In one form or another, Donna Evans has been involved in the travel industry for more than 28 years. Before becoming a travel agent, she was a flight attendant for 12 years (flying regular trips to Southeast Asia).
“It was a natural transition,” says Evans, who has been an agent for 16 years, adding that she has been to over 95 countries on all seven continents as well as every state in the U.S.
An Australia specialist, Evans creates each itinerary keeping in mind the needs, desires and interests of the traveler. “My knowledge and expertise have increased through workshops, webinars, conventions, networking and personal travel experiences,” she says. “Since I was appointed by Tourism Australia to the premier level, I have made a point of traveling to Australia at least once or twice a year [for more] firsthand encounters, and to meet and understand the local market and tour providers. Since this is usually a once-in-a-lifetime trip for my clients, I don’t want to leave out a thing. But I always strive for pricing within their budget.”
Budget constraint, she says, is the greatest challenge in booking travel to Australia. “The second challenge is time, since so many people do not understand the distances in Australia…It is impossible to see the country in two weeks.”
Still, she strives to find the right balance between price and location. “Recently, I had honeymooners with a budget and two weeks,” she recalls. “Since they wanted water and wildlife experiences, it was easy to fine-tune their dream [and help them zero in on] the Great Barrier Reef and Kangaroo Island in South Australia, with a few days in Sydney.”
Evans also focuses on environmental and sustainable tourism, supporting companies that work to maintain their environment and promoting hotels and lodges that operate with sustainability in mind.
One of her memorable accomplishments was creating a trip to Western Australia, an area of the continent, she says, Americans rarely visit due to the distance. “I created an experience that included diving at the Great Barrier Reef, both from Cairns and also from Hamilton Island,” says Evans. “From there, the couple flew to Exmouth in northern Western Australia for the highlight of swimming with the whale sharks—the beautiful, graceful [and safe] fish that frequent that area. They were lucky also to be joined by turtles and manta rays. They saw humpback whales, too.
“This was a time-consuming and [costly] trip,” she says, “but I’ve always believed indulging in travel is priceless…When you’re putting your trust, memories and experiences of a lifetime on an agent, customer service is important.”