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Uniglobe Travel Center - 728 x 90 - April 2024
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Event Interviews – CoNexion Travel Professional Conversations

Unlocking the Secrets of Success: Exclusive Interviews from CoNexion Event 2023

 

Attended By: Joanie Ogg, CTC, MCC – Co-Founder – FindaHostTravelAgency.com

 

Read the Complete Event Coverage by Clicking Here

 

Christy Bartlett, Owner
Daydream Cruise and Travel
Roundrock, Texas

Joanie:I am speaking with Christy Bartlett with Daydream Cruise and Travel located in Roundrock, Texas today while sitting here in the lovely library onboard the Celebrity Equinox at the CoNexion Conference.

Thanks you so much for speaking with me today, Christy. First and foremost, congratulations to you on being awarded the prestigious 2023 Nexion Ambassador Award. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started in the travel business.”

Christy: “I was a stay at home Mom and when the kids were growing up we moved quite a few times. I developed an interest in real estate. Travel was always fun, especially with our family. So when it came time to figure out what I needed to do with that second chapter, it was a toss up between the two. Ironically, my husband’s cousin was going through the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program.

So I called her, Trish York, and picked her brain and she said it was great. She told me I should go through it. So I said alright, I’ll give it a shot. I did the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program and loved it. That was back in 2014 and I launched my business in October of 2014.

Joanie: “Did you know at that time what you wanted to specialize in?”

Christy: “I really wanted to focus on cruises. Austin,Texas it is a great drive market to Galveston. That has been kind of my bread and butter.  I am currently trying to pivot into the luxury market.”

Joanie: What cruise lines are you specializing in?”

Christy: “Right now it’s more mass market, but moving up into the luxury. Royal Caribbean is very popular with my clients and I have great success with them. I also sailed on Virgin Voyages and I really enjoyed it. I believe their no kids policy really works for them and there is certainly a market for that. I have clients that sail Regent Seven Seas who love it and the customer satisfaction is amazing.”

Joanie: “Have you attended a previous CoNexion?”

Christy: “I have been to five. They are amazing.”

Joanie: “How about other events that they had? Have you attended any of those?”

Christy: “I attended a bootcamp when I first started in 2014. I made some great friends there, in fact my roommate on board this ship is someone I met there.  I’ve done their groups training as well as  their marketing training in Minnesota. I just did their new revamped bootcamp too.”

Joanie: “What would you say is your most valuable takeaway from CoNexion?”

Christy: “You know, it is making those, oddly enough connections. It is meeting with different suppliers, meeting new people and just growing that network. I think it’s invaluable and I encourage every new agent to do it. Just go find your people and your tribe.”

Joanie:Let’s talk a bit about your award. I understand you have been nominated by your peers, which is such an honor. To share with our readers what this award is about the Ambassador Award honors an individual member of Nexion who best represents the spirit of the host agency in his or her work. The travel advisor, selected from Nexion member and staff nominations, embraces Nexion’s programs and tools, is a top seller of travel, consistently books and supports Nexion’s preferred partners, regularly attends Nexion events, and is an active advocate for travel and travel advisors. 

Joanie: “What an amazing achievement. You must feel very special. You are involved in your local network of Nexion members, is that correct?”

Christy: “Yes, I actually co-run our NexGen network group in Austin. My colleague Liz Gras and I put it together and we try to do meetings monthly. We bring in suppliers to do lunch and learns. Now we try to get together and just talk best practices as well. We have about 20 agents in the group.

It is a great group and so supportive of one another. We have four Nexion Circle of Excellence advisors in our area and their knowledge is invaluable.”

Joanie: “What tool or tools offered by Nexion do you find the most helpful in your business and why?”

Christy: “So I love Distinctive Voyages, which is really more of a Travel Leaders program.”

Joanie: “Great, can you elaborate on this for our readers?”

Christy: “It’s kind of a two part thing. There’s distinctive voyages and there’s an amenity voyage. They’re kind of lumped together. They will either offer group space on specific sailings and or they will have an added amenity on board. Distinctive Voyages has a host on board. This is something that I would love to do in the future. There’s extra onboard credit, special excursions and other unique offerings. It is fabulous to be able to offer a client these options.”

