Ovation Travel Group has announced a major expansion of its operations to the West Coast, a focus on hiring new independent contractors there, and a vice president of leisure and independent advisors to work with them.
Named to the new position is Aanchal Gandhi, a former equity trader at Goldman Sachs, who 11 years ago became an independent advisor for Protravel because she “wanted to do something she was passionate about.”
Moving to the travel industry, she put the skills she learned in financial services—about working in a demanding business, being detail-oriented, working under pressure—to good use, and leveraged her relationships among her hedge-fund friends by asking for their corporate business.
Gandhi said she was attracted to Ovation Travel by the family-like atmosphere, the caring attitude and the sense of respect she felt.
Now her role is to hire and onboard a West Coast staff—but also to establish a solid base for the growing agency, “to provide a foundation for existing independent advisors and for new ones,” she says. Her first initiative is to build out the infrastructure to help advisors grow their businesses, “whether coming to me on small issues they may have or finding new ways of doing things.”
Gina Gabbard, senior vice president of leisure and independent advisors, to whom Gandhi will report, noted that Ovation has had a presence on the West Coast through Lawyers Travel, with about 75 advisors working remotely across the state, and in June 2018 acquired Chartwell Travel, which has a large entertainment business. Gabbard was brought onboard in July 2018 to develop the company’s growth strategy.
One big issue travel advisors face is supporting their customers when they themselves are on the road, Gabbard noted; to that end, she tripled the agency’s direct support staffing and developed a robust intranet “focused on providing information in every time zone around the world.”
Gandhi said her first priority is to find a location for the West Coast operations; she is scoping those out now. Next she will “define the culture in terms of what we can offer independent advisors, ensure we address their needs, and give them access to suppliers and the tools they need to help their business thrive.”
Gabbard noted that Ovation welcomes advisors from anywhere in the country to join them. “We’re a family, and our culture is very important to us. We want people who value and appreciate our caring culture and our storied history,” she said.
And indeed, the time is right, she noted. “I definitely think there’s a growing market of independent contractors of all ages wanting to join the business”—including Millennials.
“Millennials today are definitely entrepreneurial; they want to have their own business, something they can call their own,” she said. And being in travel, sharing the joy of providing people’s dreams, while traveling yourself, is very attractive.
Indeed, she noted, four of Travel Agent’s 30Under30 were from Ovation Travel. “We have a high concentration of young and talented IAs, and the more senior staff is passionate about training the next generation. It’s a very youthful and dynamic group of advisors.”
In short, “if you have the travel bug, if you have a passion for travel, now is the time to get started. We’re seeing incredible growth.”
Born in Mumbai and raised in Hong Kong and Singapore, Gandhi worked in Protravel offices in New York, London and Beverly Hills. In 2009, she was named as one of Travel Agent magazine’s 30Under30.
Ovation Travel is one of the largest agencies in BCD and Virtuoso, with $1.4 billion in 2019 sales and about 200 travel advisors. It has a new world headquarters at 666 Third Avenue in New York.