Travel Agent's 35 Under 30November 11, 2011 By: Adam Leposa, Jena Tesse Fox, Meagan Drillinger Travel Agent
Travel Agent magazine’s annual 30 Under 30 feature over the past few years 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. Last year, we launched our first Young Leaders Conference in Las Vegas during Luxury Travel Expo, which was well attended by the 30 Under 30 alumni who have appeared on our lists, as well as some new entrants.
We’re not the only ones seeking to encourage new blood to come into the industry. Travel agency consortia have been doing the same, as has ASTA. We think it’s safe to say now 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.
Seth Apper, 27
New Act Travel
West Hollywood, CA
Seth Apper joined New Act Travel in May bearing a degree in Psychology with minors in Sociology and LGBT studies. There he parlayed experience as a personal assistant for a Hollywood personality into a specialty serving high-end corporate and luxury leisure clients, particularly those in fashion and entertainment public relations companies.
Looking ahead, Apper is poised to capitalize on the developing LGBT travel scene. “The gay community is an important new power player in the luxury leisure market–I can only imagine what happens when we get to plan their honeymoons and destination weddings,” Apper says.
Even during the recent tough times, Apper has taken the opportunity to improve his business. “Where I’ve encountered budget cuts, I’ve negotiated new RFPS and contracted my service fees so that in the end something lower is still keeping my income consistent,” he explains. “Instead of seeing it as a downturn I’d much rather consider it no where to go but up.”
Regarding his favorite trip, Apper recalls a wine-and-running tour that reconciled the needs of a couple with disparate travel desires. “The husband wanted to run through the Rioja and the wife wanted to drink the wine from the vineyards he was jogging through,” Apper recalls, adding, “though they loved to come together at dinner.”
Lili Dallal, New Act Travel’s president and owner, is impressed at what Apper “has achieved already in such a short time. We’re eager to see what he’ll accomplish as he gains more experience [and] excited at the potential of such a dedicated young professional,” she says.
Kristin Brear, 25
Worldwide Travel Adventures, Inc.
Saint Lucie, FL
Kristin Brear caught the travel bug young—as a child in Florida, she went on unique missionary journeys to countries all over the world. At the age of 20, she lived and studied in Egypt for two months, and started working for Worldwide Travel Adventures, Inc. upon her return.
Since then, Brear has developed a diverse clientele; she explains, “My clients range from honeymoon couples to those celebrating milestone anniversaries; from family vacations to retired couples discovering the world; from seasoned travelers exploring exotic countries to young adults seeking adventure.”
Brear has earned an ACC designation from CLIA and is working toward her MCC. She has put her cruise experience to good use creating a memorable itinerary out of Dubai, cruising the Red Sea and Suez Canal, with calls in Oman, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
When the economy turned sour, Brear took it as an opportunity to develop a closer relationship with her clients. “I find it vital to understand the clients’ budget in order to find the dream vacation that is within their financial means,” Brear says. “Without making the clients feel they are missing out on anything, it is important to show them just how affordable travel can be.”
“Not only is Kristin a great asset to us, she is an exceptional contribution to the travel industry,” says Carolyn Hendricks, agency owner, Worldwide Travel Adventures, Inc. “At age 25, she has traveled much of the world and is a true inspiration to others. Kristin has an incredibly bright future ahead.”
Blake Brown, 28
Omega World Travel
Blake Brown knew he was going to be a travel agent as early as age six when he would send pretend clients all over the world. Before that dream became a reality, Brown worked as a customer service agent with Northwest Airlink while in college. He graduated from Sullivan University with an Associates Degree in Travel & Tourism Management, and earned the CTA designation from The Travel Institute. His career took him to Memphis where he joined the corporate travel department of Harrah’s Entertainment and eventually wound up at Omega World Travel.
Just as Brown fulfilled his own dream, he takes pride in helping his clients do the same. Most recently he booked a client to Nepal, where she will live three months at a monastery, teaching English to children. “This is why I love being a travel agent,” he says. “I get the opportunity to help my clients live their dreams.”
During the economic downturn, Brown observed that church and educational groups kept traveling. To help keep his business profitable, he worked closely with mission groups, sending help to Haiti and other destinations in need. He also sent college professors to India and Nepal to teach.
“Blake has the desire, passion and drive to be an exceptional travel consultant,” says Debby Harwood, branch manager of Omega World Travel. “In an ever-changing industry, Blake continues to further his education to better assist his travelers. He handles the corporate call with expertise and speed while still exhibiting great customer service. He easily shifts gears to handle the intricate, more time consuming travel of the leisure client.”
Danielle Carlson, 24
Passageways Travel Escanaba
Danielle Carlson’s fate was sealed on a family vacation to Daytona Beach. “I’ve lived on Lake Michigan my whole life, but the ocean captivated me and started my love affair with travel,” she says.
A specialist in destination weddings and honeymoons, Carlson has completed over 100 specialist programs. Her favorite recent itinerary was an itemized Hawaii tour that emphasized adventure travel, including motorcycle rental and hang gliding.
“They’re very adventuresome,” she says of her Hawaii clients, “so they’re pretty much going all out for Hawaii.”
Carlson has called upon that same sense of adventure to help her company weather the recent tough times. “I focus on staying positive, treating even the smallest vacation with kindness and care, which translates to people’s fulfilled dreams and vacations of a lifetime,” she says. “Having repeat clients is the best compliment. I love knowing that I’ve made an impact on their lives by helping create lasting memories.”
“Dani’s age and energy has brought a new demographic to our office,” says Deedee Anderson, owner, Passageways Travel. “She has been instrumental in the implementation of new marketing ideas which have increased sales during this slow economic climate. She is well organized and is diligent with her attention to detail. Her clients appreciate and respect her highly focused and increasing knowledge of all aspects of the travel industry.”
Mimi Cassidy, 29
Since joining Moraga Travel in 2009, Mimi Cassidy has grown into an expert on destination wedding, honeymoon and family travel. A member of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society and a participant in the ExecConnect Elite Agent Symposium, Cassidy says that she became a travel agent because, “I love the flexibility to be a full-time mom to my two sons while still having a career that I’m passionate about, and get to help people make some of their most cherished memories.”
Cassidy’s favorite trip was a groom-planned surprise honeymoon to Fiji, Australia and Tahiti. “We came up with a mix of relaxation and adventure, complete with a helicopter transfer in Fiji and views of Vivid Sydney and more,” Cassidy recalls. “I love being an agent and I am happy I have found this profession at its rebirth.”
“I have had the privilege of working with Mimi since mid-2009 when I brought her in as manager and assistant travel agent,” says Ryan McGredy, owner and president of Moraga Travel. “In the short time since then, I have been pleased to watch her grow into one of the most caring, confident, and capable agents out there. She has re-invigorated our marketing, and has single-handedly built a successful wedding business unit. She does all that while managing the office operations and raising her two young sons.”