Joanie: “How about tools in terms of marketing support to share with your clients?”

Christy: “The Escape magazine is fantastic. I am able to pick and choose using AgentMate who I want to send out to and it is simple and easy to do. It is a beautiful publication and clients really respond to it.”

Joanie: “How has your business grown over the years?”

Christy: “My clients are growing up. Their travel needs and desires are changing so I need to keep up with the next steps for them.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to not do have to do additional advertising for new clients. It has all been repeat clientele and referrals. My business has grown year after year.”

Joanie: “If someone was considering joining Nexion, what advice or insight would you offer to them?”

Christy: “I would absolutely recommend Nexion and I do it often. The networking, support and the fact that they let you run your business the way you want is empowering.

The support is there whenever you need it. We have our own internal networking social media platform which is so helpful. We can tag someone in management like Heather and they are always very responsive and very approachable.”

Joanie: “Well, I think we have covered some great topics in this discussion.  I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity to spend time with you and get to know about your success. Again, my congratulations to you Christy.

 

 

 

Heather Kindred
Vice President, Business Development and Education
Nexion Travel Group and Program Director of Travel Leaders of Tomorrow

 

Joanie: “I am with Heather Kindred this afternoon on board the Celebrity Equinox at the CoNexion event. Heather is the Vice President, Business Development and Education at Nexion Travel Group and Program Director of Travel Leaders of Tomorrow

Let’s start by learning a little more about you and your industry background and how you have arrived at the role you play today?”

Heather: “I actually started in travel right out of high school. I did a summer internship which was a six month temporary position with Holland, America’s land division. I worked for Jack Anderson for six months.

I went to travel school in Bellevue, Washington. After that I was hired as a corporate advisor for an agency on Capitol Hill in Seattle called Holiday House Travel.  I was fortunate because somebody sat with me and I shadowed them and they in turn shadowed me. You know, the old fashioned training you got on the job. I went from there to working leisure and I worked for AAA. I took maternity leave for six years and then went back to work for a small agency.

Then my previous boss at AAA hired me back as a trainer. She was like, oh you will be perfect for the role. She knew I was that person that would sign up to do Apollo tips at the staff meeting because I wanted to share with everybody and all the ways it could be more efficient and more effective. It was just my nature. I always knew that training was in my DNA, more so than being a frontline advisor. I liked mentoring, I liked helping and I liked watching other people grow.

That is what brought me great joy. I have pretty much spent the rest of my career in training. I did take a little side journey into the healthcare industry for a few years doing training during the recession. I thought, I’ll go into healthcare, use my training skills and I’ll never have to worry about a downturn again. I was working for the University of Washington Medical Center and my heart wasn’t in it. I still loved the training piece of it but it was not travel, my heart wasn’t in the product I was training on.

So, I applied for the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow position that was posted by Nexion. I put my resume in and I had a call on Monday and an interview with Jackie on Tuesday. I had four more interviews with the Travel Leaders team and was hired to build the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program.”

Joanie: “Well, that was certainly quite an undertaking. Congratulations to you on the creation of such a successful program.”

Heather: “In five years we grew that quite successfully. It was going really well.I had one full-time employee and one part-time employee. Every year we would sit down and plan out our next year. At year five we said, how do we keep this fresh? How do we keep growing? That was the point when Jackie had the opportunity to invite me to lead her education team.I said, well, that sounds good. I took my employee and rejoined that team.”

Joanie: “So how many years have you been with Nexion Travel Group?”

Heather: “I have been with Nexion for 11 years in November of 2023.”

Joanie: “I know education is obviously very important to you and you’ve made seriously amazing inroads with your training options. What do you think is the “secret sauce”?”

Heather: “I believe it is when you have the right people. Motivation comes from taking joy in what you do. At Nexion, that’s something you can clearly see. The joy and the pleasure they get in what they do is so special. The team comes up with ideas of their own, often the best ideas. Someone will just decide, I think we should do X and we’ll explore that and get great support from the leadership and other teams. We work across teams very, very well.”

