As we prepare to introduce our ninth annual 30Under30 class — the next wave of rising stars in the travel agency business — in our September 19 issue, Travel Agent has reached out to some of the past winners to see what they are up to now and how they are faring. We’re happy to announce that this sampling of alumni has only good news to report, being among the more successful agents to win the award since it was introduced in 2008.
One is now owner of her own agency, another helped spearhead Millennials in Travel and a third has returned to the front line after being promoted to a management position because he missed the whole agent-client dynamic. All have wonderful stories about their success in selling travel and how earning 30Under30 honors contributed to their good fortune. These agents, as you will discover in the pages ahead, also have insights and observations to share that neophytes and industry veterans alike may find beneficial.
Camelback Odyssey Travel
Class of 2008
Cassandra Bookholder’s life has surely evolved since she won the inaugural 30Under30 award back in 2008 — from having children to moving several times — but her love for travel hasn’t gone anywhere.
“I love the fact that I can continue my travel career the way I want to,” she says. “It’s a really fantastic, flexible industry that if you approach it in the right way, you can really make it what you want. The amazing destinations, experiences and people I have met along the way have truly been life highlights that I will always remember and treasure. I have worked hard and I can look back and say that’s OK as my job is extremely gratifying.”
|Cassandra Bookholder, Camelback Odyssey Travel|
Bookholder grew up traveling across Australia with her family, experiencing the desert, oceans and rainforests. After earning her Tourism Operations Management diploma in Australia, she moved to Arizona.
In the year that she won the honor, Bookholder had a growing number of clients as an in-house salary consultant with Camelback Odyssey Travel in Phoenix, AZ. By 2010, her client base expanded dramatically, prompting her to become an independent consultant, which she continues to be to this day, although she is still with Camelback Odyssey Travel.
“I felt the award helped me to gain recognition within the travel industry,” says Bookholder. “Operators, hotels, etc., started to pay more attention to the younger consultants and see that we were starting to make waves. I feel as though it showed we were legit consultants and not going [away] anytime soon.”
So, what is one aspect of being a travel agent that she wishes she knew when she was just getting started?
“Besides the obvious of more education with travel and product, I now know that my individual style of being a travel consultant is unique and special to me, and all consultants are like this, and rather than changing to please all clients, my clients instead are excited to go on the booking experience with me,” she says.
But of everything she has learned during her career, Bookholder says, she strongly urges younger agents to be themselves.
“With so many amazing consultants already in the industry, it can be daunting at first to try and be anything like them,” she says. “Find your own style and not only will you be happy, but your clients will be happy too. This is a fun industry and we are all so incredibly lucky to be able to have the flexibility that it allows us to bring.”
Corporate Travel Management
Class of 2009
Above anything else, being recognized by Travel Agent as one of the industry’s rising stars proved to be an incredible networking opportunity for Luke Breaux.
“30Under30 helped put my name out there in the industry,” he tells us. “Suppliers from across the world reached out to congratulate me and helped me form great friendships and grow my contacts. It never hurts to personally know hoteliers, who could find you a room in peak season for your valued clients.”
|Luke Breaux, Corporate Travel Management|
Formerly a specialist in meetings and events with a little leisure travel mixed in, Breaux has since shifted his focus solely to leisure clients as a luxury advisor for Corporate Travel Management.
“Building a successful business is all about networking,” says Breaux. “You have to get out there and meet your clients and your suppliers. Personal connections go a long way in this industry.”
Breaux also stresses the importance of getting to know the destinations you sell.
“I would also say to travel as often as possible,” says Breaux. “Get out there and explore the world, so you can come back and share your experiences with your clients and be knowledgeable of what you are talking about.”
Any advice for this year’s 30Under30 candidates?
“The biggest thing I can say is to be prompt, creative and thorough with clients,” says Breaux. “Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to travel off the beaten path. You also need to be patient while building your client base and know that it takes time to grow a successful business. It doesn’t come overnight.”
And although his career has soared since receiving the award, the honor has not changed his upbeat attitude.
