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Comprehensive ExperienceFebruary 1, 2007 By: Stasha Mills Home-Based Travel Agent
From corporate to group travel, China to Hawaii and brick-and-mortar to home-based, Linda Tatten has done it all
It all started in Hawaii for Linda Tatten. At the age of 20 she took a vacation from technical typing in Massachusetts to visit a cousin in Hawaii. "In the second week, I stopped being a tourist," she says. Thinking, "There's got to be more to life," she gave notice upon her return and stayed in Honolulu for a year. She worked at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel's camera shop, where she was hired because she wore shoes to the interview ("This was the '60s," she explains).
Back in Massachusetts and working at a school for handicapped children, Tatten was wondering how to get back to Hawaii on her summer vacation when she saw a local travel agency's ad. After years of booking commercial travel, then vacation travel, she became head of operations for the now-defunct China Educational Tours, where for a decade she put groups together. This experience afforded her the opportunity to travel throughout Asia and the South Pacific. Agent Bio
After that, she started her own agency with a partner, then made the move to a home office so she could more readily be the primary caregiver for an ill family member. It was then that she hung the shingle for Travel By Tatten, and used her former agency as a host agency.
When her aunt passed away ("She lived to be 95 and died in her own bed, surrounded by her own things"), "That Monday I wrote a letter to my clients to get started again, but the next day was 9/11."
When Travel Counsellors, the largest home-based agent network in the UK, asked her to be on its advisory board to see how to present their product to the U.S. market, "The more I learned about them, the more impressed I was," she says.
"After meeting David [Speakman, the company's founder], it was like, 'Where do I sign?' He has great insight into the direction of the industry." Tatten loves working out of a home office, but, "Part of the problem when you're home-based is that you're isolated." Referring to Travel Counsellors' message boards, networking opportunities, and high-level communications, she says, "The amount of information and support is just outstanding."
Tatten works from a bedroom she turned into an office. "The advice I would give anybody moving into a home office is to put it in an area you'd really like to work out of. Not down in a basement, but with windows and light."
To help with drumming up business, she belongs to a number of organizations, including Business Networking International (BNI). This group, which meets at 7 a.m. every Thursday, "makes you focus on your business," she says.
A CTC since 1982, Tatten has a litany of affiliations and designations. She was on the PATA board for a decade and was president of the northeast chapter for three years; she's an Aruba, Canada, Austria and Sandals specialist; an adventure travel consultant through Virtuoso; a South Pacific specialist through The Travel Institute; and a specialist on a few different cruise lines. Plus, she's working on a cruise master.
She's also, as you would assume, a Hawaii specialist; she's been back 12-15 times. Where does she go for pleasure and to research destinations for clients? Africa, Alaska, Asia; last year, Aruba, Turks & Caicos, and she took a women's group to Utah and a cruise group to—you guessed it—Hawaii.