Travel Professional Name: Dana Welch
Agency Name: The Travel Society
Location: Denver, Colorado
Host Agency Name: The Travel Society
Years as a Travel Professional: 24
Specialization or Niche: Active, Experiential, Adventure
What led you to be a Travel Professional?
I started my professional career as an instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School in their mountain program. That experience led me to becoming a trekking guide in Nepal and India where I worked off and on for 14 years. When I turned 30 I decided I’d better reconsider living in a tent full time and find a more stable career. I made a list of people who were self-employed and decided to interview them for some perspective. The first on the list was a travel agent; after our lunch, I had a job and canceled the other nine meetings.
At which point did you know that this was the career for you?
Not long after I started did I realize that I was motivated by the challenge of booking travel around the world. The thrill of being in an environment of constant learning, enjoying the opportunities of hard work AND travel, and realizing that the incentive of working on commission kept me focused.
Have you always worked with a Host Agency?
No, the first agency where I worked I was an employee and got my training there. I was on a commission split with a small hourly wage. When the owner sold the business to someone else, I had a careful look at how much business I was generating. It was a good time to explore options for going out on my own.
If not, can you share how working with your Host Agency has helped you?
The year I joined the Travel Society, I doubled my salary. And doubled it again the next year as well.
What three things about working with your Host Agency has been the most useful and helpful?
Being part of a community of like-minded entrepreneurs held me to a higher standard. Leveraging the benefits of contracts that I would never qualify for on my own increased my bottom line. Having access to some of the most qualified staff in the industry from accounting, to reception, tech support, help desk support and the management team keeps my business running smoothly and efficiently. If I’m allowed a 4th example – being a member of Travel Society also makes me a member of Virtuoso – the network is invaluable to me.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to join the Travel Industry?
Don’t look at this as a hobby… our industry has that reputation. This is a serious career move, you can make serious money doing it. And the benefits are fabulous! Do your homework about what is involved. Seek out as much training as possible. Find a mentor.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to work with a Host Agency?
Align yourself with an agency who can support your needs now as well as handle the growth that you plan for in the future. Look for VALUE in an agency, not just what it’s costs.
Many articles and studies have shown that the Travel Professional is becoming more and more important, how do you feel about that?
I completely agree. People invest in financial planners, wedding planners, life coaches, therapy. Why wouldn’t you entrust your holidays to an expert? Do you see the increase in awareness from your clients as of now? Absolutely. I am part of the family – part of their valued ‘team’. In some cases, I am now working with the third generation.
What are your plans to grow your business in the next year?
I’m not actually looking to grow my business but rather re-structure it so I am more pro-active and creative in planning trips for my loyal clientele. It’s not about doing MORE next year – it’s about doing BETTER.
Do you feel that getting yourself out there and traveling is important for your busine
ss? It’s one of the most important things that I do. I spend a lot of money and time traveling the globe. Moving through airports, meeting with guides and tour operators, evaluating cruise ships and hotels makes me better at what I do. Access to information is easy for the end user now. I find that my clients are looking for an informed opinion and professional guidance on making the best decision for themselves.
If so, how do you make yourself get out there and take those trips? I don’t have to make myself. Who doesn’t want to travel? It’s such a pleasure and privilege to be able to explore the world and share what I have learned with others. Easy. And besides, it’s super cool.