Joanie: “Well, you have to be willing though, to open yourself up to allow other people to have good suggestions. That is what a good leader does. In my opinion, that’s one of the reasons Jackie’s been so successful. She realizes other people’s talents and she obviously recognizes yours.”

Heather: “I totally agree. I just recently hired for another position and the number one thing I look for is someone’s kindness, their empathy. We have no room for anything but that in what we do. And to have the attitude and the aptitude is great, but that kindness, that empathy, that caring for other people is paramount.”

Joanie: “I know education is your passion. At the press conference you talked about the luxury events and you got kind of a twinkle in your eye when you addressed that topic. Can you share a little bit more about the luxury events and the responses you’re seeing as well as the buy-in from the advisor side?”

Heather:Absolutely. We’re seeing tremendous growth. There are two programs with Nexion that are geared to luxury travel sales. One that we’ve had, I think probably about six or seven years is the Luxury Sales Summit event, which is a qualifying event. So you do have to have a certain amount of luxury sales or upper premium sales to qualify or you’ve been to ILTM or some other qualifying event.

They work together at this event and a big part of that event is they do an idea exchange where they talk about ways to get better, to streamline, to be more efficient, to work smarter not harder to get new clientele, things like that. That piece of it along with the presentations from the luxury suppliers and the small either one-on-ones or very small round table type experiences is where they to really get to know the suppliers.

We just recently brought back Leap Into Luxury and we did it in person in Savannah, Georgia. It was a fantastic event. We asked people to self-qualify for that and say, if you have luxury business or you have a luxury clientele.

One of the things that we think is really unique about both those events is that a lot of times the supplier partners stay in the room as we are talking about luxury topics such as selling out of someone else’s pocketbook and not your own. They’re able to add their 2 cents in and they participate as a subject matter expert in the room. It is a unique event. We are definitely seeing growth in their luxury sales.”

Joanie: “Let’s talk about the Immersive Journeys for a minute. Can you elaborate on those for our readers?”

Heather: “Those came out of that time period where our partners had a lot of space and availability post Covid. We were struggling to fill some of our marketing events. We had been doing it for a few years and not getting the greatest turnout. And people would say It’s Minneapolis in the summer and we would like to do it someplace new. We took that feedback and changed the events to meet the needs of the advisors.

We did a storytelling theme on Avalon Waterways and a selling premium on Holland America and a marketing theme on AMA Waterways. These really have been so successful and we look forward to planning more. We have been doing five a year. We usually try to keep them smaller in the number of attendees and we have capped them at 35 attendees. Five of the 15 that attended the Avalon Storytelling event have increased their sales exponentially.”

Joanie: “Can we talk about the growth in Nexion membership for a few minutes? On our site FindaHostTravelAgency.com we have more than 300 reviews and a 5 Star rating from advisors for Nexion Travel Group. What tools do you feel are offered by Nexion to assist new to the industry entrants?”

Heather: “Folks can either participate in Travel Leaders of Tomorrow’s program or they will need to have some sort of formal travel school training to join Nexion such as The Travel Institute. We have the perfect roadmap to get them started with Travel Leaders of Tomorrow and then of course our coaching programs which are phenomenal. Martin Mussey is our Business Development and Education Manager and he manages NexStrides which provides one-on-one coaching or group coaching. The knowledge the advisors gain from the coaching programs is invaluable and has proven to be a key ingredient to their success.”

Joanie: “That is fantastic. As we end our time together, I have one more question for you. What would you like to see you and your team accomplish in 2024?”

Heather: “I would like us to have us hit every single event participation goal. We have all of our ducks in a row in terms of event schedules, which in and if itself is an historical event! I am very fortunate to have the right people on my team to accomplish these goals. Simply stated our team of eight is going to “kick butt” in 2024!”

Joanie: “Any last words to share with our readers at TravelProfessionalNEWS.com?”

Heather: “It is going to be a terrific year for Nexion and I just want us to continue to be the Host Agency to chase.”

Joanie: “Well, there is no doubt in my mind that you and the entire Nexion Travel Group will achieve those goals and more. I loved having the opportunity to sit and speak with you today. Thank you so much Heather.”

