2013 Trendsetter Winners // © 2013 Volker Corell
Upward Bound, Rock Star Agent Under 40
Winner: Jonathan Alder, TravelStore
Since joining his current travel agency, Trendsetter winner Jonathan Alder has opened new markets and created a road map to a new centralized method of travel planning at TravelStore. In less than three years, he has grown his sales from zero to approximately $3.5 million a year, making him our pick for Upward Bound, Rock Star Agent Under 40.
While Alder is new to the industry, he feels like he was born to be an explorer. He was just 14 when he says he started focusing not only on travel, but the business of travel.
“I was never sure if I would work in the travel industry, but it was always a career choice that piqued my interest,” Alder said.
In 2010, Alder’s mother passed away and he decided that was the push he needed to professionally pursue his interest in travel.
“Travel was always a direction she encouraged me to follow,” Alder said. “I contacted my travel agent, who has been with TravelStore for many years, and the rest is history.”
Alder has never looked back. A diligent worker, Alder said he makes sure he is nearly always reachable to his clients. He even accessed Sabre while on a trip to the North Pole.
“I don’t even consider it a job — I feel like I get to play for a living,” he said. “Though it requires long hours and extreme dedication, I think I make others’ lives more fulfilled and hopefully help them grow.”
Runner-Up: Andres Zuleta, Global Basecamps
In three years in the industry, Andres Zuleta has become a specialist in custom trips to unique destinations around the world. He has focused on reliability and customer service — making himself available to clients despite difficulties with a seriously ill spouse at home.
In his short tenure, Zuleta has increased his sales from zero to more than $1.25 million.
Prizes: The winner received a five-night Unlimited Luxury stay for two at a Secrets Resort & Spa. The runner-up received a five-night Unlimited Luxury stay for two at a Dreams Resort & Spa.
Best Use of Social Media
Winner: Montrose Travel
To say that the Trendsetter Award-winning social media efforts of Montrose Travel are a team effort is putting it mildly. The individuals at Montrose who share in this award include: Kelley Moreno, online marketing specialist; Tracy Crismer, marketing specialist; Isabel Burcher, marketing specialist; Darlene Magno, account executive leisure sales and marketing; Krissy Lasky, senior marketing specialist; Julia Pfeiffer, senior marketing specialist; and Chris Martin, manager of leisure sales and marketing.
One example of the creative ways Montrose uses its social media is through a photo contest — called the “Say Cheese” contest — which helped Montrose reach more than 300,000 Facebook users in the span of just a few days, with more than 700 leads generated.
“Social media is about sharing, so we have been encouraging sharing among our agents and the online community,” said Martin. “Our recent ‘Say Cheese’ campaign illustrated how social media can be successfully used as a way to engage our agents as well as our online friends, while being tied into a larger overall campaign. It’s as much about knowing our customers as it is about our customers knowing us, and there is no better medium for manifesting this relationship on a large scale.”
While the success of social media efforts is notoriously hard to quantify, Martin sees the agency efforts as a win on multiple levels.
“We have seen a significant year-over-year increase in the number of online leads we have generated, in large part attributed to our social media efforts,” said Martin. “Of course, equally important is the pride our agents and associates felt in being made an integral part of our recent campaigns. It was a morale-booster and helped demystify what we do here in the marketing department.”
Runner-Up: Avoya Travel
Avoya’s social media goals are to know its community, know its purpose on each social media channel and participate in proactive engagement.
Avoya is active on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr, as well as on Facebook where it has more than 250,000 likes.
Sponsor: Globus Family of Brands
Prizes: The winner received a week in Dublin and London for two to see London and Dublin’s most renowned attractions with a local guide during various sightseeing tours. The runner-up received a seven-day Maui and Kauai driving vacation for two.
