Travel Professional Name: Jean Paugh
Agency Name: All About You Travel Unlimited
Location: Rockledge, FL
Host Agency Name; Uniglobe Travel Center
Years as a Travel Professional: 17
Specialization or Niche: Full Service
What led you to be a Travel Professional?
When I was a kid I use to go into the local mall where I grew up and would always go into the travel agency to look at the brochures and posters on the walls. There were always gray haired ladies working there and would run me out, and I thought when I retire some day from whatever career I have I am going to become a travel agent. I thought you had to be old to do this job! So then in 1999 I met a lady who is my age and she told me she was a travel agent and I said I thought you had to be old to do this job, after she smacked me she said she had been doing it for 20 years, so we started talking and she told me about a school in the Orlando area, turned out to be a waste of $5K but it got my foot in the door, and I was off from there!
At which point did you know that this was the career for you?
So, then I go to my first trade show in Orlando, and here is a room of a couple hundred gray haired agents all pushing each other to get to the free chicken on the buffet and grabbing up all the free junkets on the supplier tables. I just sat back and laughed to myself at that point I thought there is no competition here, I can do this! (no offense to anyone with gray hair!!)
Have you always worked with a Host Agency? If not, can you share how working with your Host Agency has helped you? Additionally, What three things about working with your Host Agency has been the most useful and helpful?
When I first got in the business I worked for 2 different travel agencies, they both turned out to be thieves and dishonest people and my clients deserved better and so did I so I decided in 2005 to open my own agency. I knew I didn’t want to go back to minimal commissions as I had worked very hard at the last agency I was at and in 2 years took then from 10% to 15% with most of the cruise lines and suppliers I was using at that time. I knew I wanted to continue to be with my consortia, vacation.com and needed Amadeus, so I turned to my Amadeus rep and asked her opinion. This was the time when host agencies were starting to flood the travel trade papers and emails about host agencies were clogging up my email. She told me about Uniglobe, so I started my research on them as I had not found anything out there that I felt comfortable with. My first contact with UTC was with the now VP of UTC, Betsy Geiser, who at that time brought in the new accounts. She laid it out for me in Betsy fashion, which I love as it is who I am as well. She was upfront and honest with me and didn’t beat around the bush. I knew I had found a good fit, but because of my law enforcement background and my over the top type “A” personality it was hard for me to not be in control. Plus, I was opening a new brick and mortar and was the first to go through a host. So, we started the process together and started figuring out how to handle accounting as I still had my own TRAMS at the time, and learning knew way of doing business with the help of their support team. As Betsy says, kicking and screaming all the way! I love my UTC family, they have helped me build my agency into a successful business, in 2015 I was named top 25 Travel Advisor by Travel Agent Magazine and have been agency of the year with Uniglobe as well as top cruise agency and in the Million Dollar Club for several years. To be able to start my own business, and start at top tier commissions made all the difference plus with the support of all the UTC staff they just make everything so easy for us to conduct business. Because of being a Uniglobe Affiliate, I am recognized throughout the industry by many CEO’s, Presidents and VP’s of our suppliers, they know that Uniglobe doesn’t take everyone who applies, they only take the best of the best. They are family owned and we are treated as family.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to join the Travel Industry? Additionally, what advice would you offer to someone looking to work with a Host Agency?
If you have the passion for travel and the love of people and patience to deal with people from all walks of life, then this may be the career for you. You must be ready to learn on a daily basis and handle fast pace change. If you are only looking to get in the business because you think you are going to travel the world for free or next to nothing, then this is not the right business. We are a people business, it’s all about customer service. We all get the same rates, but you must have the passion for people to treat every trip you plan whether it be a 3-night cruise or an around the world trip, like it is the most important trip, because to your clients it is. If this is you, then start by looking for a good fit for you, find a host agency who has a training and mentoring program that has proven success. Don’t be fooled by those who promise free leads, and free this or that, because nothing in life is ever free. You want to align yourself with a host that will fulfill your needs. Am I partial to Uniglobe, you bet I am, but we are not the right fit for everyone, if we were then we would have thousands of members and you would be just a number to them. The VP wouldn’t answer your text or phone call at 10pm on a Sunday night, heck they probably wouldn’t at 10am on a Monday – Friday. But only you know what fits with your goals and ambitions, and know that there are many of us out there who are willing to talk with you if you have questions, we all started new in this industry at some point of our life.
Many articles and studies have shown that the Travel Professional is becoming more and more important, how do you feel about that? Do you see the increase in awareness from your clients as of now?
I do feel that Travel Professionals are more important now more than ever because of the Internet. There is so much content and information on the web and unfortunately there is a lot of bad advice out there, it can be overwhelming to read. I think the internet is driving clients back to travel professionals because they do want to our expertise from the training we go through and continuing education. My business has expanded this past year with new clients some through referrals some through events I do. Having the chance to talk with people and share my experiences and knowledge puts them to ease. The public is looking for a professional to turn to, they don’t want to be scammed by someone on line, they appreciate that they can come into my office and sit and talk with us face to face.
What are your plans to grow your business in the next year?
For 2017, I am taking on a new advertiser who has asked me to write travel articles in their magazine for a large gated community. Hopefully this joint venture will not only help educate readers and inside tips but will also gain us more business in that community. I will continue to do shows and events, it never hurts to put a table up where you can showcase yourself and talk with people, after all this is where our relationships with our clients begin.
Do you feel that getting yourself out there and traveling is important for your business? If so, how do you make yourself get out there and take those trips?
I guess I should have read the last question first! Absolutely, keeping yourself out in the public eye is huge, it’s like any marketing plan, you must stay visible. Having those conversations and taking time to talk with someone even if they booked a trip with someone else, that first impression and your compassion for them and your passion for travel shows through, and you will gain clients from these events. I built my business the first 5 years from having a tent at our local craft fairs 4 times a year, I spent $75 for the weekend to talk with people for 16 hours and share my passion. When you get the opportunity to take a fam or better yet an educational fam take them as they expand your knowledge and learning about little details in destinations is huge to your clients. To see and experience a destination or a product helps you sell it. Until you get to a point in your career to get fam opportunities, you pay and you go experience destinations and products, it is part of your continuing education and we owe that to our clients, plus it’s a tax write off too