Interview By: Joanie Ogg, Co-Owner Travel Professional News
Interviewing: Roxana Lewis, CTC, DS, Independent Travel Affiliate Protravel International
Can you share a bit about your travel industry background with our readers?
I celebrated by 50th Anniversary in the travel industry in 2018. I am a travel industry veteran, having started as a ticket agent with Western Airlines in 1968. I worked in corporate travel for a Washington, D.C., think tank before starting my own travel agency, Chartwell Travel Services, in 1977. I named it after Winston Churchill’s home in Kent, England; I was in my Anglophile phase, and I also liked the play on words. In 2007, Chartwell merged with Protravel International, Beverly Hills. I now operate as an affiliate of Protravel and reside in Southern California.
What destinations or types of travel do you specialize in and what drove you to choose those areas of expertise?
I have been through many destination transitions over the years and landed on something that I was very passionate about and continue to be. I learned early on that I had to find clients that meshed with me and those destinations that I could sell having had personal experience and intimate knowledge to share with my clients.
I am a specialist in Italy, Japan, culinary travel, and both soft- and hard-core adventures around the world, including mountain climbing and marathons.
My Italian friends tease me that I know Italy better than they do. I have traveled around Italy every year since 1985. (That is longer than the average American marriage.) I have been to almost every hill town, gone kayaking in the Venetian lagoon, and have a well-rounded perspective on all kinds of special ways to experience all things Italian.
Do you handle and organize athletic travel experiences for your clients?
I started running marathons in 1993. When I first started running, I believed I could begin to attract runners to travel with me and run races as a group. I live in Los Angeles and there are certainly many runners, so I felt it was a sure thing. I realized that it was not going to happen overnight since I found myself traveling alone to the various marathons I had scheduled. I am very passionate about the sport and I have now run over 250 marathons including one in every U.S. state, Washington D.C. and more then 23 in Italy.
I then began to run marathons in Japan and started another specialty of organizing exotic experiences for my clients to Japan. I led hikes in the U.S. and overseas and arrange both soft and hard adventures for my clients customizing each trip to suit their specific desires and expectations.
I think the key is to find something that you can be passionate about create your niche and or specialty around that focus. Long standing clients are so important to continued success. I feel that my clients and I have a lifelong commitment to one another. They trust me with their money and their time year after year to help them travel the dreams they may not even know they have yet. The internet cannot offer your clients this type of service based on a long-standing relationship. It has been a hallmark of my career and I cherish those relationships and their trust in me.
At TravelProfessionalNEWS we work to share inspiring stories such as your story to provide your colleagues with motivation to grow their businesses. We believe strongly in the need for continuing education for travel professionals. You have your CTC and a DS from the Travel Institute. Can you tell us why you believe continuing education and travel experiences are important to the success of growing one’s business?
It is funny you ask this question because supporting The Travel Institute now and in the past when they were known as ICTA has always been a high priority for me personally and professionally. One of my goals many years ago was to be on the Board of ICTA (now the Travel Institute). I believed so strongly in the need for education in our field of travel and early on in my career I got my CTC and my DS. Serving on the board was a highlight in my career.
While education and experience are so important in our field, we do have to plan and make time for it. Sometimes, there just does not seem to be enough time! I had set a goal for myself during my 50th year in travel to get one passport stamp a month and that was probably a bit more then I should have taken on. I was never home and while it was a great goal to work toward, I can honestly say it was “Too much of a good thing”. My suggestion to travel professionals is to set realistic goals both for continuing industry education and experience and garner as much knowledge and expertise from peers and mentors along the way.
Does Social Media play a role in your overall marketing strategy and if so, what areas of social media have you found to be most successful?
I don’t really use it as an advertising platform but I get new business from places like Facebook and LinkedIn based on the photos and experiences I share online. For my business these are more of place for people to learn about some of the unique travels I experience and it helps them to learn how I might be the right agent to help the travel in a similar style. I do feel one needs to be available and visible through these mediums so that new clients can research and learn more about your qualifications and experience. I believe it can be a conduit the helps to find new business.
What would you suggest to a newer agent just starting their career in travel that might help them expedite their success as travel professionals?
I have always set goals for myself at the start of each New Year. The saying that you cannot go somewhere unless you make a plan is true both personally and professionally. I take my broad categories and create a dreamscape. These are the categories I use each year as I set up my goals.
To me Health is number one because without our health we are not likely to accomplish any of the other categories. It is always number one for me. So as an example, we take health and let’s say the goal is to exercise 5 times every week for the year. I put them into actionable items such as join a local gym, find a personal trainer, take a run, etc. Maybe you cannot manage to keep up with it so you review quarterly. I review each Sunday what I am doing from my quarterly list. I will list my accomplishments each Sunday toward my goal. This really helps me to be accountable to myself. We are often time-famished so it can be hard to make the time review and see how our progress is going, but it is so important to helping you stay focused.
Goals change as we age both personally and in our businesses. My goals today are so very different than they were say 24 years ago, but setting them and staying on course is just as important now as it was early on in my career.
I noticed on your Facebook page that you set a personal record in 2019 and finished 52-marathons plus two 50K’s. As a runner I am simply awe-inspired by this and I can only imagine the time and discipline needed to accomplish this amazing goal. You obviously know how to set and achieve goals that you have set out for yourself. In terms of professional goals, do you have new goals set for 2020 and if so, can you share those with us?
Yes, I would like to get to CruiseWorld and see some of the ships that are not available here from the West Coast. I have never been and I would really like to attend that event. I need to find a way to work that into my schedule and my cruise ship knowledge. I think it is very important to learn something new every day!
Well, I am pretty sure that as a consultant for Travel Weekly and a speaker at CruiseWorld, I can help you make that happen. I always enjoy seeing you Roxana and perhaps we can enjoy a nice run down there in Ft. Lauderdale next November at CruiseWorld! Thank you so sincerely for your time and for sharing your thoughts and insights with our readers.