Industry Activist, Notable Achievements in Support of Travel Agents
Winner: Ryan McGredy, Moraga Travel
Anyone who knows Ryan McGredy has to wonder if he has found a way to get more hours into a day. Besides running a successful travel agency, McGredy currently serves as president of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society (YPS) and he is a national board member of ASTA representing the Chapter President’s Council. McGredy serves as vice president of the Northern California Chapter of ASTA and he is also on Ensemble’s Technology and Luxury Marketing Committees. Oh, and he is also the father of three with another one on the way. Most amazing of all to our Trendsetter judges was how selfless he is when it comes to promoting the role of travel agents overall.
“I am very proud every time I feel like I’ve helped touch someone and provided them with extra motivation in YPS,” said McGredy. “There was some feedback that came out of our Guatemala trip from one of the participants, who said that prior to the trip he felt alone in the industry and now he feels like part of a big family. It makes me very proud to say I had a hand in something as special as that.”
McGredy said he got into the travel business because he saw an industry that was re-inventing itself. He believes the Internet provides agents with a valuable tool for connecting businesses and customers at a deeper level than previously possible — especially in its role between traveler and travel agent. He hopes to make the general public more aware of the positive aspects of the traveler/travel agent relationship.
“It felt great to be acknowledged by the Trendsetter Awards,” McGredy said. “I do everything I do for love of the industry and the hope of creating a bright tomorrow for travel agents, but I think anyone who juggles as many things as I do often wonders if what they are doing really reaches people and if it truly does make a difference. This award was a welcome sign that I’m on the right track.”
Runner-Up: Daniela Harrison, Avenues of the World Travel
Daniela Harrison has been on multiple “top agents” lists and she serves on the communications and events committee of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society.
Harrison has also started a virtual networking group that allows agents, suppliers, independent contractors and owners to come together to share success, ideas and problem solving. She is currently working on starting a mentoring program within Signature Travel Network.
Prizes: The winner received a four-night stay for two at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on the island of Oahu, including breakfast each day and a $250 Disney gift card. The runner-up received a two-night suite stay for two at the Disneyland Resort at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, as well as two three-day park-hopper tickets and a $250 Disney gift card.
Best Group Booking Sales Effort
Winner: Debra Kerper, Easy Access Travel, Cruise Planners/American Express
Debra Kerper began her Trendsetter entry with this line: “A friend of mine is the mother of a 19-year-old daughter with spina bifida and she had a dream … to take a group of young adults with spina bifida on a cruise so they could experience travel like their able-bodied peers.”
Kerper and her friend — just the two of them working alone — worked for nearly a year in order to make this dream happen and, on Jan. 7 of this year, the group set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas with 58 very excited cruisers. This effort is the reason Kerper was picked as the Trendsetter Award winner for Best Group Booking Sales Effort.
Kerper, herself an amputee, is dedicated to promoting accessible travel for those with physical challenges.
“Being acknowledged with this award allows people in the industry to understand how important it is to provide an accessible world. Progress has been made, but we have a long way to go. Everyone deserves the opportunity to travel and to be treated with dignity and respect when they do.”
Kerper’s work has opened the world of cruising to many people with special needs who may never have believed travel was possible for them. Through her efforts, these clients have proved to themselves that they are capable of exploring the world.
“I love my job. It affords me the opportunity to combine my love for people with my love for research, as well as being able to put a smile on a person’s face,” said Kerper. “It continues to be the profession for me because of the many intangible rewards I receive on a daily basis from showing my clients how they can travel when they never thought it was possible.”
Runner-Up: Tammy Selee, Harmon Travel
Twenty years ago, Tammy Selee began a project to arrange 1950’s and ’60’s music-themed cruises. Despite the difficulties of having to change cruise lines over the years — as well as book music acts — the cruises have been a great success. The 20th annual cruise took place earlier this year with more than 600 passengers.
Sponsor: Gogo Vacations
Prizes: The winner of this award received a five-night, all-inclusive stay for two at the Hard Rock Vallarta. The runner-up received a three-night, all-inclusive vacation for two at the Hard Rock Vallarta.