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Katelyn O’Shaughnessy is proof that if you work hard enough, any goal is attainable. When O’Shaughnessy decided to enter the travel industry, she set her sights on selling luxury trips with TravelStore. She made a consistent effort to attend networking events and meet as many agents as possible, but she also emailed TravelStore every week, offering her marketing and web development skills in exchange for travel agency training. O’Shaughnessy’s tenacity eventually won the company over — she’s worked with TravelStore in Los Angeles for nearly two years.
In addition to her work as a travel agent, O’Shaughnessy recently accepted a position on the national team of Millennials in Travel, serving as the director of communications and technology. She is also the CEO and founder of the travel app, TripScope, which launched in December 2013. To date, Tripscope has signed 344 independent travel agencies in addition to 17,000 agents comprised of leisure, corporate and independent travel agents.
Why did you create TripScope and who is your target audience?
I’m a huge tech geek, so I use technology to provide my clients with pertinent travel resources, resulting in pain-free travel experiences. I developed the travel app and website TripScope specifically for travel agents. The program helps provide travel documents and itineraries to clients, and it features push notification software that allows both agent and client to have constant two-way messaging communication from anywhere in the world. TripScope also allows agents to market their services through their clients’ social media sites, generating a greater reach of referrals, potential clients and increased revenues
What can we expect from TripScope in 2014?
TripScope has unveiled a new feature where agents can forward their reservations to [email protected] and the itineraries will be created and customized to the traveler’s interest. For a small fee, the itineraries are then sent back to the agent, for them to send to their clients on the same day.
Creating your own app was an ambitious pursuit. What other business goals do you have?
I have big goals for myself, and I’m very persistent. I won’t stop until I achieve all of them. It’s a very exciting time to be in travel — there’s a change in the demographic of clients, as well as a wide variety of technology and information readily available to us. I will continue to grow my knowledge and development of travel technology and find new and innovative methods to provide my clients with the best travel experiences possible. I plan to bring global awareness and interest to the travel industry and prove the value and relevance of today’s travel agents. My boss told me something that I’ll never forget. She said, “Be a force to be reckoned with.” And that’s exactly what I am going to do.
What issues do you think our industry is facing right now? What can we do to address those issues?
The biggest issue is proving that travel agents are relevant in a world of online booking engines. We need to create awareness of our services and showcase ourselves as a reputable outlet to book consumer’s travel needs.
Big companies continue to use corporate travel agents for their business trips. If we could capitalize on this pre-existing market and integrate leisure travel services, I strongly believe we could revitalize the reputation and usage of travel agents from a consumer’s standpoint.
What do you like about being a travel agent?
Everything! I love learning about foreign places and cultures. I like that no two days are ever the same, and I like that I’m constantly expanding my knowledge and expertise on destinations with each new client. I love how social this industry is — I think it’s safe to say if you’re in this industry, you have a very outgoing and adventurous personality. I have developed wonderful friendships with other agents, tour operators and travel professionals from the various events, conferences and trips we attend do together.
What are some misconceptions you think that young people have when they hear the words ‘travel agent?’
When people hear the title ‘travel agent,’ they usually think of an elderly woman working at an outdated storefront in a strip mall — it’s like we’re the equivalent of a VCR. Again, we have to change our reputation and prove our relevance.
Young people also think that travel agents are going to cost more, but the truth of the matter is sometimes we actually get better rates than those offered online. They also don’t realize the added value we can provide at no extra cost: room upgrades, food and beverage credits and personalized touches to make their vacations extra special.
What advice do you have for agencies who want to attract younger employees?
You don’t need to ‘attract’ younger employees, because working in travel is already extremely attractive to many millennials. I think an agency’s main focus should instead be to maintain and develop younger employees. Invest in these new hires, train them properly and provide them with guidance and counsel. Find their strengths, then allow them to use these skills to assist with bookings.