Wednesday, 25 January 2017

How Much Does It Mean to have Marketing Done on My Behalf?

As I find my days fly by as a home-based travel specialist, it means a great deal to know that The Travel Agent Next Door will send out marketing promotions to those clients who have selected it.  There are a variety of benefits that come to mind when I think of this huge benefit to my business:
  • My clients have a choice of destinations they are interested in and the marketing promotions they receive will assist them in narrowing down a decision and the type of vacation they might wish to take.  They can also take advantage of pricing promotions running at that time.
  • As selling travel is a very competitive field, the marketing my clients receive with my business name on it helps to keep my name front and centre in their minds.
  • If my clients are experiencing a busier than normal season in their lives, receiving marketing promotions may serve as a reminder that they may need a vacation in the near future.
  • As clients visit different destinations, their marketing choices can be adapted accordingly to reflect where they would like to go next.
  • Last, but certainly not least, receiving marketing promotions is a link between my clients and myself.  I value each of my clients but as my business continues to grow, it is becoming more difficult to stay in touch with them on a regular basis. Although not a substitute for contacting my clients, the marketing is certainly a tool for letting them know I consider them significant and am there to assist them in booking their next getaway.

For more information about The Travel Agent Next Door please visit

Friday, 23 December 2016

How Head Office Support is Instrumental to my Business

Whether a seasoned travel specialist who has joined TTAND, or a brand new agent, knowing that we can count on the support of Head Office is vital.  I have found that working from home independently is very different from working in a “bricks and mortar” or a general office environment where it is easy to walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask a question.  I have found the support staff at Head Office to be very efficient and quick to respond when their assistance is required.  They are also supportive and encouraging.  It meant a great deal to me personally when I received a personal email from Flemming, congratulating me on a good cruise booking.

I joined TTAND as a Bronze level agent and have been fortunate to receive the advice and support of an excellent mentor who is also an experienced cruise and travel specialist.  We have a scheduled telephone call each week for an hour, during which time I can ask her questions pertaining to my business. I have found her to be honest and direct, often challenging me with her own questions, which keeps me on my toes!  She has gone above and beyond to make herself available for assistance, even during hectic periods in her own life. 

Having attended TTAND’s conference this year in Varadero, I saw first hand how hard the staff worked to ensure a successful and educational event.  From the large number of supplier representatives in attendance, to the co-ordination of travel itineraries from agents flying in from different parts of the country, I was impressed by the efficiency and commitment of each staff member.  I found them approachable and friendly, clearly demonstrating they were proud to be part of the TTAND team.  

The Town Hall meetings via webinar that are held once a month are informative and helpful.  The strong leadership of Flemming and Penny is very evident as they communicate the agency’s progress, direction, and training initiatives.  At the same time, questions from agents are welcomed and answered and opinions are sought and valued.  

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Technology and The Travel Agent Next Door: How This Supports My Business

I know I am giving my age away by making the following statement:

I learned to type on a manual typewriter in my high school typing class. There. I’ve said it!  I well remember the sound of the carriage returns clanging as each student began typing a new line, and heaven help any of us if we made a mistake when typing in triplicate through layers of carbon paper! Never in a million years would I have dreamed of an era when I would be Skyping family far away, instant messaging with my friend in London as she boards her train home after her work day, texting by phone and posting a video of myself on Facebook as a marketing tool to promote my travel business!

TTAND uses technology to support my business in a multitude of ways. When I first made the decision to train as a travel agent with TTAND, I was sent travel manuals which needed to be reviewed and referred to as I began completing my online courses before taking the final exam for each course segment.  One of the advantages was that I could schedule the training around my own time frame and determine how much I could realistically cover and absorb each day. The course segments were very enjoyable. Learning about new continents and travel destinations fueled my desire to experience them for myself, as well as present them to future clients.

Once my contract was signed, log in information was sent to me for our suppliers and training webinars began in earnest on TTAND’s extranet and client file and invoicing system. I do remember feeling a little overwhelmed at this point, but the excitement of beginning a new travel career won out!  Talking with my mentor helped give me a plan and a focus. I currently share a website with my travel agent mentor but added my personal biography and page with assistance from the Marketing Department.

Regular email newsletters and communications from head office aid in helping me feel connected, as do the monthly Town Hall meetings when Flemming and staff members bring us up to speed and invite us to pose our questions.  The sharing of ideas and advice on our social media pages by head office staff and TTAND travel agents have also proved invaluable.

For more information about The Travel Agent Next Door please visit

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

How I Found The Travel Agent Next Door

I found The Travel Agent Next Door through the internet.  Once I decided that I was interested in pursuing a career as a home-based agent, I started to search and review different host agencies.  I received an automated reply from one agency with an invitation to watch a webinar and see what they had to offer. There was no personal follow up, however. I looked up some agent reviews on this and other agencies and found that the agent feedback was quite mixed, which did not inspire much confidence! 

The Travel Agent Next Door came to my attention and I carried out my usual search of agent reviews.  I could not find a single negative review.  Everything I read was very positive.  I decided to take the plunge and contacted the agency for further information.  To my pleasant surprise, Rhonda Friisdahl, who was at that time in charge of Talent Development, called me the very next day!  Rhonda was extremely personable and easy to talk to.  She did not sugar coat the challenges that a new home based travel agent faces when starting their business, stressing that it would take determination and a great deal of hard work.  Rhonda shared some examples of how I might go about attracting new clients, also explaining very clearly how The Travel Agent Next Door training process works. I appreciated how she listened carefully and took the time to answer my questions.  She did not pressure me in any way and stated she would give me a few days to think over the opportunity, advising she would call back.  Having talked the opportunity over with my husband, I decided that my answer would be “yes”. 

