Ashley is the social media and travel coordinator at Plaza Travel. She graduated from University of Nevada Las Vegas with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management in 2007. Her college experience confirmed that she wanted to have a career in the travel industry. She has been with Plaza Travel in Encino, Calif., for three years and a member of ASTA’s YPS since 2010.
What are some misconceptions you think that young people have when they hear the words “travel agent?”
The misconceptions we all get include: “Travel agents are still around?” “People your age work in that industry?” “Don’t people just book online?” Travel agents are still around and are in an ever-growing and changing industry. We are there to assist with all of your travel needs. Can online websites answer clients’ tricky travel questions? Do they build relationships with the vendors to provide upgrades? Free breakfast for two daily? Shipboard credit? Food & beverage credits? Most will answer no. We are here to make vacations unforgettable.
What made you want to join ASTA’s Young Professionals Society?
It was hard for me to meet individuals my own age in this industry. I found out about ASTA’s YPS and was so thrilled to be a part of a network where other young agents could relate to me. Being in this organization has helped me sharpen my skills to become a better agent. We have traveled to Jamaica, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guatemala. We share knowledge with each other about places to recommend, where we have sent our clients, what company we each use for selling villas and more.
What are your biggest challenges in selling travel?
My biggest challenge in selling travel is selling someone a lifetime memory. A lot of my clients are around my age and love to travel, but don’t have the budget to do so. By building relationships with vendors, I am better able to close the deal because I can work out an arrangement that my clients can afford. Most individuals don’t know the value of booking with a travel agent at first, but in the long run they realize what an advantage it is to use one.
What tips do you have for attracting a younger clientele?
Although budgets are tight at times, it helps to remember that you are selling them something they will remember forever. I think it’s important to personally be up-to-date on your social media sites so that your clientele can see what you are doing, where you are going and what they can do in those destinations to make them think, “I can’t wait to go there on my next vacation!”
Tell us about a successful booking you’ve made. Why was it significant to you and/or your client?
I had a situation in which my clients were trying to book a honeymoon, but had been through tough times and weren’t sure they could even afford one. They were paying for everything on their own, with no help from family, friends or relatives. Knowing that they couldn’t afford something they were truly looking forward to made them not look forward to their own wedding. The bride came to me with her wish list, as she had been a referral from another client of mine. Her wish list didn’t fit into her budget, so I gave her a list of several other options that could. I have never seen someone’s tears of sadness turn into tears of happiness so quickly. Thanks to my connections and relationships with vendors, I was able to send them to a fabulous tropical destination, upgrade them to a higher room category, add on several amenities and make their honeymoon one they will never forget. It’s the little things you can do for your clients that make a huge difference. I am so thankful for them as they have referred many other clients my way.
What kind of trips do you sell the most of? And what kind of trends are you seeing?
I sell mainly cruises and tropical destinations for honeymoons. The trends lately are everywhere. One day it’s Asia, the next it’s South America.
Name the specific ways in which you use social media to grow your business.
Social media is a great resource for travel agents. It’s not a matter of whether or not you use social media, it’s a matter of keeping up with all of the trends. It’s a free way of promoting yourself and your business. Post your pictures, blog about your experiences, tweet specials you have running for that month and so on.
What’s your dream destination?
I have several dream destinations. Traveling to South Africa, where I can wake up early, watch the sunrise and see all of the different kinds of animals up close and personal on a safari is at the top of my list. Another would be Asia. It has always been my dream to go to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
What do you love about travel?
There is nothing I don’t love about travel. You get to meet new people, see new destinations, try different foods, participate in other cultures and learn how others live their lives. Traveling, to me, is a way of life and I am passionate about it. It gives you something to look forward to.