Travel Agent Talk: Brian Payntar Harris

Travel Agent Talk: Brian Payntar Harris

ASTA’s Young Professionals Society travel agent Brian Payntar Harris talks about his love of selling travel and how to make it in the industry

With more than two decades of experience working on both sides of meetings and events, Brian Payntar Harris [] formed Destination Site Selection to help groups find the ideal venue for their needs. Destination Site Selection represents a consortium of groups and coordinates all aspects of event site selection: RFPs, site inspections, contract negotiations and off-site activities. 

Referencing a database of contracts and bids from various properties for different groups, Harris has unique market knowledge of rates and trends and is able to provide clients with insight. Destination Site Selection books groups and luxury leisure in the destination markets of Las Vegas, Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Rocky Mountain region. In addition, Harris is an active member of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society (YPS).

How did you get started in the travel industry? 

I’ve been working in conferences and events my entire life. After the conference and event center I managed was sold, my groups needed to find a place to meet. I developed my agency to help groups find the best place to hold their event.

Why is the travel agent profession a good career choice for young people? 

Having worked in hospitality, real estate and retail, I feel that being a travel agent has easily been the most exciting and rewarding career I could imagine. There is tremendous potential for any young professional that has drive and an entrepreneurial mind. It’s not for the faint-hearted or lazy but, if you have determination, there’s almost unlimited growth opportunities at this time in our industry.

What made you want to join ASTA’s Young Professionals Society? 

I realized the importance of being involved with associations. When I heard about YPS I thought it would be a great way to help me get involved and learn what I needed to know more quickly. Little did I know that in less than a year I would be written up in four articles in major industry publications and invited to speak at two national conferences. It’s easily the best decision I’ve made so far in my travel career.

What tips do you have for new travel agents? 

Stick with it. There will certainly be times when you wonder if it is all worth it but, in the long run, the hard work will pay off. When you’re getting started be sure to take advantage of any fam trip opportunities that you can. Not only is it the best way to educate yourself in your field, it will also help keep your spirits up when times are tough.

Tell us about a successful booking you’ve made. 

I got an inquiry for a four-night stay for the father of the bride for a wedding that was five months away. Within days, the booking increased to 22 nights over five rooms for a total of more than $25,000. I was able to help the wedding party arrange all their lodging needs and gained a great new client in the process.

In terms of the future of selling travel, what predictions do you have? 

I see it moving more and more online, especially with Google and Apple. Individuals will become more like independent travel agents themselves, and they will turn to travel agents for expert advice and help with complex itineraries. This is why it is important to constantly educate ourselves — fam trips are perfect for this — and develop a niche market for our businesses.

What do you love about travel? 

I love experiencing new cultures. When you start to spend significant time somewhere getting to know the people, you realize how similar we all are. Embrace our minor differences, such as language and traditions, and you’ll realize that the world is much smaller than you may have thought. Geographically there’s a vast amount to explore and experience, but when you really get to know people from far away places, you always feel welcome.

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