Rhonda was true to her word, and called me back.  She gave me the approximate timeline that it would take to complete my training with The Travel Agent Next Door as well as earn my TICO certification.  This would be needed before I could legally sell travel in Ontario.  By the time our phone call was concluded, I was excited to begin!  Although I was naturally a little nervous about making such a big change, the contact and consistent follow up I had received from The Travel Agent Next Door helped to alleviate much of my concern.  I knew I would receive their support and assistance as I began my new career in travel.

For more information about The Travel Agent Next Door please visit

Friday, 28 October 2016

Skills from My Previous Careers That I Have Been Able to Apply to My New Role As Travel Agent

Although becoming a travel agent was a huge leap of faith for me, I have been able to apply a variety of skills that were developed during my previous careers.

Greeting and Interacting with People:
I have always enjoyed meeting people and hearing their stories.  When I think back to my early career working as a bilingual sales coordinator for Mary Kay Cosmetics Ltd., I was quite shy, but talking to consultants over the phone and then meeting and assisting them at seminars proved to be enjoyable.  I worked as part of the sales department team, providing support for the consultants to grow their businesses and planning special events. This experience brought me out of my shell and made me realise that interacting with people is one of my strengths. 

Meeting new people who may become potential clients is a key part of my career as a travel agent.  I am warm and friendly when speaking with them and communicate to them that their opinions and travel intentions are very important to me.  I have also pushed myself out of my comfort zone quite often. I will engage people in conversation, and if the timing seems right, I offer them my services and business card.

Prioritizing Tasks:
I am a structured person, and each of my former jobs required the prioritizing of tasks for the day. When I worked for Peel Police Services, I provided administrative support to several different departments and there was also the seniority of the officers to take into consideration. This experience, although challenging at times, was instrumental in developing my goal setting skills and ensuring deadlines were met each day.  

In the field of travel, there are quiet seasons but also days when several clients will contact me within a short space of time.  My previous work experience and organisational skills have been vital in systematically handling client requests as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Computer and Social Media Experience:
My former employment required keyboarding and computer skills including website and social media updating on a regular basis.

I have found my computer skills to be an asset when communicating with clients via e-mail or through Facebook Messenger.  They are also invaluable when doing travel research for clients; a part of the job that I love!  I have a Facebook business page and found the guidance and training of TTAND marketing staff to be very helpful. Venturing into the world of Instagram and LinkedIn has brought more challenges, but in a positive way. As a travel agent, I need to be accessible to present and future clients. Marketing my brand in a visually appealing manner that also conveys knowledge and integrity is very important.  

One way I do this is to encourage potential clients to read my client reviews on my Facebook page. Despite our technological age, however, there is much truth in the saying that word of mouth is still the most powerful business builder of all. I enjoy working hard for my clients and trust that their referrals will continue to help me build a solid client base.

For more information about The Travel Agent Next Door please visit

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Why I Chose to Become a Home-Based Travel Agent

After I left my previous position as office administrator, I began weighing different possibilities for my future career.  I knew that I did not want another 9 to 5 office position and that I craved the freedom of setting my own hours and days of work.  I started to do research on line as to home-based jobs that might pique my interest and be viable as a means of income. 

Having reviewed several different options that sounded suspiciously too good to be true, I googled “work at home opportunities that are not a scam” (or something to that effect) and as I scrolled down the pages, “home-based travel agent” caught my eye more than once. At first, the articles I read seemed rather overwhelming with talk of having to be “T.I.C.O. certified”, the importance of researching a good “host agency” and finding your “niche”. Nevertheless, I decided to be undaunted and check into things further. I have always loved to travel, and as I knew I enjoyed meeting people and providing them with assistance, I started to explore this option in more detail. I felt excited as I imagined the possibility of my husband and I being able to explore new countries and cultures, and sharing these experiences with others in my new career as a travel agent. 

I wondered if I was crazy to consider starting a brand-new career in my fifties, but I knew I would regret not trying. Deciding to take it step by step, I registered for my Travel Industry Council of Ontario exam and began studying the manual in depth. My new journey had begun!

For more information about The Travel Agent Next Door please visit

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

What I Did Before Becoming a Home Based Agent

Before becoming a home based agent, I worked as Office Administrator for a large church in the Niagara Region, Ontario. My position there was, in many ways, a balancing act as I was the first point of contact for whoever called in or walked through the office door for assistance. It was definitely not a 9 to 5 job and there was always the challenge of "switching off" at the end of the day. The position required a sympathetic ear and good listening skills for those having just lost a loved one or finding themselves in a life crisis, and the discernment to know whether the person was in genuine need or not. The frequent interruptions during the day sometimes posed a challenge for a structured person like me, but my love for social interaction and assisting people helped keep things in balance.

The church was community-focused and busy, with a plethora of activities going on for each member of the family.  From facility and wedding bookings to standing in front of a video camera doing the weekly announcements, I found myself stretched and encouraged to try new ventures.  To my surprise, I found the video announcements fun and enjoyed working with our creative team to make the presentations fresh and engaging. Who knew I had an extrovert side?  

The team of people I had the privilege of working with became like family in many ways.  We would share ideas with one another and provide support when dealing with difficult situations that due to their nature, had to remain confidential.  There were many times I had to think on my feet such as when our preschool area experienced a flood or when the details of a large funeral needed to be planned for the same day as a band performing a Christmas concert! Not every day was so serious, however, and each one of us found ourselves the object of pranks and surprises, at any given time. There was a lot a laughter in the office and I will always be thankful for the life skills, great memories, and strong friendships that were forged during my 12 years there.  

For more information about The Travel Agent Next Door please visit