Interview By: Andy Ogg, CTIE, Co-Owner – Travel Professional NEWS
First off, thank you very much for the time today and joining our fantastic Travel Professional NEWS readers!
Thank you, Andy, I’m happy to visit about everyone’s favorite topic, travel!
Would you mind sharing a bit about yourself and your agency with our readers? Where are you located? How did you become a travel professional?
I have been a full-time, full-service travel advisor in Tulsa, OK for 36 years. I was studying marketing and management in college but did not have a real direction to put those talents toward. A friend was a travel agent, which sounded interesting, so I enrolled with International Tours: International Travel Institute. I later taught Sabre GDS for them in the evenings while working full time as a travel agent (how we termed it back then). After 34 years working for brick and mortar agencies, the owners of the agency I worked for wanted to retire and close. I have always been dedicated, working long hours, and had to decide if I wanted to work for someone else again or work for myself. I chose the latter, and it turned out to be a great decision.
I gutted a room in my home and converted it into a professional, dedicated space for a fully functional travel office. When I walk through the door, I feel like a travel professional, and having that separate space really helps me stay on task.
How long have you been partnered with our friends at Nexion Travel Group?
A little over two years. I joined Nexion Travel Group in June of 2018, attended one of their great Boot Camp training events, attended CoNexion 2018, and then after the brick and mortar closed, I began actively selling via Nexion on October 1. I note that you used the word “partnered,” which is quite accurate. With Nexion we are partners — a real community with common goals, whether we are advisors or Nexion staff. I refer to all as my Nexion family, and I believe that.
During this pandemic, many things have changed such as the conference model; how did you feel about the CoNexion at Home conference this year?
Nexion did an exceptional job of holding a very successful conference online. They chose a solid platform to build on and created venues, held general sessions, roundtable trainings and a trade show with booths we could visit and interact with our vendor partners. After-Hours Networking Lounges and VIP vendor events capped each day. On Friday there was even a CoNexion House Party that was great fun. Nexion really pulled it off; the only thing missing were the hugs. There are pros and cons to everything in life. One of the pros to the online event is that we can still log back into the venue to view additional trainings or view others again.
Was this your first CoNexion event?
My first CoNexion event was onboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas in 2018 and then last year’s 2019 event at Universal Studios. Both were excellent events with much to offer in the way of education and training, as well as the camaraderie between advisors, Nexion staff and vendor partners. I now look forward to CoNexion 2021 to Bermuda onboard Norwegian Joy.
What three take-a-ways struck you as the most important things from this year’s Nexion Travel Group conference?
That our Nexion family, our community, is strong. We all leaned in a little more at this event knowing just how precious those connections are.
That Nexion can handle the challenges. In spite of having to create a brand-new remote conference utilizing new technology platforms, in a limited time frame, Nexion staff pulled together and pulled it off.
Final takeaway was a reinforcing of the fact that we, the travel industry, are not going away. We are taking a different path right now, but our focus and our goals remain the same.
With 2021 on the horizon, what best practices will you apply to your business to #getbacktotravel?
Connection and communication are key. Our clients not only need to know that we are still here for them; they need to hear from us that things will be OK. That we will indeed travel again. We need to reach out simply as human beings concerned for one another, not just in the traditional advisor / client roles. Regardless of our personal views, we need to be open to our intrepid clients that are ready to get back out there now and understand those who are not. We can’t decide for our clients which category they are in; some of them will surprise us, but we can have those personal discussions with them. Those that are not ready just yet need to be validated and acknowledged; they will be back. Those that are ready, Carpe Diem!
Our industry has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic, but as many of the presenters and panels discussed, our industry is resilient. What are your thoughts on the future of travel?
Our industry has been through a lot over the years, SARS, H1N1, 9-11, wars, and we survived them all. Acknowledging that this COVID-19 era is the single greatest challenge of all, if we work together, we will survive this too. Perhaps things will be very different, and for a little longer than we would like, but we WILL survive.
Once upon a time travel was more of a luxury, afforded by a chosen few, dreamed of and longed for by others. Travel has evolved into a necessity, a human right even. Humans are curious explorers at heart; we seek what is just beyond our reach. Travel is in our DNA.
Before we conclude, I personally want to thank you for your time and information shared today. We appreciate your involvement in our publication!
Thank you, Andy, I’ve enjoyed reflecting on Nexion, CoNexion and the travel industry.