Travel Experts Executives Weigh In On Travel Boom, Summit and More

Travel Experts Executives Weigh In On Travel Boom, Summit and More

by Claudette Covey
on April 26, 2023
Last updated: 12:45 PM ET, Wed April 26, 2023

In the aftermath of Travel Experts’ third Summit aboard Seabourn Ovation, we caught up with the luxury host agency’s President and Owner Susan Ferrell and Executive Director Sharon Fake to discuss a wide range of topics, including the company’s key selling points. 

Travel Experts’ advisors had quite a year in 2022, with numbers up significantly over those in 2019. What do you attribute that success to?

SUSAN FERRELL: We had a huge increase in numbers of both advisors, and sales. Many advisors found their existing host agencies to be changing the terms of their contracts post COVID, and the changes were not to their benefit. When that happens, advisors begin to examine their options, and we’re usually a good option. As to sales, I think everyone saw a huge rebound in travel in the last 18 months. In general, the traveling public could not wait to get out of town.

What are Travel Experts’ key selling points in terms of what it offers its advisors?

FERRELL: At face value, our 100 percent commission program is hugely attractive to a high-producing advisor. But after that, we find that our 34 years of support for independent contractors (ICs) is an important component. Most of our new members come from referrals. When a current advisor refers someone new, their testament to our support means a lot to someone who is coming from an environment where they cannot get a call returned or an email answered. When they weigh the lack of support against the money given to a host in a commission split, our program makes a lot more sense.

SHARON FAKE: I also think a key feature of the Travel Experts’ program is its simplicity and that is has remained so successful for over 30 years.

What type of advisor is ideally suited for Travel Experts?

FERRELL: Our ideal candidate is someone who is well established in the industry with a loyal and consistent client base in order to support our monthly fee. We do not accept those new to travel, as we do not offer “basic training,” as you might call it. Beyond that, advisors need to be able to work independently, understanding that they are the drivers of their own business.

Travel Experts

Travel Experts President and Owner Susan Ferrell (Photo Credit: Travel Experts)

FAKE: Our advisors are both professional and collaborative with each other and with our partners. They have both internal and external respect in the industry and we do all possible to nurture that environment.

How has Travel Experts grown and evolved over the last five to 10 years?

FERRELL: We continue to grow steadily and organically. New processes are added each year, keeping us up to date with the latest technology in the industry. We pride ourselves on being rock solid, both financially and in the consistent high level of support we offer to ICs, which does not waver. I think in today’s host agency environment, that consistency is something that has value to an IC.

FAKE: We evolve with the feedback we receive from our independents as the travel industry has had to meet the changes brought about by the pandemic and post-pandemic conditions. We are fortunate to have a supportive and responsive employee staff that understands the challenges of our independents and provides consistent, responsive help in a timely and efficient manner.

What are your thoughts on the success of the Summit?

SUSAN FERRELL: Based on the buzz on board, and the very favorable feedback we’ve received post cruise, we feel like we scored a home run. So many positive email remarks, both directly and on the survey we sent, from both advisors and suppliers, are very, very rewarding.

FAKE: We received a large number of solicited and unsolicited comments following the Summit from both advisors and supplier partners and all were 100 percent positive, particularly on the value that suppliers contributed to this event.

Travel Experts

Travel Experts Executive Director Sharon Fake (Photo Credit: Travel Experts)

How does it compare to the two Summits that preceded it?

FERRELL: This is number three and we feel we’ve hit the right formula. Number one was on a much larger ship, with our group a smaller part of the thousands of passengers. Number two was great, chartering two river ships. The problem was being split between the two was not conducive to networking in the evenings, as the ships sailed at dinnertime and there was no way to access the other ship. Chartering the Ovation seemed to check all the boxes with size, amenities, itinerary, etc.

FAKE: With our advisor’s emphasis on selling luxury, they felt that having such a personalized experience on board a luxury product was very important to their efforts to both experience and ultimately, confidently sell the product.

What can you tell us about the next Summit?

FERRELL: I’ll leave that to my management team as it’s a closely held secret! Putting one together is an 18-month process, but they have already started on number four.

FAKE: I have sent out an email noting that on April 26, we will be issuing an invitation for Summit 4.

What advice do you have for independent contractors starting out in the industry?

FERRELL: The mechanics of travel arranging can be taught and the destination knowledge will develop. My advice is relationships, relationships, relationships. Building a steady client base is building a business and being an independent contractor means you are a business owner. Work those relationships!

FAKE: “I love to travel and I am good with people” only goes so far in this business. The rewards are many, but the hard work to enter and be successful should not be taken lightly. The commitment to client service at the luxury level can be 24/7. So be realistic in choosing this career but know that once in, you will love it.

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