After working at other travel agencies for eight years, Mike Ertmer joined Elm Grove Travel in Milwaukee in 2013 as a corporate and leisure travel consultant. He also specializes in planning cruises, destination weddings and honeymoons and is a Certified Sandals Specialist and an Oahu Specialist. Ertmer has traveled extensively in Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean.
How did you get started in the travel industry?
I started in the industry when I was a senior in high school. My former teacher owned a travel agency and gave me a part-time job doing administrative work. I started in 2004 and have been developing my knowledge as a travel professional ever since.
What are some misconceptions you think that young people have when they hear the words “travel agent?”
I think the younger generation hears those words and thinks, “Why?” They don’t understand what a travel consultant can do for you. They may be savvy on the Internet, but these days there is just too much information out there — you don’t know what you can rely on.
Why is the travel agent profession a good career choice for young people?
I think it is a great career choice because it allows young professionals to see the world. It’s also a very fulfilling, fun-filled career that you can be excited for every morning.
What made you want to join ASTA’s Young Professionals Society (YPS)?
To be honest, I wanted to go to Hawaii, but I also wanted to meet other travel professionals my age. I didn’t realize at the time that joining YPS was going to be one of the best decisions I could make as a travel industry professional.
What are your biggest challenges in selling travel?
One of the biggest challenges I face is the constant need to reinvent myself. I need to make sure that I am constantly offering a better service, a better product and more in-depth knowledge than my customers can find somewhere else. The travel industry is changing all the time — you definitely need to stay on top of these changes you want to survive as a travel consultant.
What tips do you have for attracting a younger clientele?
Get very knowledgeable about social media — that’s where the younger clientele is these days. They are not reading the newspapers looking for travel agency ads anymore; they are on Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites.
Also, hire young staff. I believe that because of my age I tend to attract many clients who are younger and are planning their destination wedding or honeymoon. Many of my friends are at the point of their lives where they are getting married, and they all know to contact me.
Tell us about a successful booking you’ve made. Why was it significant to you and/or your client?
My most successful booking was a group cruise that I planned for 35 passengers onboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas. We booked group air, a pre-trip hotel stay in Fort Lauderdale, transfers and the cruise, and each piece of the itinerary went without any hiccups. This was the first group that I escorted, and everyone had such a great time. It will always be one of my most significant planned trips.
What kind of trips do you sell the most of? And what kind of trends are you seeing?
Here in the Midwest, our bread and butter are all-inclusive vacations to Mexico and the Caribbean. We also sell many cruises to those regions as well. However, Hawaii and river cruising are growing in popularity, too.
In terms of the future of selling travel, what predictions do you have?
I think travel professionals are going to be needed more and more in the upcoming years. The Internet is going to become even more overwhelming, and hiring a travel consultant is going to be the “easiest” way to research and confirm your reservation.
Name the specific ways in which you use social media to grow your business.
I like to use social media to promote my escorted groups. Creating an event is very easy, and you can put all the pricing information, destination information and anything else pertaining to the group right on the event page. Then you can send it out to all your friends, and it really gets people’s attention.
What are some business goals that you have?
I want to continue to expand my network of professional connections.
What’s your dream destination?
My dream destination is the South Pacific. I’d visit Bora Bora, Moorea and beyond. I want to experience an over-water bungalow and relax in a hammock hanging over the crystal clear waters, all while sipping on a tropical beverage.
What do you love about travel?
Travel allows you to expand your knowledge in so many different aspects. Besides destination knowledge that you can bring back and share with your friends, family and clients, you learn so much about different cultures and the history of the world.