 

 

Jackie Friedman
President
Nexion Travel Group

 

Joanie: “I am here with Jackie Friedman, the President of Nexion Travel Group onboard the beautiful Celebrity Equinox. It is such an honor and a privilege to spend some time with you today, Jackie. You are a busy lady and I appreciate the opportunity to catch up with you.

This has been an incredible CoNexion, Jackie. Of course they always are amazing, but I think this one has topped all those I have had the pleasure of attending. I think this is my 5th CoNexion and TravelProfessionalNEWS is thrilled to be here. You just announced where the 2024 CoNexion will be at the last general session. Could you share that with our readers?”

Jackie:Yes, we are excited to be having next year’s event at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, Louisiana in September of 2024. We’ve done it there twice before. It’s a great location and right on the water. We shared an exciting video about the event earlier today with our 2023 CoNexion attendees. It should be great fun.”

Joanie: “In the past when we have chatted at the previous CoNexion events, we have spoken about your goals and plans for the coming year. I had the opportunity to sit with Heather Kindred on your staff yesterday. She shared some great insight into upcoming goals and plans. Let’s talk a little about your Nexion Family as I know how near and dear they are to you.”

Jackie: “At Nexion we want to continue to grow the right way. We are not striving to be the host agency with the most advisors. We want to make sure that we’re bringing on people that are doing it for the right reason, that are serious about building their businesses, whether that’s going to be a part-time business or a full-time business. We also want them to believe in and be a part of the Nexion community. We truly are like a family, both the staff and advisors. Even our supplier partners are a part of our family.

That’s something that I feel every time I get around our advisors. I want to continue that. The best reward for me is to see more and more of them become successful. So, I think that’s really my message and that’s really what motivates me. Obviously I have responsibilities to deliver results to the company and we’ve successfully done that every year. But the most meaningful results that I want to deliver are the tools, encouragement, training, marketing, and community to help our advisors reach their goals and be successful. That’s even more important to me.”

Joanie: “I have had the opportunity to share time with many of your advisors this week. It is very clear to me how goal oriented they are. They are obviously very focused on wanting to get on that next list of achievers. They strive to reach the numbers so that they can be up on that stage proudly sharing their story with their community of peers.”

Jackie: “It’s so interesting. They always say I want to see where I am ranked. One of the ways we do that is by sharing a widget we have for the advisors that helps them see where they are sales wise at any time. They are able to track their progress very easily and some do it regularly.

They also see where they’re ranked. They don’t see where anyone else is but they know where they are. But the one thing I tell them is, it’s great and that’s fun, but measure yourself against you because you can control what you do. You can’t control others. So if someone else comes in and they have more business and you drop down in the ranking, you don’t want that to get you down. Of course some folks are just more competitive in nature.

I always tell them to measure yourself over where you were last year. This is something each person has control over. We do also talk about the importance of KPIs, which are key performance indicators. The things that will help them understand how their business is doing such as the temperature and pulse of their business. We also encourage them to break any big goal into smaller goals.

That is why we introduced the Gateway to Excellence program to help them achieve the goal of being a part of the Circle of Excellence. The Gateway to Excellence helps us recognize those that are on the road to achieving that goal. It also really encourages them to support our preferred supplier partners. We don’t tell the what to sell as long as it is a reputable supplier. They can run their businesses the way they want. However, the recognition is based on their supporting our preferred partners.”

Joanie: “Can we speak to the Family Bonds Foundation for a few minutes? I know how very import this is to you. It is a wonderful cause and I know we at TravelProfessionalNEWS support it every year with our donation to continue to support the good work that is done by the foundation. Can you give me a little bit of information about how the Family Bonds Foundation was started?”

Jackie: “It actually started by John Lovell, the President of Travel Leaders Group. He was approaching a milestone birthday and kind of stepped back and said, you know, in my business career, I’ve accomplished a lot, but how do I do something that’s really going to make a difference for the travel industry? He thought long and hard and came up with the concept of the Family Bonds Foundation.

What it’s all about is to help people in our industry and or their families, or their communities that are in need. It could be really any cause such as people having hardships of some sort. It might be medical or perhaps a loss of property, natural disaster assistance and more. It could be folks that are dealing with being primary caregivers to elderly parents or kids with special needs. It might be single parents, just struggling in general. It could be folks that have any kind of unforeseen expense. It is meant to provide them with financial support.

