn about more experiences around the world I can give my clients. It’s exciting to see how Best Travel has grown and to decide what direction I want to take it next.
What do you like about being a Travel Advisor and what makes you suited for the job?
I love creating detailed itineraries, hearing how excited my clients are before their vacation and listening to all their feedback afterwards. Giving something as special as experiencing the world is very rewarding! The business and sales side of my company drives me as well. When I have a challenging itinerary to create or a situation where my clients really need my help (like hurricanes), I can make a huge impact. These are big wins, and I like winning! Ultimately, I truly care about my clients. They trust me with their time, families, safety and their money. I take that trust very seriously.
What advantages are there to using a Travel Advisor in an age when the Internet makes it easy to book trips on your own?
I love this question! There are many advantages of using a travel advisor, and it really depends on the person. Some people love spending lots of time figuring out their own trip and are willing to risk that their vacation will turn out fine.
My clients understand the value that I provide to them using my expertise, education and experience. I am a Certified Travel Advisor, a Luxury Travel Specialist, and I have specializations in many cruise lines, hotel brands and destinations. For cruises, I understand the best location on a ship to have your cabin, and my agency may have partnerships so I can provide on-board credit and/or exclusive experiences. There are lots of cruise lines to choose from so I know what is the right fit for my clients. The internet has many options, and it can be overwhelming sorting through everything and figuring out what is a good fit. I plan vacations for families, honeymoons, anniversaries, luxury clients, and groups all the time and I read about my industry daily so I already know what resorts are the right fit for my clients. I am trained to think about details like what flight times will have you arrive in time for check in at your hotel, and what time of year is the best or worst to travel to certain destinations. I get the inside scoop on restaurants, shopping, special experiences and more.
I follow the weather, safety and events around the world. Not only do I plan dream vacations, but I serve as an advocate for my clients.
What sets your company apart from other travel agencies?
The human connection. I listen to my clients, and I learn everything I possibly can about them so I can plan their dream vacation. It is so important to hear my clients tell me what they want from their vacation AND to hear their feedback when they return so I know what they loved and what they might do differently. Phone calls and in-person meetings are essential in this digital age - we still need that human connection. I know if my clients want business class or economy, a window or aisle seat, if they are beach or pool lovers, foodies or wine connoisseurs, history buffs or shoppers, want private tours or A small group, like boutique hotels or want the extra amenities and so much more. This type of service is something the internet can’t give!
What are your specialties?
I plan many types of vacations like Caribbean, European and Alaskan cruises, all-Inclusive resorts, family vacations and more. I am certified and/or specialize in river cruises, luxury and European vacations.
How do your clients find out about you?
Ninety percent of my business is referrals. When my clients refer their friends and family to me, this is the best compliment. There is a sense of trust already because someone they know has been happy with my service. I, also, advertise locally, and have an online profile under my consortium and my website.
Job research seems to be one of the advantages of being a Travel Advisor. Do you experience some of these amazing places before suggesting them to your clients? What trip was your favorite?
Travel Research is definitely an advantage of this job. My research falls in line with my business plan and goals for Best Travel. I typically take one overseas trip each year and travel to a couple conferences for professional development.
I love every place that I have visited! They are all my favorite because each destination has its own unique flavor and invokes certain emotions. Every place I have traveled I want to go back, but there are so many new destinations to experience! Portugal, Iceland, Ireland, France and a luxury river cruise are some recent trips that were incredible.
Is there any place you haven’t been that’s on your to-go list?
New Zealand is high on my list of destinations to experience. The culture, landscaping, adventure, scenery and people are supposed to be incredible so I can’t wait to visit!
What are your interests or hobbies?
My interests include running, cooking, and reading. Photography and learning Italian are next on my list! My husband, Tom and I love to entertain. We have two teenage girls so we are busy with their activities and love nothing more than a Saturday afternoon watching soccer or volleyball. We have a lot of family in the area so there are always family get-togethers and celebrations.
Website: w:www.besttrvl.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 540-623-7473
How did you get into this line of work?
In 1995 I was VP at Whole Systems Design, Inc., a company involved in product production and promotion. My duties at WSD included producing ads, brochures and packaging for our products. The internet was just getting off the ground and we were interested in the possibilities it represented for marketing. We looked into procuring a website, which represented a substantial investment. Our co-worker was an accomplished Apple tech and convinced us that we could DIY the project. He arranged installation of a T-1 line and set up a server, initially just to host our own website. The first website I built was for our product Masterball, a 3-D puzzle. I'm sure there are more sophisticated sites being built by grade schoolers today!
It didn't take long to realize that there was tremendous potential in providing internet hosting and web development services to other businesses, even though at the time most of the people we pitched to didn't know what the internet was. I left Whole Systems Design in 1998 and have since worked as a freelance web developer.
Were you an artistic child? Is being artistic an attribute you need to be successful or are other skills more important?
I have always had a passion for art, and having a good design sense is a very useful skill for a web developer. However, there are many aspects of web or app development outside of graphics creation. There are jobs for anyone with good communications and analytic skills.
How do you keep your designs fresh and interesting?
It's hard to believe how much has changed with the internet since I first started working on websites in 1995. I can remember having conversations with clients convinced that no one would ever be foolish enough to buy anything online! And, just as with fashion, cars, or haircuts — styles change. To stay current with trends, I spend roughly 10 hours a week reading about new web development tools and trends.
Please give a rundown of the services you provide. Is it common for you to stay on to manage a website you’ve created or can a customer hire you only for the initial setup? Do you have a specialty or an area where you devote most of your time?
About 80 per cent of my business is building new websites or redesigning existing sites. Some of my clients want to maintain their own websites, and there are others that I work with for ongoing updates and continued development of their sites. I produce regular email newsletters for several clients, and also do some work with print graphics such as brochures, flyers, advertising and postcards.
What sets your business apart from similar operations in this competitive field? How do your clients find out about you?
When I first started building websites there were no WYSIWYG web software programs or content management systems, such as WordPress. I learned to write html code from scratch. So in addition to creating the graphics and design for a site, I have a strong understanding of what is ‘under the hood.' Most of my new work comes from client recommendations.
Describe a typical day, assuming any of your days are typical. Do you have any tips or tricks for staying healthy and engaged while spending a good part of the day in front of a computer?
I am lucky in that I have never had any problem being self-motivated. Freelance work definitely requires discipline and good time management. I don't think I can describe a 'typical' day, as every day is different, depending on what projects I have ongoing. Last week I had two major jobs in progress. I was working with a client in France that was texting me starting at six in the morning (noon Paris time), and migrating a site from a server in Fiji, where they were just getting into the office at six in the evening, my time.
Tips for staying healthy while sitting at a keyboard all day? Don't do what I do! Get up and exercise!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is when there are checks in my mailbox.
Can you give us an idea of your client base?
Over the past 20-plus years I have done work for World Bank, AOL/Time Warner, Lockheed Martin, and Sony, as well many local businesses and organizations.
What are your other interests and hobbies when you’re not working?
In addition to graphics and web development, I have worked in the travel industry for over twenty years, representing classic barges cruising the canals and rivers of France. Learn more about this fabulous way to tour France at my website, https://BoutiqueHotelBarges.com
In my spare time, I enjoy photography and relaxing with friends. I also make several yearly 'field trips' to art museums in Washington, Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia. Over the past year I have taken dog agility classes with my Briard, Mr. Muddy Waters. He is a very shy dog and it has been great fun to see how much self confidence he has gained learning to tackle the various agility obstacles.
Contact info: dawnshepherd.com email@example.com