“The art of travel planning has grown from a spark to a full blaze,” Breaux told us back in 2009 when he won. “Every step of the planning process excites me and makes me want to work harder, learn more and breathe new life into this wonderful industry.”
World Travel Service
Class of 2011
Blake Brown loves the front line. 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.
|Blake Brown, World Travel Service|
Not long after winning the 30Under30 award five years ago, Brown was promoted to a management position for Omega World Travel in Memphis, but soon discovered that he missed that relationship between an agent and a client.
“After a couple of years I realized that I enjoyed being on the front line and assisting my clients more, and decided to step down from management,” says Brown. He now works for World Travel Service as a business and government travel consultant and continues to emphasize the importance of providing solid service to one’s clients.
“The customer isn’t always right,” Brown tells Travel Agent, “but you have to let them think they are. You have to be very diplomatic.”
And Brown apparently practices what he preaches. Back in 2009, Debby Harwood of Brown’s former employer, Omega World Travel, said, “Blake has the desire, passion and drive to be an exceptional travel consultant. 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.”
New York City
Class of 2012
From a travel agent right out of college to a successful business manager at Morgan Stanley in Manhattan, Mike Majcherczyk’s career has certainly taken some twists and turns since he was honored as one of Travel Agent’s rising stars in 2012.
|Michael Majcherczyk, Classic Travel|
“Winning 30Under30 was a catalyst in my career overall as it gave me an added confidence that allowed me to put myself out there and take on my ambitions,” says Majcherczyk. “I learned a tremendous amount from the events we were invited to, as well as from the other agents who had won. The entire experience had left a lasting impact on me with many take-aways that I have applied not only in my travel career but also in what I’m involved with today.”
Although Majcherczyk is thriving in the world of finance, he admits that he hasn’t exactly gotten rid of the travel bug as he still commits himself part-time to Classic Travel, his family’s business.
“The travel industry is definitely booming with opportunity, but it all depends on which angle you look at it from,” he says. “I believe technology will continue to play a huge factor — those companies / individuals that are able to leverage the tools, social media and software will thrive. The travel industry is continuously evolving, however, I believe many principles for success still apply: offer the best customer service / experience, always put your clients first while listening to their needs, offer innovative itineraries and be transparent.”
And when it comes to words of wisdom for aspiring travel agents, Majcherczyk turns to a quote from a venerable Chinese philosopher.
“This will probably sound corny,” he says, “but I love this quote by Lao Tzu and believe it can apply to anyone in life: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ If you love travel and want to join the industry, take the leap and dive in headfirst. Or, if you haven’t been traveling recently, set aside some time and take that step. You won’t regret it.”
New York City
Class of 2008
In only her second job in travel and first job working in the luxury segment of the industry, Cory Orchin was able to secure 30Under30 recognition in the very first year the agents were so honored.
|Cory Orchin, Frosch Travel|
“30Under30 really spearheaded my name in the industry and it was an honor to receive this award,” she tells Travel Agent.
Orchin began her career in the travel industry by working at a well-known hotel after studying hospitality management in Florida. She then decided to shift direction and started working for a New York City travel agency, Linden Travel.
“Through the years, I have learned how to get my client a room in the sold-out region of Amalfi Coast when requested at the last minute,” says Orchin. “I know how to work package pricing and provide my clients with value in their travels.”
Less than a decade removed from the honor, Orchin is now the principal owner of Luxury Travel Girl, an affiliate of Frosch Travel, dealing exclusively in the luxury market.
“It is all about making connections and establishing great relationships,” she says. “I also recommend they learn to use the GDS. So many new agents are relying on outside ticketing, but you need to have control of your records. And don’t forget to double check those ticket lines.”
Although the job can be a bit exhausting at times, Orchin says there is nothing like getting some kudos from clients before their trip is even over.
“It might be a 24/7 job,” she says, “but when your client calls you while traveling to tell what a great time they are having, your heart feels full and happy.”