In 2016, two years after the foundation started, John handed the reins over to me to lead the foundation. Our goal is to raise funds throughout the year so that we can give grants. We have four grants each year that are scheduled, one each quarter.

Then there have been times when we’ve done special, out of cycle grants if an event happens where there is a need that really can’t wait till the next month. An example of this would be Maui right now and the wild fire disaster they have been dealing with. We donated to an organization that was helping to evacuate Ukrainian refugees and we also supported victims of the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey.”

Joanie: “How much in grants has the foundation awarded to date?”

Jackie: “We have given out over $370,000 and have awarded over 200 grants. We want to raise awareness and we want people to know that the foundation is out there. This is not just for Nexion advisors. It’s really open to anyone in the travel industry. We have even given grants to folks outside of the travel industry, but primarily it is focused on our industry. Anyone can apply for a grant. We have our website, FamilyBondsFoundation.com and there is button there that says nominate.

We also have fundraisers throughout the year. We are coming off one now, a silent auction and raffle. We do that twice a year in conjunction with two of our largest conferences. It is the one foundation for the people in our industry, whether they’re on the supplier side or on the agency side,”

Joanie: “Well, it is certainly near and dear to your heart and I know I speak for everyone in our industry when I say thank you for all that you are doing to support this amazing cause.

Let’s talk about something else that is important to Jackie Friedman. You have just been named the Chair of ASTA. Congratulations. Who did you follow in this role?”

Jackie: “Marc Casto was the most recent chair? I call the gentlemen who I followed in this position “Jackie’s Exes”. I had a chance to watch all four amazing men and to learn from them. It really is a labor of love and of course a volunteer position

Zane Kerby, the President and CEO of ASTA has done an amazing job. He’s a great leader and his team is phenomenal. In my current role as chair of the board and the board in general, we’re there to provide input and direction. But the real work is done by Zane and his team. ASTA has achieved an incredible turnaround in the past 10 years or so. When I started on the board, I had a chance to learn from the best and know I will do my best for the next two years. It is an honor to hold this position.”

Joanie: “How often do you meet?”

Jackie: “We meet monthly online and once a quarter in person. We typically try and do it in conjunction with another event. We do have monthly calls. I also have a monthly executive committee call. The executive committee includes Lee Thomas from Altour, Kelly Bergin from Duglin Travel Group and Kathy Bedell with BCD Travel. We meet with Zane and his senior staff once a month. We do believe we are making a difference and helping to forge the continued growth of ASTA”

Joanie: “You obviously feel good about what your are doing and that you are making a positive difference in the association. That is really what it is all about. What would you like to share as a few last words?”

Jackie: “Travel advisor should take the time to understand our trade association and the benefits. I would imagine many of your readers would fall into the independent advisor category. It’s very reasonably priced to join and there are just so many benefits they will get from consumer leads to other resources and even health insurance programs in some states.”

Additionally they do so much work in promoting and defending the travel industry. They can’t do it without us. I really encourage everyone to support our trade association. There are a lot of industries where it’s a requirement to be a member of a trade association. It is not for our industry, but it is just the right thing to do.

Joanie:Thank you Jackie for your time today and sharing your invaluable insight with our readers. Congratulations on another successful event and we look forward to spending time with you, your team and the Nexion members next year at CoNexion 2024 in New Orleans.”

 

 

Mike Edic
Owner
Pioneer Travel, LLC
Oak Creek, WI

 

Joanie: “I have the pleasure today of speaking with Mike Edic, the Owner of Pioneer Travel located in Oak Creek, WI. We are on our first day of the 2023 CoNexion on board the beautiful Celebrity Equinox. I had the opportunity to speak with Mike a few years ago during another CoNexion conference so we are going to check back in and catch up on all that Mike has been up to.

I’m excited to hear about your business mix these days. Are you still focused on corporate travel?”

Mike: “I still do a great deal of corporate, but I’ve branched out more into the leisure side of things.

