When you spend your childhood on military bases, a love of travel is a natural byproduct. And so it was for Roberta Mattice.
“My dad was in the Navy and a lifer in the Air Force. I was born in Casablanca. My mom is British. I have a sister who was born in England. From Casablanca we went to Alaska, then Washington state, and my dad retired. He asked my mom where she wanted to live. She loved Alaska, so we went there,” said Mattice.
Mattice remained in Alaska until she was 31. Newly-divorced, she decided it was time to start a new life. She moved to California, following a sister to northern San Diego country.
Mattice got a job in the property management business, working for Avoya Travel co-founder Van Anderson. When Anderson decided to get more involved in the family travel business, he asked Mattice to follow him.
That was nearly three decades ago.
“The Andersons put me in the hands of a good mentor. She taught me the travel business and how to be agent,” said Mattice.
Her first job with what was then Anderson Travel was in a mall in Escondido, CA. It was the only company office at the time. Eventually, the agency expanded to ten offices in the San Diego area. Mattice managed the Carlsbad branch.
Things changed after the 9-11 attacks.
“People became more interested in booking travel online. We started to close offices. Carlsbad was the last to close."
In 2014, Mattice became home-based and joined the Avoya Travel Network.
By that time, Avoya Travel had hundreds of home based agents. But, Mattice had her doubts about the new arrangement.
“To be honest, I was terrified. Some of my clients had been with me for 15 or 20 years. They liked seeing me. I liked the energy of the office and having young people around. It was hard to adjust to the lack of interaction,” said Mattice.
It took a good year before she was completely comfortable with her new work environment. But she needn’t have worried.
In that year, Journeys By Roberta, LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, produced $1.5 million in sales.
Mattice also managed to keep up the personal connection with clients.
“I would go to their homes or meet them for lunch. It was also amazing how many out-of-town clients had travel plans that included San Diego. So, I made it a point to connect with them,” said Mattice.
She gives much credit for her success to Avoya’s innovative technology, visionary attitude and support systems.
Through the years, she’s gravitated to certain specialties. She’s an expert in Hawaii, for example.
“My former husband was in construction. It got pretty cold in Fairbanks in February, so we’d spend a month in Hawaii every year,” said Mattice.
She also sells “tons of Europe,” and visits there quite frequently. In the last quarter of 2016 she took a Tauck Christmas cruise and CIE circle tour of Ireland.
Keeping up with supplier product remains a priority. Mattice takes advantage of frequent Avoya webinars with sales reps. But she’s had her fill of agent fams.
“I’ve done so many fams in my career. I’m not fam person anymore,” said Mattice
Instead, she and an agent with another company share opportunities for cruises, hotel and airline travel. They travel together and have been best friends for 25 years.
Mattice’s client base has evolved over time. Those who started out with a one-week vacation to Hawaii are now going on world cruises. They’re willing to spend more money. Not surprisingly, Mattice finds herself selling primarily luxury cruises and tours.
“I tell clients to do the toughest trips first. You can only do Machu Picchu or a safari for so long. And many of my clients are already retired,” said Mattice.
Though she herself hopes to put in another ten years in the business (to the age of 70), she’s also busy with other causes. One of them is a charity she co-founded with her sister, called Operation America Cares.
Its genesis came from a fellow Avoya agent whose husband was in the Marine Corps.
“Her husband got deployed to Iraq. He came back and told me about men and women there for a year who never received one piece of mail,” said Mattice.
Hearing that story inspired Mattice, her sister and some friends to pack up 35 care packages to send to servicemen and women. That was in 2008. Today, Operation America Cares is a registered 501(c) charity that sends out 150 packages each month.
Operation America Cares relies on donations that come from its website, the local community and from AmazonSmile pages. They use those donations to purchase supplies for each month.
“We have a very defined list and we have very specific needs. These are morale packages with much-needed items,” said Mattice.
The much-needed items include baby wipes, body powder, eye drops, toothpaste, gum and mints. Each year, the Girl Scouts donate cookies to include in the boxes.
“Sometimes we can’t buy everything we’d like to. Postage has gone up to almost $17.00 per box,” said Mattice.
Community volunteers and fraternal organizations such as the Rotary Club help pack and ship the boxes. They’re sent to military mail addresses provided by the commandant at Camp Pendleton.
Mattice doesn’t always know where the boxes will end up. But, she does know they’re appreciated.
“We get cards and letters from soldiers deployed all over the world. We have flags that have been flown in our honor. My sister reads the letters aloud to our community volunteers. Every month, we get new people. It’s amazing how far the word has spread,” said Mattice.
Travel colleagues from Avoya have come to help pack boxes. And Mattice’s Alaska Airlines rep volunteers every month.
Mattice is involved in other military-related charities, as well. They include the American Legion Auxiliary, the Wounded Warrior Battalion, CAUSE at the Balboa Naval Hospital, Operation Help-A-Hero, and Wreath Across America.
It’s all part of giving back to the armed services that shaped her childhood.
Professionally, she’s reached career pinnacles other agents aspire to. She’s received Avoya’s Best of the Best recognition and was named a 2016 Top 25 Travel All Star.
Travel — and helping others to do the same —remains a constant goal.
“I think people that are well-traveled are very interesting. If you can travel with kids, you should. It makes them more compassionate and tolerant of other cultures. That’s a great thing,” said Mattice.