Travel Professional Name: Lisa D. Fitzgerald, C.T.I.E
Agency Name: Fitzgerald Travel, Custom Travel Design
Location: West Chesterfield, New Hampshire
Host Agency Name:Gifted Travel Network
Years as a Travel Professional: 24 years
Specialization or Niche: European FIT, River Cruise & Barge Vacations
What led you to be a Travel Professional?
What led me to being a travel professional came to me quite accidentally. I married a service man at the age of 20 and had the opportunity of living for several years in the beautiful country of the Netherlands. From the moment my feet hit the ground in Amsterdam, I knew Europe was going to be in my heart and my life forever.
At which point did you know that this was the career for you?
The point I knew this career was perfect for me came to me while I was cleaning out boxes at our first stateside home after returning from Holland. I found a few itineraries I had designed for my friends and family when they came to Europe to visit. There was one in particular that immediately brought back warm memories of how happy I made my father and mother. I had created their dream trip to Rome and the Vatican. He is now 87 and still shares the story of his trip. After finding that itinerary, I signed up for Travel that afternoon.
Did defining your Specialty or Niche increase your business? If so, how did you find your Niche?
Defining my specialty exponentially changed my business model and certainly has increased my sales. After living on the waterways of Holland, my niche found me. The funny things about my specialty is that it was with me all those years, I just didn’t realize it.
Have you always worked with a Host Agency? If not, can you share how working with your Host Agency has helped you?
I have not always worked with a host agency. I have been in the travel industry for over 2 decades, host agencies were not even an idea back in the early 90s. In the mid 2000’s I started following the trend and watch the industry change. It wasn’t until 2007 that I took the leap of faith and joined a host agency. Hiring a host agency enabled me to start and build my own business. It has been an essential, not an accessory. When you find the right host agency that fits your needs best, it is that agency who helps you mold you in the most successful travel professional you can be by offering support, tools and community. In my career, I have had two hosts. Each incredibly different than the other.
What aspects of your Host Agency led you to your decision to join their programs?
I joined Gifted Travel Network because of its highly motivated core staff that not only supports your dreams of being a successful travel professional but supports and helps you grow as an entrepreneur. They do more than just offer you tools to run a business. They are teachers, motivators, supporters, educators, and your biggest advocate so that you will grow and flourish. They do more than ‘host’, they teach.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to join the Travel Industry?
My advice would be to take your time and do your research. If you have never been in the industry professionally, my advice is to write an essay about yourself. In this essay write about how and where you see yourself in 5 years after you have entered the travel industry. Visualize your life as a travel entrepreneur. How does it look? What are you selling? What tools did you need to get there? Drill down and write the things you think you will need to get to that goal. Writing an essay extracts the thoughts from your brain and gets them on paper. Having your thoughts on paper creates an outline of your life as a travel professional and what you need to get there. Converts to a great outline to use as a tool when you are interviewing host companies to find the right match to you!
What advice would you offer to someone looking to work with a Host Agency?
My advice would be absolutely work with a host. There are far too many positive reasons to work with a host than to not. It’s like a potential client calling you and asking you “Why would I work with a travel agent?” and the answer you would give back is “Why wouldn’t you?” That is the reason you would work with a host. Confidence. Consistency. Support. Accountability. Success.
Please share a couple of things have been the most important to your success so far?
The absolute most important thing to my success is my foundation. My foundation is my host agency. Without the right foundation, I would have not been able to develop and grow my brand as consistently as I have been able to over the past two years.
Setting boundaries with my professional life and my personal life has also been a huge benefit for my family and myself. It allows me to unplug until the next work day begins to fully enjoy my family without any distractions.
Lastly, honestly, being consistent in everything you do and following through with what you started. Never under promise and always over deliver.
What are your plans to grow your business in the next year?
My plans for 2017 are going to be fantastic for Fitzgerald Travel. We will be boosting up our list building, publishing a great guide to help potential ocean cruisers convert to river cruising. We are also very excited about growing and creating interest in Barge Vacations and Fly & Boat experiences. All new stuff to add to our European FIT and River Cruise expertise.
It has always been my goal to help people travel differently by giving our clients new experiences that turn into moments that eventually turn into life long memories. We really want to help people write their story through travel.
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 definitely feel that you have to get yourself out there traveling! The best way to sell and to talk about a product is by personal experience. Especially if you are specialist. I make it my responsibility to my clients to experience as many different river ship companies as possible. I often travel as the host on my custom European travel itineraries as well. If you want to talk the talk, you must walk the walk.
How I get myself out there to take the trips is to contact my BDM for travel FAMS or reduced rates. I host a group and I lead and I also sometimes just travel my own custom itineraries! I project 2 years in advance and try to plan one trip per quarter. Currently I am in the planning process for 2018