There are a number of ways to become a successful home-based travel agent. For example, you can find an untapped niche market waiting to explode and devote your business to it, or you can do what Dawn Gascoigne does: sell everything.
Gascoigne, an independent travel consultant in the U.K. for Travel Counsellors, PLC, is one of the rare travel professionals who became involved in the industry at the very young age of 15. Now, at the age of 33, she is Travel Counsellors' most-improved agent from 2005 to 2006, raking in about $1.1 million in gross sales last year, up from about $890,000 in 2005.
"I must be honest in saying I think it is very hard to quantify why I am doing so well except to say that I have a huge passion for the industry," she says. "I should say 'the job,' however it does not feel like a job, because I adore doing it. I am extremely competitive and self-motivated. I like to measure my performance against other successful colleagues." Agent Bio
Based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, U.K., and with clients all over the world, it's not often that Gascoigne conducts face-to-face business with clients. In fact, most of her business is done through referrals and recommendations and conducted either via telephone or e-mail.
"I work mainly in the evenings, as I have two children of six and two, and my clients love this, as they work generally during the day, so to be able to have their tea and then call me at 10 or 11 p.m. is great and it fits in with my life at the moment...until my youngest starts school," she says. "I always thank my clients for their business and am never embarrassed or shy away from doing this. Everyone has a choice and I believe that if you do not only a good job, but an excellent job, these clients will remain loyal; however, they do want to be appreciated, and a 'thank you' goes a long way."
Gascoigne sells many forms of travel and describes herself as an "all-arounder." She has booked everything from honeymoons and weddings to cruises, business trips and both short and long vacations.
"I am certainly not a specialist in any particular area, and much prefer my business this way," she says. "I love the business mix I have and would be very reluctant to become a specialist in one area. I adore the different mix of clientele, from the clients with no budget [constraints], which I only have a few of, to clients on a tight budget. I find this a challenge and also realize their holiday is easily as important as that of the client with an unlimited amount of money."
Gascoigne worked for Thomas Cook when she was 15 and had done so until about two years ago, when she left because she had both a four-year-old and a six-month-old daughter and "needed flexible working hours."
A friend introduced Gascoigne to Travel Counsellors, which currently has gross sales of $345 million worldwide and agents around the world as well.
"I took the plunge, and it is the best thing I have ever done, apart from meeting my husband and having my two children, of course," she says.