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Every year for the past 13 years travel agents in the West honor their favorite supplier partners by voting for them in TravelAge West’s annual WAVE (Western Agents Votes of Excellence) Awards.
And, in addition to the supplier accolades, each year the editorial staff also acknowledges a group of top advisors whose achievements stand out in several categories. These agents are part of the Trendsetter Awards. You can check out their achievements below.
Upward Bound, Rock Star Agent Under 40Heather Luckey, Brilliant JourneysWithin just one year of being affiliated with Avoya Travel Network, Brilliant Journeys, Heather Luckey’s Houston-based agency reached Best of the Best status for selling more than $1 million in vacation sales in 2017. Luckey also won the Avoya Travel Rising Star Agency Award, and she was named the 2017 Academy Rookie of the Year. But perhaps even more impressive than her business success is Luckey’s advocacy for the use of travel agents in general. Through her YouTube channel, Luckey makes and shares videos on topics such as the “Top Four Misconceptions About Travel Agents.”
“I think it is very important to create awareness about the travel agent community and to educate new agents,” Luckey said. “I have done this by speaking with potential agents — telling them how great our jobs are — and using tools such as social media.”
Luckey says she loves the power of travel and being a part of people’s lives.
“Travel can make the world seem a bit smaller,” Luckey said. “By traveling, you are educating yourself. You are making yourself vulnerable and thus creating empathy and compassion for other cultures.”
Runner-Up: Kota Tabuchi, Travel BeyondKota Tabuchi has a passion for selling products that promote responsible travel to Africa. In particular, he looks to work with partners that will allow tourism in Africa to be equitable for communities and sustainable long-term. Tabuchi is also consistently a top performer at Travel Beyond in Minneapolis.
Sponsored by AMResortsThe winner in this category received a five-night stay at Secrets Cap Cana Resort & Spa. The runner-up won a five-night stay at Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa.
Best Use of Social Media Peter Enns, Travel ConciergePeter Enns of Travel Concierge in Scottsdale, Ariz., uses social media to target online groups for first responders. Through this strategy, he has doubled the agency’s Facebook followers in just one year — from around 15,000 to over 30,000 — and these campaigns resulted in more than $500,000 in sales this past year.
“Always reaching for more and finding better ways to use social media has been the biggest success for our small but growing agency,” Enns said. “This award means we are doing something right.”For Enns, the best thing about being in the travel industry is getting to meet his clients in person after working with them to plan a vacation.
“Also, I love getting emails after a trip about how special the experience was,” Enns said. “It’s so satisfying to hear what a great time they had and how thankful they were that they used a travel agent to make it stress-free.”
Runner-Up: Heather Coursen, MEI-TravelHeather Coursen of MEI-Travel in Burbank, Calif., created a travel video series on her YouTube channel called “The Travel Agent’s Guide to the World.” The content highlights destinations, suppliers and activities, and shares trip-planning advice. She sees the videos as being a fun way to answer some common client questions, while at the same time highlighting her expertise.
Sponsored by The Globus Family of BrandsThe winner in this category received a seven-day Monograms Barcelona and Madrid vacation for two. The runner-up won a seven-day Monograms Rome and Florence vacation for two.
Best Targeted Marketing Idea Robin Hawkey, Virtual Destination WeddingRobin Hawkey of Virtual Destination Wedding in Nampa, Idaho, was frustrated by all the indecisive people she dealt with when working with engaged couples who were interested in a destination wedding. She decided there had to be a smarter way to do things.
As a result, Hawkey created an interactive tool that helps couples and agents plan the perfect getaway. The new tool uses a virtual reality (VR) headset, along with an in-depth quiz, to help couples in the decision-making process.
“We’ve used the matching tool along with our VR headset on couples who had no idea where they wanted to get married,” Hawkey said. “It was shocking how quickly they made decisions about their destination, as well as the type of wedding they wanted.”
Hawkey then used social media to promote this new tool, which she sees as the future of travel.
“We’re using cutting-edge technology to revolutionize the way travel agents book travel and weddings,” she said. “I just love helping romance travel specialists work smarter.”
Runner-Up: Anne and Hank Schrader, Dream DestinationsPearland, Texas-based Dream Destinations used highly targeted marketing across multiple channels over a period of two years, to create a group of clients to visit European battlefields for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in 2019. Through their efforts, the agency also developed new clients for future trips.
Sponsored by Celebrity CruisesThe winner in this category received a Celebrity Europe cruise for two, up to 12 nights, in a balcony stateroom. The runner-up won a seven-night Celebrity Caribbean cruise for two in a balcony stateroom.
Best Group Booking Effort Leah Bergner, Coastline Travel AdvisorsPiggybacking on the popularity of a local country music DJ, Leah Bergner of Coastline Travel Advisors in Garden Grove, Calif., created a special cruise for country music fans. This has since grown into a branded yearly event called the Country Splashdown Cruise, which is going on its 12th consecutive year.
“It’s truly an honor to be recognized for something I’ve worked so hard at — this began 11 years ago and has continued year after year,” Bergner said. “I’m proud of the consistency and longevity of the cruise and that it wasn’t a one-hit wonder. The group is successful through hard work, diligence and wonderful partners.”
Bergner overcame many obstacles in planning this event, including figuring out how the DJ could broadcast live on the radio from the ship. But facing new challenges is something Bergner loves about her job.
“No two days are the same — it never gets boring — and the work days fly by,” she said. “I enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together, seeing an experience come to fruition and then hearing all about the vacation when the guests return.”
Runner-Up: Matt Welch, PSI Travel and CruisesMatt Welch of PSI Travel and Cruises in Tucson, Ariz., used his experience with the Tucson Botanical Gardens to create a 15-day tour to Australia that included visits to botanical gardens as well as mining for gemstones. The marketing efforts for this trip included special newspaper inserts and radio ads. This campaign has led to more exposure for the agency, which plans to run future garden-based groups to other destinations.
Sponsored by Royal Caribbean InternationalThe winner in this category received a six- to eight-night Caribbean cruise for two in an ocean-view stateroom. The runner-up won a four- to five-night Caribbean cruise for two in an ocean-view stateroom.