I am booking many all inclusives to the Caribbean due living in Wisconsin. People want to get away for the winter.  I also started doing a lot of group travel. We do escorted group travel at least once a year to Europe. I work with some of the colleges nearby, like Marquette University and I have planned several groups for them. I sell destination weddings, do bachelorette parties and bachelor parties. So my business has branched out to a little bit of everything.”

Joanie: “What would you say your corporate to leisure business mix percentages are in 2023?”

Mike: “Corporate is still my backbone. Corporate is probably about a 60 / 40 split right now but it was previously 80 corporate and 20 leisure. So the leisure side has really expanded. Everybody wants to travel after Covid. Everybody’s got cabin fever. They want to get out of town and, and go enjoy life and make memories.

During Covid corporate travel was non-existent. So there was no business. Nobody could  have live meetings. A lot of my corporate business deals are with schools, so with schools not being open, that too was non-existent. A couple places that do mining up in Canada would still travel here and there. But for the most part, corporate was dead in the water.”

Joanie: When we last spoke, your daughter, Jennifer had just joined your business. That was her first CoNexion. I recall she specialized at that time in Disney. Is she still focused on that niche?”

Mike: “She is actually teaching full-time on a reservation in New Mexico. Teaching is her first love. She loves giving back and does many different things for the teaching community as far as programs go. However, she still is selling travel focused on Disney and Universal Studios. She is so well versed on both.  In fact, I go to her often when I have  questions about Disney and Universal because she is so in tune with what’s happening.”

Joanie: “That takes me to a question that I know is near and dear to your heart. You said that Jennifer does a lot of volunteering and support for those in need on the reservation where she teaches. I am going to go out on a limb and say the apple does not fall far from the tree. I know volunteerism is very near and dear to your heart. Can you tell me a little bit more about why it’s so important to you, why you have such an affinity to wanting to help those who really need help?”

Mike: “When I was growing up, I experienced what it’s like to not have material things much less a home. I’ve made this very public, so I don’t mind speaking on this. When I was 18, I was homeless in Santa Barbara, California. After high school I lived in a cardboard shack for two years. So between between that and living in the car, I have seen a great deal.

It was actually illegal in California to camp in your car. I’d have to be moving around trying to find different places that I could stay and sleep in my car at night. I found a church and they allowed me to stay in the parking lot. I literally lost pretty much everything. The only things I could have had to fit with me in my car. This was back in the mid eighties, so I know what it’s like to not have something. I know what it’s like for people to not really care about what happens to you. So you have to survive. I had a choice of either doing drugs, selling drugs, (which I never did) or just try to survive.

I finally got myself out of California. Fortunately, I had a friend that loaned me some money so I could actually move back to Fargo ND where I used to live. I  started all over from scratch and slowly rebuilt everything in my life.

So volunteering has become very important to me. I want to give back. If I can make a difference in one person’s life, it means the world to me. I became very involved with Special Olympics. I donated a lot of my time to umpiring softball and refereeing basketball.

I’ll do a ton of other things for the Ronald McDonald House. My former wife’s nephew had over 100 surgeries. He was born with many deformities. They would always have to go to the hospital and the parents would always stay at the Ronald McDonald House. I was introduced to what the Ronald McDonald House does for families like that who have somebody in the hospital that has surgeries or whatever the case is. I do a lot of donations for the Ronald McDonald House.

I’ll do shopping for the Ronald McDonald House. I’ll buy toys so every family will have toys Christmas morning. Since they’re not going to be home, at least they’ll have a little bit of normalcy with Santa coming to visit and drop of toys.  I’ll also donate my time to a place called The Eternal Wish, which is Make A Wish for adults.”

Joanie: “Mike, I recall you had a number of ICs that work with you. How many do you currently support?”

Mike: “I have seven independent agents working with me.  Each have their own niche and specialty. Additionally, I want them to be passionate about something and about giving back somehow. As long as they make an effort to be passionate about something and give back, that is all I ask.”

Joanie: “I know how important Nexion educational events are to you. How many have you attended?”

Mike: “I’ve been to every CoNexion since 2013 and to all nine corporate connection conferences.”

