Goodbye and Hello!
An amazing chapter of my life has come to a close. A new one is opening that looks to be just as enlightening and fun. I am no longer working as a Virtuoso travel agent. Two years ago I entered into a partnership with Judi Walker ( @alliancetravel on Twitter) the owner of Alliance Travel Partners. She has spent 15 years building a very successful luxury travel business. She made the audacious decision to bring in a former stock market trader and analyst and teach him the business of booking luxury travel. I had a wonderful teacher. We end our business relationship as friends.
I had become disenchanted after 18 mostly successful years trading stocks. Those closest to me urged me to find a niche in the travel industry. It was suggested I become a travel agent, but after researching the industry I did not see an easy entry point. I was at the point of looking for another option when my hairdresser Hilda Villaverde suggested I talk to Judi. Hilda is an ordained minster, inspirational speaker, author, and a friend whose opinions I value. After getting to know me, Judi rolled the dice and my journey to becoming @Tomtravel2 began.
I first took a careful look at the Internet landscape in the industry. It was my opinion (and remains my opinion) that most travel agents and most travel agencies were doing a poor job using the web to attract clients. I set out to build a better online mouse trap. After much study of website design, SEO and SEM I built the site that Judi continues to use with some success. The strategy worked well enough that I could have built a business for myself as a luxury travel agent over several years. What works even better is providing exemplary service which leads to referrals. Random leads are often dead ends that can be annoying. The calls generated by referrals mostly lead to bookings.
After much study and some great couching by my mentor I became a pretty good travel agent. It would have taken many more years to gain the product knowledge and sales skills I would need to become a great one. During this process I was urged to check out Twitter by Judi’s sister Linda who works with some social media luminaries ( @lindaatv3 on Twitter). I began to study the social media gurus and by trail and error inserted myself into the travel community on Twitter. I discovered that this medium was a much better fit for my skill set than being a travel agent. By the time Travel Mart was over I realized I needed to start looking for a niche in travel that would put my best foot forward.
I was an early adapter of the Internet starting in the 1980’s. I helped my previous associates migrate from proprietary systems for stock market news and quotes to Internet based systems as they became usable. Anyone who remembers dial-up access via compuserve and aol knows that it took time for the Internet to mature into what we see today. By the time broadband was widely available and affordable, I was already hooked on the utility of the medium. I also was a fan of the early social tools via chat, forums, and user groups. Twitter is a natural extension of my personal web evolution.
So where is all of this heading? I am not sure of the destination at this time, but I am confident that the journey will be interesting! I still feel that travel agents, travel agencies, travel consortiums, and agent organizations could benefit dramatically if they stopped looking at the internet as the problem. The problem they face is how to win market share back from the OTAs. The Internet is the solution for companies and organizations that understand how to play the game. The advent and spread of Twitter and other social media have made this game even more winnable.
I also am of the opinion that most travel suppliers could make far better use of Twitter and other social media. I am interested in helping those companies who would like to make full use of a very complex medium. I see some making great strides, and some doing their brand image more harm than good. It is my hope to provide some insight based on what I have learned over the past year building my own brand on Twitter.
I look forward to continuing to connect with all of you on Twitter. I also plan to share insights I have gained on this blog. I took some time to consider my next steps and say my goodbyes to the great people I was associated with as a travel agent. My journey as a blogger and advisor to the travel industry has now begun. Goodbye, and Hello!
I welcome your comments…