Association and Events Host Agency

CoNexion Agent Interview: Suzy Gustafson

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?

My agency is SG Travel Two Inc. I am located in West Jordan, UT. I do about 60% corporate business and 40% leisure.

I started in the industry in August of 1982. I went to travel school, and one week into the school, I got hired by an agency. I ended up managing that agency for a few years and also ran a travel school for two years.

In 1990 I wanted to figure a way to work from home, so I could be with my children. I negotiated a deal with the owner and started working from home. It didn’t take me long to figure out that working on commission was a much more profitable way to work and decided I wanted to start my own agency. I was doing more business than the 14 agents who worked in the office and realized it might be better to start my own agency.

Back then I was issuing paper tickets, and I wasn’t allowed to have a ticket printer in my home, so it took me awhile to figure out how to make this work. I approached several agencies, all who were very interested in having me run my business through their agency and have them be my “host agency.” I am not even sure if there were “host agencies” back then, but I knew it was a great idea and was a lot more cost-effective way to run my business. I eventually worked out a deal with the agency I was already with and paid them a flat rate per month.

I hired my first employee, who worked from my home, and successfully ran my office from my home for 26 years.

How long have you been partnered with our friends at Nexion Travel Group?

In 2012 the agency I was working for sold to another agency, and I wasn’t interested in working with them. By that time there were several host agencies, so I started looking for a new company to use as a host agency. Nexion Travel Group was the one I selected, and they have been amazing to work with. The support, training, education and events are truly amazing. But the best part has been the friendships I have developed with the Nexion Travel Group team and other agents throughout the country. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

During this pandemic, many things have changed such as the conference model; how did you feel about the CoNexion at Home conference this year?

The CoNexion at Home conference was done very well. I know we all have had to pivot so much this year, and I am sure it was very stressful to figure out how to make this work and make it a worthwhile event. They did a phenomenal job.

Was this your first CoNexion event?

This was my fifth CoNexion event.

What three take-a-ways struck you as the most important things from this year’s Nexion Travel Group conference?

The three takeaways:
*renewed hope that the industry will make a comeback and will be stronger than ever
*renewed hope that there are vendors that will still be around
*that we are all in this together and together we can be stronger

With 2021 on the horizon, what best practices will you apply to your business to #getbacktotravel?

The best practices that I will apply this next year will be that I will be doing educational webinars for my clients. I will also be doing a lot more with LinkedIn to build up my corporate business. But mostly reaching out to my existing clients to let them know where it is safe to travel and why they should still want to travel.

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?

I am and will always be an eternal optimist! I truly believe the desire to travel will never go away. We have to adapt to some changes, and sometimes that is difficult, but traveling, in my opinion, brings so much pleasure, allows people to escape, create memories, strengthens relationships (both personal and business), makes the world a smaller place. It makes people better.

I have always loved this quote from Mark Twain:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Before we conclude, I personally want to thank you for your time and information shared today. We appreciate your involvement in our publication!