PHOTO: Arenal Volcano; travel agent Trapper Martin says one of his favorite places to visit is Costa Rica (photo via Flickr/Isaac Bordas)
Trapper Martin has always loved to travel, but he fell in love with cruising during his 20s.
That’s when he started to ask questions.
“It seemed that I was putting together group travel plans for our friends multiple times a year,” said Martin, Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist. “While we were on the Carnival Magic inaugural sailing, I met a CruiseOne agent, Nancy Real, who I am sure I bothered with endless questions over the voyage. Also during that trip, I had the chance to meet multiple times with several executives from Carnival Cruise Line and that got my wheels spinning on how I could start in the travel business.
Two months later he was in a travel agent training class.
“After 15 years in the corporate world, I was really looking [to] start a new business doing something that I love that I could grow into eventually doing full-time,” said Martin.
He also wanted to find something that his partner Shane, (who is now his husband), could get involved in if he decided he would want to do this full-time as well. Today, LGBT travel is about 50 percent of their business.
“Personally, we put together larger groups that travel two or three times a year on cruises; that is always fun,” Martin said. “I would say the first couple of years I didn’t focus as much on LGBT travel because I was still learning the ropes, but after that it naturally became easy to get into more areas of focus with some smaller vendors such as Atlantis/RSVP etc., as well as to focus on land travel with resorts that are LGBT friendly.”
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He said the largest obstacles for LGBT travelers are just knowing the areas where they are traveling: “It is very easy to get used to living in your current environment and lifestyle.
"For frequent travelers, I think they are aware of the different countries that they are in and potential issues about public displays of affection, etc. For many younger LGBT travelers who haven’t necessarily seen or been exposed to backlash for being LGBT, it is important to remind them about sensitivities in various cultures and to be aware of their surroundings."
Martin doesn’t think that this stops many LGBT travelers from exploring new places or especially taking cruises, “but for week-long land trips, they obviously would want to travel somewhere they could relax the entire time,” he said.
While cruising has always been popular with his clients, Martin said that there is more interest in international, Alaska charters or partial charter cruises as well.
“There has also been increased interest in RV travel throughout the U.S., especially in the Southwest,” he said.
Martin enjoys what he does, especially planning special events for his clients.
“The best was actually two weeks ago when I sent a group of friends over to Iceland for a five-day trip that was jam-packed with activities—One of them being their marriage ceremony!” he said. “They couldn’t have asked for everything to work out better. The aurora borealis were spectacular the night of their wedding, and the pictures were amazing. The entire trip was a social media frenzy for them and for our business.”
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Martin said that the biggest obstacle is making sure agents are front and center with vendors and showing the value of bringing in business for them.
“This all comes down to customer loyalty and showing value in our service to clients,” he said. “Also, as the number of agents continues to rise, it is imperative that training and knowledge remains a top priority. Travel clubs that basically allow anyone to join diminishes our value and reputation.”