For a brief time in the 1980s, Denise Koranek enjoyed working for a travel agency. However, after she grew up and moved away, the idea of a career as a travel agent was put on the back burner.
Twenty years later, her husband decided to offer an incentive cruise to his customers, so he asked Denise if she would consider organizing and arranging it rather than using their corporate travel agency. (She answered with an emphatic 'yes.')
After organizing a cruise for 100 people, it sparked Koranek's interest in the industry again, so she became a home-based travel agent for a Florida OTA.
"I learned a lot and later transitioned to be an independent consultant with a host agency in 2007," said Koranek of AWE Sunset Vacations & Travel Planning in Grapevine, Texas. "I became a travel agent for more reasons than just a love of travel. I can utilize my gifts of excellent organization, research and compilation along with an economics background to run a sound financial business."
Today, she specializes in group arrangements, romance travel and family vacations, but she appreciates clients who are single and not afraid to travel the world alone. As a result, she puts together complicated FIT's, mostly to Europe.
"I just had a client get off a Dubai to Hong Kong cruise and another from a bucket list FIT to Egypt," she said. "I so admire watching them live out their dreams."
To help market her travel agency, she awards her clients for their referrals.
"I offer an Amazon Gift Card for qualified referrals after the referral has traveled," she said.
To others who want to go down the same path and become a travel agent, Koranek believes that the biggest obstacle to a successful career is resisting the temptation to start out alone as an independent contractor with a host agency.
"The smarter way is to find someone to mentor you," she said. "Be a part of their team and learn from them. You may retain less of your earned commissions, but the training will be worth it. As you gain knowledge and skills, you can then negotiate for a higher percentage and lower monthly fee."
She also said that becoming a successful travel agent isn't just about having a product/supplier knowledge.
"Invest in some business courses or training so that you know how to run a business successfully when it comes to financials," she said. "Open a separate bank account and credit card, etc. so you can track your income and expenses accurately and separately from your personal finances."
When she's not putting together vacations for others, she enjoys traveling to anywhere in Europe.
"I love the history, especially that of the great world wars," she said. "I come back a more in-touch person. The food is so enjoyable, and I always learn from their discoveries in life that are different than mine."
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