Long before I got into the travel business I planned dozens of trips for family, friends, and myself often arranging vacations for 20 or more. Because of my own love of travel my home eventually became a travel library filled with file cabinets full of travel information. Soon friends and family began calling on me for my expertise. But I wasn't a travel agent. That fact became apparent in 1992 when I tried to book a cruise for my family and none of the cruise lines would take a booking directly from an individual. To make matters worse, when I began calling travel agencies looking for help, I was amazed at the lack of interest they showed in doing business with me. I would call travel agencies, sometimes several times, and they would never return my calls.
That's when, in addition to my home-based electronic components marketing firm, I decided to open my own home-based travel agency, Ticket To Travel, based in San Jose, California in 1992.
As a home based agent, I didn't need the expensive computer reservation-system equipment required for full-service travel agencies or the hefty bonds needed to sell airline tickets. Instead, I take a commission for acting as an independent contractor for various agencies and suppliers. Client’s airline tickets are processed by my host agency, a full-service agency that splits the commission with me. For cruises, hotels and tour packages, I sell directly for the supplier and retain the full commission.
I was running a successful manufacturing rep business in the heart of Silicon Valley. My main products were printed circuit boards, electronic sheetmetal fabrication, electronic machining, printed circuit board assembly and components. Some of my customers were the biggest in the valley. This was a business that I had run for over 9 years out of my home. Since most of my meetings were either at the supplier or customer’s facilities, there was no need for the extra overhead expense of an outside retail office space.
Then there was my little travel business that I was operating out of my home as well. My garage soon became home to my second business with file cabinets bulging with brochures, industry magazines, posters, videos, travel guides and catalogs.
As Silicon Valley grew, the electronic business became more and more competitive, I quickly figured out ways to intertwine the two businesses. Cold calling and cultivating new clients became harder and harder. I really sympathized with how over-worked many of these buyers were, especially if they worked for a start up company. But I also wanted their business, so I came up with “If not printed circuit boards, how about a vacation?" This would usually stop them in their tracks. Then I would proceed to tell them about my travel business and how I would be happy to plan a well-deserved vacation for them. I would take care of everything for them. "I will bring you the brochures, travel guides, videos and anything else you need. After you make the decision on where you want to go I will deliver your documents. What I did notice during this exchange, however, was a complete transformation in that person’s personality as we talked about travel. The tensions eased as they started thinking about a well-deserved vacation. I seemed to have the power to transport them into pleasant state of travel possibilities. This approach worked well. I did plan vacations for the buyers, which then gave me an opportunity to show how I could provide excellent service, eventually developing relationships that led to getting contracts for my rep business.
Eventually I started to weigh the pros and cons of both businesses, and the rep business brought in the money to allow me to run my little travel business where I could express my creativity and customer service abilities. Passion eventually won!
What originally started out to be somewhat of a hobby eventually turned into a full-time career that provided my monetary livelihood. I am now a crusader for the old saying “Do what you love, and the money will follow” and the follow up “Anything worth doing is worth doing well!”
There is still a lot of money to be made in the travel industry and I am proof. In future articles I will show you creative marketing ideas to keep your clients coming back time after time. Learn how to have fun while making big commissions.