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Becky Lukovic, owner of Atlanta-based Bella Travel Planning, an affiliate of Travel Experts. (Photo Credit: Bella Travel Planning)
Success Stories focus on veteran advisors and how they achieved success over the years. Here’s a look at Becky Lukovic, owner of Atlanta-based Bella Travel Planning, an affiliate of Travel Experts.
How did you get your start as a travel advisor?
Like many people in our industry, I found myself planning trips for myself and consulting others on their own travel as favors for family and friends. I had done some large-scale event planning for conferences, concerts and festivals and knew I really enjoyed putting logistic and experiential puzzle pieces together.
I was standing on a bridge in Sorrento after an amazing trip I planned and thought to myself: I could do this for a living. My next question was: Who would hire me? Being entrepreneurial my entire adult life, I just thought to myself: I’ll just create my own company and charge a fee to consult people who want to travel like I did.
I was lucky enough to have some amazing mentors in those early years who properly introduced me to the inner workings of the travel industry.
How did you build your business?
The key is sticking around long enough where people trust you with their friends, family and colleagues.
Attending honeymoon or local festivals with a booth also helped me expand my client list in a targeted way. It’s essential to find the best fit – and you have to have a measurable goal of success at these shows. Just attending a random show doesn’t really work – you have to study the demographics of the show, who attends and what are they looking for.
What characteristic make you a successful advisor?
I love to collaborate with my colleagues and I try to treat my partners with respect – I think that is very important. No one wants to do business with an adversary. We can get in the weeds sometimes if there is an issue, but I always want to circle back with kindness and respect.
I care deeply about my clients’ travels and about them as people. Even after 20-plus years as an advisor, I still feel it’s an honor to plan someone’s travel. I like to think my clients feel that from me. My creativity and problem-solving skills also come in handy.
What have been your greatest challenges been?
Finding the time to get everything done and taking on way more than I can chew – it’s a perpetual problem with me, as I want to help everybody.
Learning when and how to fire a client. If our relationship starts taking on an adversarial tone and direction, it’s likely a sign we are no longer a good fit.
Work-life balance is also a challenge for me. It’s easy for an outsider to look at my life and see the glamour. In the end, I’m on my computer at the beach trying to get a bit of work done and I’m up early or late when traveling to check one more email. Evenings, Saturdays and Sundays bring more work tasks to do. I like to say that it’s the immediate-response-world we live in, but when I look closer, I am the one in the driver’s seat. It’s on me. This may be my biggest challenge right now. It’s not about clients calling me, but rather it’s about my own time management.
What have your greatest accomplishments been?
Going to some of the best travel shows, the first year of making $1 million in sales and having colleagues recognize me as an influencer in the industry all gave me mental high-fives. Having my booking assistant grow to the point where she is a rock star travel advisor herself with a good book of business is also extremely rewarding. Getting through the pandemic with no debt and being ready to continue business was a huge accomplishment. That took some work, fortitude, and vision for the future.
What tips can you provide advisors new to the industry?
Find a mentor. Discover your core values as a travel advisor. Ask your colleagues questions – questions are a sign of curiosity not weakness. Be a professional and act the part. Build a tribe of colleagues you trust. Listen more to your clients and talk less. Automate what you can – it’s life changing. Continue learning about industry best practices and adopt something new each year. If it’s available to you, learn Sabre. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but it’s a time-saving tool. It’s not as scary as people would think.
Claudette Covey is managing editor of AGENTatHOME
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