Joanie: “Well that certainly is a testament to the value of these events. What do you feel is the most valuable takeaway from attending CoNexion?”

Mike: “It’s the networking with all the other agents. There are agents that have different specialties and of course I don’t know everything about everything. So I can go to Danny Genung about his cruise knowledge and see how he sells his cruises and how he does his videos. As an example, I spoke with Diane Mason today about Fiji which is not something I am that familiar with as a destination. I just asked Diane what suppliers she uses for Fiji and now I have the information needed to help my client. It’s invaluable to have the opportunity to connect with my peers. You also get to know the suppliers and have conversations with them and develop relationships.”

Joanie: “What tools does Nexion offer that you find the most helpful?”

Mike: “I think I would have to say Agent Mate. It has come such a long way and has really helped me to be more organized. I am not typically an organized person. I used to put everything in the GDS and now I can use all the power that Agent Mate provides me.  I can keep track of all my clients and reach out to them for birthdays, anniversaries and more.

Every Christmas I’ll run a list of all my clients and send out Christmas cards. I could never have done that in the GDS. The program has been a huge plus for me. The direct Mail options have also been a great tool for marketing.”

Joanie: “We all know that 2023 has been a banner year and a very busy one. It has had some challenges for agents however, one of those being airline travel.  There are so many challenges agents face that clients never even know about, behind the scenes things to deal with so that they have a seamless trip. Airline delays and cancellations have been at an all time high. Can you speak to that?”

Mike: “It’s been more difficult mainly because the flights are so full. If a flight cancels or is delayed, there aren’t many options or space to roll them over to another flight or airline.

Many of the pilots during Covid left and took early retirement and cashed out. There is  certainly a pilot shortage because so many of the seasoned pilots left. Trying to find replacements for all those pilots has been difficult for the airlines. The airlines are packing the schedules and the flights are full and often oversold.”

Joanie: “This been interesting year in travel. Have you seen an increase in demand for travel in the past 12 months? And what are some of the trends or requests that you are seeing from your clients, anything different, anything new?”

Mike: ?Business has been incredible. I think because of COVID many people have pent up travel frustrations. They want to get out, they don’t want to stay home all the time. They want to make those memories while they can.”

Joanie: “Are you finding them spending more on their travel plans?”

Mike: “They’ll spend a little more. They want a nicer product and they want to stay a little longer.”

Joanie:If you were speaking with an agent that was considering joining Nexion, what would you tell them?”

Mike: “I tripled my income when I came to Nexion just because of all the support that I have received.  The support and the tools to build and grow a business are there at every step of the way. To me it’s a no brainer, Nexion is the place to be.”

Joanie: “That’s the best quote of all. It’s a no brainer, Nexion is the place to be!

Mike, my friend, I cannot thank you enough for this delightful conversation and the time you have shared with me.  I look forward to your continued success. It has truly been a pleasure to speak with you.”

 

Seth Wayne
Owner / Group Specialist
Sail With Seth
Las Vegas, NV

Joanie:I am here at CoNexion 2023 on board the Celebrity Equinox with Seth Wayne, the owner of Sail With Seth. Thank you for your time today.  I am looking forward to sharing your story with our readers.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started as a travel agent.”

Seth: “I grew up in South Florida. I left Florida when I was 18 years old and moved to Michigan. My dad’s side of the family is from there. I moved to Michigan to attend college because I wanted to live up north and see snow for the first time. I really loved the snow and the cold so much that I started my career in Alaska at a TV station in Fairbanks.  I went to school for communications in meteorology, but I always loved traveling. When I was seven, I went on my first cruise and I begged my parents to always take me to Port Everglades to see the ships all the time.

However, I, uh, went a completely different route and went into a career in television and went into news, meteorology and weather. It was a blast. So I worked at TV stations in Alaska, Kansas and Oregon. I really learned my way around different weather patterns.

My entire adult life has been in the northwest and I just recently moved to the desert. So mountains have always, you know, been a part of me, at least in my adult life.

Joanie: “When you were presenting during the General Session on the first day of the event you talked about a position you took with Holland America Line. Can you elaborate on that?”

Seth: “Holland America Line offered me a position to be their brand ambassador and director of communications and content.

