Travel Professional Name: Ralph Santisteban
Agency Name: Dream Vacations – Santisteban & Associates
Location: Miami, FL
Host Agency Name: Dream Vacations
Years as a Travel Professional: 18
Specialization or Niche: Corporate Travel Perks
What led you to be a Travel Professional?
I previously had a high-stress job as a family practitioner/obstetrical surgeon. Valuing my time with my family, I decided to retire from medicine to do something less stressful and more satisfying. I thought my time as a travel agent would be a money-making hobby, but it has turned into a successful career and I am now one of our top franchise owners.
At which point did you know that this was the career for you?
At my first National Conference. It awoke my passion for travel. It has not slept since!
Did defining your Specialty or Niche increase your business? If so, how did you find your Niche?
Yes. I focus a large portion of my business on being the travel agency of record for large corporations, as well as first time cruisers. My franchise is the official travel agency for more than 25 large corporations and organizations throughout the country, providing their members and employees with access to an exclusive cruise perk club that is uniquely tailored for each partnership.
In attracting first-time cruisers, I host more ship luncheon tours than most any other agency nationwide. These tours introduce cruising to people who have never been on a cruise and gets them in the vacation state-of-mind without ever leaving home. Approximately 70 percent of people who attend a ship tour book a cruise within one year of attending a cruise tour.
Have you always worked with a Host Agency? If not, can you share how working with your Host Agency has helped you?
I actually started as a CruiseOne franchise owner and re-branded last year as Dream Vacations when I had the option. I initially found CruiseOne doing a simple Google search. Being associated with CruiseOne and Dream Vacations
What three things about working with your Host Agency has been the most useful and helpful?
- They provide fast, reliable and dedicated support, demonstrating that they are committed to my success.
- Their assistance with marketing and promotional materials and events.
- They provide the network with educational training that keeps me up to date on the latest within the industry.
What aspects of your Host Agency led you to your decision to join their programs?
The reputation that they had amongst active members gave me a great deal of confidence.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to join the Travel Industry?
Don’t go it alone, join a host agency that has a proven record of success. Educate yourself from day one. Education is a constant process in travel. Those with the greatest knowledge have a distinct advantage.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to work with a Host Agency?
Make sure you do your due diligence and thoroughly research all options. You will want to read the contract carefully, speak to current and past agents within the host agency or franchise and create a business plan before you even open for business. Also, check your finances and make sure you have a budget to live on during the first two years of owning your business. Success doesn’t happen overnight, so you will want to make sure you are financially secure before making this your primary source of income.
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?
Absolutely! Today’s travel market is more complicated than ever. With suppliers offering what appear to be complicated promotions to the consumer, a well-trained agent can easily part the seas for a consumer.
Please share a couple of things have been the most important to your success so far?
- Being part of a host agency.
- Focusing the business on customer service.
What are your plans to grow your business in the next year?
We are placing a greater focus on customer service. We want to make sure our customers feel more valued than ever.
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?
Absolutely. First-hand experience is imperative to being a well-rounded agent. Personally, I make it a point to experience no less than three new products or suppliers per year. Time must be created for professional development.