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Agent Interview: Michele Cartwright – On Growing Genuine Relationships in the Business

Perspective and Lessons Learned through the COVID-19 Pandemic as a Travel Professional


An 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!


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 am a science educator by trade turned stay at home mom who has always loved travel. The teacher in me wanted to teach people about the world, while the mom in me wanted families to EXPERIENCE it. That passion led me to “book” travel for friends and family prior to joining the industry. I officially joined the industry as an independent contractor in January 2013 after gaining the courage to jump into the business without any formal travel agent training.


How long have you been in the travel industry? How long have you been running your Agency? Do you work with a Host Agency? If so, which Host Agency?


Joining Travel Planners International was one of the first initiatives I took to make my dream a reality. They gave me the tools I needed to book travel, and, as they continued to grow and improve, so did my business. I doubled my sales each year through a lot of hard work, and found TPIs commitment to continuous improvement with the Host model to further ignite my passion and success. Their positive energy only fueled me to reach Platinum status within a few years of joining.


2020 started off with a bang with WAVE season followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. What a year it has been already! Can you share a bit about how the recent situation has affected your business?


WOW! I had the best WAVE season ever in 2020, reaching sales goals in two months that exceeded my sales for previous YEARS! While the excitement lasted into the first part of March, it was soon apparent the COVID-19 pandemic would wreak havoc in our industry. Initially, two bookings were cancelled, then another, and another… until my book of business for 2020 looks desperate and lonely. Thankfully, I do have many clients who are postponing instead of canceling, and I expect business to regain strength once COVID-19 releases it’s grip on the world’s health.


With cancellations (hopefully) behind you, how are you spending your time during this time of Travel Bans and “stay at home” warnings?


We must use our time wisely while focusing on strengthening our businesses and staying mentally and physically healthy. I recently founded The Savvy Advisor, a complimentary and for fee mentoring service, and have found using my time to work with my colleagues through this platform an incredible opportunity during my time at home. Recently, I added a group Facebook page for colleagues to share tips, educational opportunities, and more. Helping each other with our businesses, especially during challenging times, will only prove to strengthen our industry.


As an experienced Travel Professional, do you have any advice or tips for other Travel Professionals during this challenging time?


Don’t quit.


The advice we’re hearing is to work on projects we otherwise haven’t had time to do such as streamlining our businesses, creating social media content, working on continuing education, etc. I’d like to add it’s a wonderful time to reach out to colleagues and clients. Checking in on people makes everyone feel a little better about themselves while growing genuine relationships in the business.


We know that in this Industry, we are stronger together and it has been shown time and time again through the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you share a few suppliers / partners that have truly helped you and your clients in this challenging time?


The cruise lines have done a phenomenal job at not only protecting our mutual clients, but travel advisors by protecting commissions on original booking and future bookings. I have to give kudos to the many suppliers who stepped up to eliminate cancellation and change fees, offered full refunds despite policies, and more. It’s wonderful seeing many of our partners working for the good of the community.


Through these times, we all learn a lot about ourselves and our businesses, can you share a few things that you’ve learned through this current pandemic either personally, professionally or both?


I’ve learned that the COVID-19 situation has not only affected newcomers in the industry, but large corporations. Truly, many of us have gone from making a living wage to paying commission recalls out of pocket. Successful professionals I look up to are hurting, and I never thought I would see that. Corona does not discriminate.


It’s during the most difficult and darkest times that our true colors come out, and I love to see that the people I surround myself with, virtually, of course, are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We won’t only survive, we will thrive once this is over.


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! I appreciate the opportunity, and your efforts to the travel community.