7. Travel Agent’s 35 Under 30 for 2012November 5, 2012 By: Ruthanne Terrero, David Moseder, C. Elliott Mest, Meagan Drillinger, Joe Pike, Jena Tesse Fox, Adam Leposa Travel Agent
Once again Travel Agent magazine finds it necessary to supersize its annual 30 Under 30 feature to 35 Under 30, owing to the number of deserving nominees who made a strong case for themselves. Over the past few years this feature has created a buzz in the industry and also helped to fuel a community of young professionals who all enjoy being a part of a special growing niche in the travel industry.
This year’s list of young agents in 2012, all of whom were under 30 when the year began, is a testament to our combined success. We trust that by being named to this list, the selected young agents will be encouraged to stay in an industry that so clearly embraces new talent. We are also inviting them to participate, along with past “Under 30” alumni, in our third annual Young Leaders Conference during Luxury Travel Exchange International in Las Vegas.
We’re not the only ones seeking to encourage new blood to come into the industry. Agency consortia have been doing the same, as has ASTA. We think it’s safe to say that the travel agency industry is an attractive and viable one for those looking to start a career. There is still more work to be done, but we’re on our way.
Now, read on for the 35 freshest and most innovative young travel agents in the business.
Sylvia Betesh, 26
Sylvia Betesh found her passion for travel during her study abroad program in Florence, Italy. When she was younger, her older brother would plan family trips to Israel, fostering her love of adventure. Betesh was pursing employment in the health field after obtaining a Registered Dietician certification from Brooklyn College and William E. Macaulay Honors College when she booked a trip with the Ovation Travel Group, managing to score an interview in the process.
“A job in travel was something I would never have thought of on my own, but it has changed my life in indescribable ways,” Betesh says. “I walked into the Ovation Travel headquarters a couple of days later and haven’t looked back since!”
Recently, Betesh won an incentive trip to Greece with Starwood’s Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts for booking Ovation’s highest volume into the country. “Greece was initially a tough sell due to the media’s portrayal of its current political climate,” Betesh says. “Nevertheless, there were many clients for whom it was ultimately a great choice. They’ve all returned with rave reviews, making it even easier to sell the destination.”
In the future, Betesh is aiming to become an expert in fitness and spa-oriented trips. “Given my background in health and nutrition, I will be an invaluable tool to my clients. My forte will be trips with wholesome food that combines the uniqueness of the destination with an active lifestyle.”
Praising her “creativity, tenacity, attention to detail, cheerful disposition and critical thinking,” Ovation Vacations President Jack Ezon says, “Sylvia is a star travel advisor. In less than three years she has gone from a novice to a $3 million advisor selling to top VIPs with great success.”
Andrew Browning, 30
Tahoe City, CA
Since starting in the travel industry five years ago, Andrew Browning has developed as a travel agent to a point where he has posted a sales volume of nearly $2 million so far in 2012.
Browning brings to the travel industry degrees in International Business and Spanish, as well as a passion for travel he developed studying abroad in Costa Rica and traveling in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and Canada. He has represented his company at several trade shows and is also responsible for developing business relationships with outside vendors.
Browning’s biggest challenge is dealing with errors that can affect clients. “In dealing with a large volume of clients and vendors, there are bound to be some mistakes,” he says. “Fixing these to our and our clients’ satisfaction is the biggest challenge I faced last year.”
He also notes that, “We’ve had some of our partner operators cancel entire travel seasons. This is a difficult part of the job because it is a lot of work with no increase in revenue for the time you spend working these situations out.”
“In addition to his spectacular sales success, Andrew has become an integral part of our company operations,” says Todd Smith, owner and founder of AdventureSmith Explorations. “He has created new sales reports, consulted on program development, and had significant contributions to our marketing efforts.”
Ann Coleman, 30
South Wayzata, MN
Ann Coleman had never been out of the country until she was 20 and took a job as a camp counselor in France, but since then she has never looked back.
“I was terrified stepping off the plane in Paris all by myself,” Coleman says. “But there was something combined with that terror. I was in love with traveling [and France] almost immediately. I went back for four more summers before entering the real world.”
Coleman worked in event planning and marketing for two years before joining Travel Beyond, first as an onsite trip director and later in a role that was more involved in the planning process of meeting and incentive trips.
For Coleman, one of the big perks of her job is exposing her clients to the world outside the U.S. “I have had the great pleasure of planning trips for clients who have never left the U.S.,” she says. “The thought that I have a hand in opening their eyes to even one other country and culture is a phenomenal feeling. In turn they come back as different people with new loves, appreciations and outlooks on so many things.”
“Having worked with many consultants, Ann is a rare find.” says Jim Bendt, owner of Travel Beyond. “[She] is not only a rising star at Travel Beyond but also within the travel agent community.”
Kate Corey, 26
While Currie & Co. is based in Atlanta, Kate Corey works from Edinburgh, Scotland, which has given her access to a more global clientele. “While it can certainly be somewhat of a challenge to maintain client relationships around the globe, we function as a team and I often work in tandem with my colleagues in the U.S. who provide my clients with support in multiple time zones,” she says. “Living in the UK also enables me to explore as I have some of the top emerging destinations at my fingertips.”
She knew that travel would be a difficult industry for her to get established in, she acknowledges, “but I also knew that it would be worth it if I could do what I love every single day.”
Betty Jo Currie, owner of Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited, says that Kate Corey has youth, determination, and experience—“the perfect combination for a fledgling travel advisor. Her tenacious work ethic provides her with the capability to handle everything from young honeymooners to CEOs. Her personal experiences with travel powering change and changing lives drives her unflagging energy. Kate is an ideal example of the new young face of our industry.”
Hannah Cotè, 24
When Hannah Cotè was a child, her family would spend a few weeks in Colorado every summer. “I was constantly looking for things to do, and planning ski trips with friends,” she recalls. “When I left my previous job, I wasn’t sure what direction I was going to go in, but Legacy Travel was the most amazing discovery. I didn’t know anything about the industry when I started, but…I dove right in.”
The biggest challenge Cotè has faced over the last year has been price matching the online booking engines. But this has had a notable upside: “I have learned how valuable I am and how much I bring to the table,” she says. “My clients have many times booked at a higher rate because they trusted me and wanted me to be the one assisting them during their booking and planning process.” But, she admits, “It can be very frustrating when you spend a lot of time and effort on a trip and then the clients find a lower rate online.”
Catherine Banks, co-owner and vice president at Legacy, says that from the moment Cotè sat down at her desk, “it was evident she was going to break the mold of what new agents were expected to do. Being recently married, she has a special compassion for the plight of today’s brides and the ones she works with love her.”
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