Travel Agent's 35 Under 30November 11, 2011 By: Adam Leposa, Jena Tesse Fox, Meagan Drillinger Travel Agent
Kristen Korey Pike, 28
Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited
|Kristen Korey Pike|
Kristen Korey Pike’s leap into the travel industry began at a very young age. Raised by a Romanian mother and a Lebanese father, she spent much of her childhood in the United Arab Emirates and England. She also studied abroad in London and Paris. It was this international upbringing that sparked her desire to see the world. Her love for different cultures and foreign adventures is what helps her sell travel.
She brings her curiosity for travel with her every day on the job. Most recently she planned a client’s 30th birthday in Turkey and became so enamored with the destination that she decided to take a trip there herself. “My role in creating unforgettable, life-enriching experiences is both exciting and fulfilling,” she says.
“Kirsten Korey Pike’s success in this industry began with her determination to work with seasoned advisors,” says Betty Jo Currie, owner of Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited. “She is global. Service and support come easily, and she understands the importance of knowing exactly what she is talking about. Her membership in Virtuoso ensures upgrades and VIP status for clients. Add that to her ability to lower consulting fees, her constant availability and an office team committed to backing her up, and clients have something they cannot possibly get on their own for the same price.”
Michelle Pragnell, 29
Jet Set World Travel
While all of our candidates have made their mark on the travel agent industry before the age of 30, few of them have mastered two industries like Michelle Pragnell. She started her career, after graduating the Airline and Travel Specialist program at the International Air Academy, working for SkyWest.
“After four years of being on the ‘other side’ and working everything from the ticket counter, gate to ramp, I decided I was ready for a change and accepted a position at a travel agency,” says Pragnell. Her airline expertise allowed her to start out as a primary air specialist while she learned the agency side of the industry.
Today, Pragnell specializes in honeymoons, adventure tours and travel for young families. She is a Tahiti Destination Specialist and Hawaii Destination Specialist—as well as a Virgin Galactic ASA Mission Supporter. Her favorite trip, however, is more down-to-earth: a honeymoon in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
“Mixing Sri Lanka, which is full of culture, activity and history, along with the relaxed, beach destination of the Maldives made for a unique and well-balanced combination,” she says.
“Michelle was destined to work in travel—it, quite simply, is in her blood!” says Julia Douglas, president, Jet Set World Travel. “As a consummate professional who consistently goes the extra mile and takes immense pride in her output, Michelle receives rave reviews from clients across the globe.”
Emily Prentiss, 23
Valerie Wilson Travel
Before graduating from Bucknell University with a double major in Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies, Prentiss decided to explore her passion for travel and sought out Valerie Wilson Travel with the desire to become a travel consultant. Her persistence shone through and after graduation in 2010, she joined the company and hasn’t looked back.
Prentiss’ clients range from international jet-setters to families looking for a quiet getaway. She also plans honeymoons through Valerie Wilson Travel’s exclusive alliance with Kleinfeld Bridal. According to Prentiss, her most challenging booking involved planning a two-week, privately guided honeymoon to Argentina. The trip combined cities, history and culture with outdoor activities around the country.
During the economic downturn, Prentiss recognized that her clients would continue to travel. She took her cue to still offer the highest level of personalized travel assistance. Prentiss used Valerie Wilson Travel’s “Power of Access” to maintain an extensive network of resources and relationships to provide exclusive rates, trip features and service.
“Focus and determination are what Emily brings with her every day to work,” says Kimberly Wilson Wetty of Valerie Wilson Travel. Wetty was also the consultant whom Prentiss reached out to while she was finishing up her degree. “She delves into her responsibilities with enthusiasm and an upbeat eagerness to learn, accepting every challenge presented.”
Mindy Sly, 26
Beach Bum Vacation
Mindy Sly started out as a wedding planner, where she realized that planning destination weddings, honeymoons and vacations would allow her to realize the passion for travel that she had developed while studying abroad in London.
After only a year at Beach Bum, Sly has already received GIVC and Wedding Specialist status with Karisma, Sandals and Beaches Silver Certified Specialist, Gold Royal Weddings Specialist and St. Lucia and Mexico Specialist certifications. Her favorite travel experiences include biking through villages in Belgium; hiking in the mountains of Cinque Terre, Italy; climbing waterfalls in Jamaica; and planning a Tahitian wedding on the island of Bora Bora for her clients.
As the financial crisis dragged on, Sly turned to her knowledge of social media to help keep her business. “Social media is a great way to have your name recognized and gain referrals for free,” she explained. “Partnering with resort [companies], I can offer my clients amenities and perks other sources can’t…I treat all clients the same, no matter what their budget may be.”
“Mindy Sly is a delight and a pleasure to work with and a huge asset to the Beach Bum team! Mindy’s ‘can-do’ attitude, and passion for travel and people radiates through her positively zealous personality,” says Hayley Whorrall, president, Beach Bum Vacation. “I love Mindy’s ability and determination to find the absolute best arrangements to match her clients’ dreams and turn them into a memorable reality!”
Kira Solomon, 24
My Paradise Planner / OSSN
Kira Solomon launched herself into the travel industry by starting her own company when she was 21. After one year, she joined the Outside Sales & Support Network (OSSN) and almost immediately was asked to take the position of OSSN Chapter Director for the New York City area. Most recently, she was named OSSN Chapter Director for Tampa Bay. She is also a silver level Certified Sandals Specialist, and her company, My Paradise Planner, is a Sandals Preferred Agency.
Solomon has a unique perspective on the recent downturn, having started her business in 2008 just as the economy crashed. “Even in a bad economy, I found that people were vacationing, honeymooning and traveling for business,” she says. “I knew if the sky was full of planes, people were going places and that meant potential clients.”
Solomon’s favorite recent trip was a Halloween cruise that visited famously haunted houses in Jamaica and Key West. “We had two professional paranormal investigators who signed up to do lectures for our group during the day at sea,” says Solomon, who called it “an awesome experience!”
Among Solomon’s admirers is OSSN President Gary Fee, who notes that in the short time that he hs known her, “I have seen Kira go from working under a host agency struggling to get into the industry part-time, to working full-time, free from a host agency with her very own TRUE code, bringing on independent agents under her company.” Fee adds that, “She is very driven and determined to be successful in this industry and we cannot wait to see what else is in store for her future.”