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Travel advisor Melissa Pomeroy credits her love of travel — and, more specifically, travel to the South Pacific nation of Fiji — to her father, who worked as an airfare consolidator there for more than 18 years.
Now, Pomeroy has continued to incorporate her love for Fiji in her own career. As owner and CEO of Fiji Vacations, a full-service travel agency based in Costa Mesa, Calif., Pomeroy and her team show no signs of slowing down. In addition to an impressive revenue growth of 10 percent year-over-year for the last five years, Fiji Vacations recently acquired its largest competitor, Fiji Travel, which is expected to double the agency’s revenue for air travel in the next two years.
We asked Pomeroy to share South Pacific travel tips, her own business philosophy and how other advisors can learn from her success.
What about Fiji and the South Pacific region most resonates with you? The South Pacific was always our "Hawaii.” We traveled there a few times each year, and we never repeated a resort until I was 18 years old. It is hard to explain until you visit for the first time. What’s more, tourism in Fiji is alive and well. We believe that the North American market is about to explode there over the next few years; it is the largest potential growth segment for tourism to Fiji.
What travel trends are you currently seeing in the South Pacific? The largest trend is multigenerational travel. We are seeing more large families make the journey to Fiji with small children, parents and grandparents in tow. After all, it is just a few hours past Maui, but it’s worlds apart. It has its own intact culture, living villages, prolific reef systems and the friendliest people on Earth.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about travel to Fiji? The two biggest misconceptions are that it is difficult to get there and that it’s expensive. In my opinion, flying to Maui is the worst possible flight — with or without kids — because you depart at 8 a.m. or 1 p.m. and waste an entire day traveling. But when traveling to Fiji (from LAX), you depart at 11 p.m. and arrive the following morning.
The second point is that it is cheaper to have a Fijian vacation than a Hawaiian vacation. The exchange rate is $1 for every $2 in Fiji, so a client’s money is going further there. There are also Fijian resorts to fit every budget.
How do you manage to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry? This is a cut-throat industry, with online travel agencies giving away their commissions to gain clients. We struggle to stay relevant and compete with that, but we are fortunate to be seen as the “authority on Fiji.” My team is extremely knowledgeable, so we rely on our strength and personal service to gain the trust of the consumer.
You recently acquired Fiji Travel, your largest competitor. Can you tell us a little bit about what went into that business decision and how the acquisition will affect your business moving forward? We learned about the sudden closure of Fiji Travel from their clients. The acquisition has been a blessing for us, as it has allowed us to give back to the Fijian culture that we love so much. Fiji Travel has many clients who are South Pacific natives and who want to travel home to visit their friends and relatives, and that’s a large piece of their business that we are happy to take over. In only six months, the acquisition has increased our air revenue by about 20 percent.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve run into since becoming a travel professional?The internet has changed the way we do business and the way we interact with our customers. We have had to evolve and stay ahead of the curve to keep our ranking for key search terms in Google. We have an in-depth strategy and team that manages our online positions to ensure that we hold or improve our rankings.
What advice can you give other agents so that they can better thrive in their own businesses? Select a niche. You cannot be everything to everyone. We specialize in the South Pacific, and we make it our business to know everything about the destinations and resorts in these locations so we can offer our clients the most up-to-date information.