Terrah Van Meter
Class of 2009
Terrah Van Meter has the unique distinction of being only one of two agents to ever win the 30Under30 award and be named one of Travel Agent’s Top 25 agents as well. (Daniela Harrison of the class of 2011 is the only other agent to date to achieve this double honor.)
|Terrah Van Meter, Legacy Travel|
“There’s something about seeing your name in print that not only humbles you, but also challenges you to do better,” says Van Meter. “Seeing other top agents in the magazine definitely pushes you to be more competitive as well. The [Travel Agent] magazine cover is proudly displayed in our North Dallas office and there is not a workday that goes by when I don’t look at it and smile. All of the messages, special fam trip invites and congratulations were nice too.”
While attending college to be a dental hygienist, Van Meter sold vacation packages for a few months with Legacy Travel, and it wasn’t long before she was hooked.
“[Van Meter] is a fantastic salesperson who has achieved high sales with an enthusiastic and caring nature,” said Philip Banks, owner of Legacy Travel, back in 2009. “Our team can always count on her to go above and beyond and to strive for complete customer satisfaction… If I could find four or five more Terrahs to hire, Legacy Travel would advance from ‘excellent’ to ‘unstoppable.’”
Van Meter’s career took off when she won the 30Under30 partly because that was also the same year she decided to devote herself to group travel, something she describes as “a beautiful, lucrative business.”
“This year marks 11 years of being a travel consultant, and it feels better than ever to be in the travel industry,” she says. “My income now is mostly from repeat clients and referrals, which is fabulous.”
However, as much as she loves the repeat business, she says one of the most important lessons her experience has taught her since winning the award seven years ago is to discern when to cut a client loose.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is knowing when it’s essential to ‘break up’ with a client,” says Van Meter. “Some people are just not meant to be in your client base portfolio and you shouldn’t feel bad about professionally declining service to them.”
So, what is the one piece of sage advice that she would give to this year’s class of 30Under30 hopefuls?
“Make sure you build relationships with your preferred suppliers and maintain those relationships,” she says. “Those are the people who will end up making you look like a rock star.”
Zegrahm Expeditions, Quark Expeditions and International Expeditions
Class of 2008
From a travel advisor to a business development manager who now assists travel advisors, Monika Weinsoft’s career has gone full circle since she took home one of the inaugural 30Under30 awards.
|Monika Weinsoft, Zegrahm Expeditions, Quark Expeditions and International Expeditions|
“The list came out during an important youth movement in the industry,” says Weinsoft. “We were just starting to see more and more young people come into the travel business and I think it helped me to pave the way in supporting and encouraging this movement. Being recognized as a young professional helped align me more equally with my more seasoned peers and it encouraged me to be a mentor to other young travel professionals just coming into the industry.”
Since then, Weinsoft had a major role in launching the popular Millennials in Travel, a career development and networking organization for young professionals in the travel industry. She continues to serve on the group’s board of directors and says, “It’s impact has really encouraged the development of young professionals and those looking to get into the travel industry.”
Weinsoft started her career in travel after earning Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2003. She started as an administrative assistant, which allowed her to familiarize herself with the inner workings of the industry.
Looking back, there is at least one thing she wishes she knew right off the bat when she first started, having long since learned “how important every relationship you make with other industry professionals can be,” she says. “I have found that years down the road, an interaction or a connection I made has been instrumental in my career or in helping achieve my clients’ travel wishes.”
Weinsoft was an advisor for five years when she first won the award. A few years later, she joined Zegrahm Expeditions, Quark Expeditions and International Expeditions as the business development manager for the Western United States and Canada, and now helps to make advisors’ lives a bit easier.
“What I love most about my role in the industry now is that I get to help travel advisors succeed and help them fulfill their clients’ travel dreams,” she says. And Weinsoft continues to urge young travel professionals to soak up all of the information surrounding them.
“See every opportunity for travel, training and engagement with other professionals as a learning moment, get involved in organizations, stay engaged and network whenever possible,” Weinsoft advises.