Sally Andrews was in charge of communications marketing at Holland America Line. I worked with them a lot because when I was on TV in Seattle, I wanted to profile cruise ships. I think the biggest void in television in Seattle was that people just did not realize how important the cruise industry was to the city.

Not only is it bringing the money, but the guests and the so on and so forth. So I got to really profile a lot of their ships. And it was a great role. I was able to form a great relationship with them.

In 2019 I was offered a position with Holland America Line and I did not hesitate to say yes. It was December 27th, 2019 that I left my TV career of 20 years and went into the travel industry full time. They said I would travel the world and I was doing what I wanted to do for two months, and then by the third month while onboard the Zandam, which was one of the ships that was really hit by Covid in many ways.

We were in South America trying to get home which was riddled with obstacles. There were several guests on board who got sick and eventually passed from Covid. However it revitalized and it changed my role at Holland America to more of that guest facing brand ambassador position. I worked with the onboard team via Airdropping putting together videos on the ship.

Because we were quarantined in our rooms as I was keeping myself and other people on the staff doing videos and putting them on guest’s televisions trying to pump up the mood.

It was a very bizarre welcome into the industry. We went through a major layoff, not only Holland America Line but all of the Carnival Corporation. That was May of 2020 and I did not know what that meant for me. I was kept on board to at least keep the momentum of cruising happening. So I really got to tap into my broadcasting skills.

When back on land and working from home we would create virtual cruises, myself and two others on my team, because we had to really reinvent the wheel. We had no cruising of course and I was told the reason why you’re here is to keep the brand alive. So to keep the brand alive. It was social media, social media and more social media.

We really had fun. It was different and of course, we wanted to be on board, but we had to do this. Holland America then brought in all new management and decided that my role no longer needed and they were going in a different direction.”

Joanie: “That had to be very disappointing and life changing for you. When was this?”

Seth: “It was 2022. I was devastated. I had never been laid off. I loved what I was doing there and seeing what we could do moving forward. I went into full depression mode. I was in a corner, covers over my head. But I thought, okay, I have to reinvent myself. Not only did I just have to reinvent this brand, but now Seth has to find Seth. And I didn’t want to go back into television. I had a great run, but that was now in the past. I won two Emmy Awards and I went out on top.”

Joanie: “So what happened next for you?”

Seth: “Travel has always been in my blood. What do I do? A friend reached out to me and said, you should do this, and you should be involved with Nexion. And I thought, why not! Nexion changed my life.

Jackie Friedman is an amazing person. From the very start she reached out to me and did not make me feel like I was just a number. I felt like I was a part of a evolving community.”

Joanie: “You were at CoNexion in 2022, correct?”

Seth: “Yes, I was there last year at Disneyland in Anaheim. I was brand new and had maybe closed five sales. I didn’t really know anyone. So I went into this business model of what I was doing at Holland America Line, which we had a franchise called Sail with Seth. I thought, you know what, let me carry this on and go to different cruise lines and show the world and show other travelers what it’s like to travel with me as a private concierge.

I launched several trips and it took off rather quickly and I launched more trips, took off more quickly.”

Joanie: “Seth, you are obviously loving what you are doing.  Your passion is contagious.”

Seth: I absolutely love it. I don’t think I’d ever thought I would be working for myself and here I am.”

Joanie: “What tools does Nexion offer to you that you utilize and you feel are the most helpful for your business?”

Seth: “I think being a part of Nexion and Travel Leaders really opens the door for a lot of exclusive deals and a great deal of buying power. It provides opportunities for me to relay great benefits that others wouldn’t receive. I think being a part of a bigger consortium is a big help for my business.”

Joanie: “This has been so great getting to know you and hearing about your business journey. Can you share any closing thoughts with our readers?”

Seth: “Nexion is like a family to me and we all are there for each other. Jackie has a big family! You will get as much out of Nexion as you are willing to put into it. There this sense of belonging to something bigger than you, but that you’re just as much a part of it as everyone else

I can get out of Nexion is as much as you put into it.

Joanie: “Thank you Seth for this view into your past and current career. I look forward to following your successful journey.”

 

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