If there wasn't a widely accepted definition of a travel agent, some might as well say Christopher Robertson has been "selling" travel since the ripe old age of 10.
"My widowed mother of six decided to pack us all up for a month-long trip to England and Scotland," says Christopher Robertson, owner of Center Stage Travel Agency, a Montrose affiliate based in Chatsworth, CA. "She allowed me to make all the itinerary plans for our vacation...I did a lot of research and was able to lead our family of seven to Stonehenge, Canterbury, Stratford-upon-Avon, Edinburgh Castle and the Military Tattoo, among other sites." Agent Bio
That early love of travel stuck, and dream jobs included either being a flight attendant or cruise director. Due to the time commitment, those plans didn't pan out; however, in the early '90s, Robertson found himself working at a Montrose-affiliated brick-and-mortar agency. Although he learned a lot, Robertson backed out of selling travel when the airline industry started deregulating and ended commissions.
Fast forward to 2006. Robertson jumped back in the business when a friend, who is a home-based agent, asked for his business in booking travel plans. "I gave him the business, but thought, 'Why am I giving him my business if I could do this myself?'" With a little bit of research on home-based host agencies, Robertson came full circle—again working with Montrose Travel.
Now, Robertson performs his one-man show out of his home office—close to his coffee pot and one of his favorite travel companions, his son, Brandon—and does for so many what he was able to do for his family as a clever youngster. The name Center Stage Travel was an easy fit—Robertson has worked professionally as an actor for the past 15 years.
When working with suppliers, Robertson will always check his Private Label website first for all travel requests. From there, he will either go directly to the suppliers or do re- search to get his clients the best deals possible.
Robertson enjoys the face-to-face interaction and credits Montrose for giving him an edge in the industry. "Recently, I have had many personal contacts with my regional directors from our suppliers and have found that personal interaction incomparable to online booking engines."
Robertson has the same customer- service oriented, extroverted mentality when it comes to his relationship with clients. Although Robertson is nearing his Commodore Status with Princess Cruises, turning in his CLIA Cruise Counselor Certification for his ACC among other things, he does not let the word "specialist" deter him from helping a client. "If I don't know about a destination, I will not turn a client away," he says. "Every client provides a training opportunity."
Robertson admits that he does not travel as often as he would like. When he does travel, which amounts to three to four times a year, he says his favorite destinations are wherever the newest and largest cruise ships happen to go. Included in his wish list is an upcoming 15-day roundtrip cruise from Los Angeles to Hawaii.
Looking back to his early memories of travel, his favorite travel companion is still his mother. "She is very adventurous and has been to Alaska, horseback riding and whitewater rafting," he says.
Robertson still helps his family in his role as travel agent. Although his schedule does not allow him to benefit from fams, "advanced knowledge of great deals have allowed my mother (and my son) to participate in many wonderful adventures." Roberston's next adventure does not seem to be far away. — Mackenzie Allison