It has been five years since I started Blue Sea Vacations. Sparked on by recent social media posts, I feel like now is a good time to do some reflecting.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I bought my Cruise Planners Franchise in 2013. I knew I wanted to start a business, and I knew I loved travel. I could do it full-time or part-time. There wasn't a ton of overhead, and I wasn't tied to a specific territory. Cruise Planners was a host agency. A host agency is a larger company that many travel agents run their business through. They provide a CRM system, support, marketing tools, etc.
I will openly admit that I thought it would be "easier" than it turned out to be a travel agent. And the first two years, I treated it more of a hobby than business. During year three, I eased up on participating and training for triathlons, and thought that if I wanted this business to succeed, I needed to put more effort into it.
After three years, I realized that the name Cruise Planners was doing me more harm than good. Clients thought that all I sold was cruises. In actuality, all-inclusives were and still are my top selling vacation. (Although cruises are second). My franchise agreement was up, and I knew I needed to make a switch.
After much research, I signed on with a small, mid-Western based host agency. I had thought that my new host agency was going to be much better. It turned out to be at first. But there were warning signs I should have noticed. I can't get into the details, but they were obvious to me. I chose not to see them
In the meantime while this was happening, I really started to work hard on growing my business. I met new people, went to networking events, and hired Blue Boxer Web Design to help with my online presence. I also made it a priority to go on FAM (familiarization) trips each year. Travel agents need to always be traveling! Things were finally starting to click.
Over the past 6 months, I've needed to switch host agencies again. I'm extremely happy where I am now. Making a switch again has been easier than I would have thought. So where does that leave me five years in?
1) I still love this industry and profession. I tell people that my dad owned a hotel growing up, and I feel like the hospitality industry is in my blood.
2) I've learned that my web presence is much more important than my physical presence. Networking just gets drilled over and over again. I've come to realize that at many networking events, there are only a few types of people there. You know who they are. People who are there for the booze, people who are looking for a new job, and people who are there because they "have" to be. I have found one networking group that is genuinely there for the right reasons, but it took a while.
3) Travel agents are still misunderstood! I constantly have people telling me they thought travel agents are a dying profession. Well, the travel industry employs more people than any other industry worldwide, so I happily disagree. Having to educate on the benefits of using a travel agent is something I didn't anticipate having to do when I started this journey. It doesn't bother me, because once people hear, they understand why we're here.
4) It took me a while to realize the importance of having niches. Mine are all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, cruises, and custom trips to Europe. I can sell anything, but by having these specialties, I am able to speak deeper and help customers better.
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