The 'Monday Minute' is a weekly feature at PAX dedicated to highlighting the movers, shakers, leaders and rule-breakers in Canada's travel agent community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Lois Barbour
Company: Travel Time - TPI
Location: St. John's, NL
How long have you been a travel agent? 15 year and counting!
What is your specialty?
When I first got started, I specialized in the romance travel niche. So destination weddings and honeymoons have been the biggest driver for me, and clients continue to book with me for anniversary trips and vow renewals. Now that we've expanded to have a team of agents, we have specialists in cruises, Disney, group travel of different kinds, and we even have a Las Vegas specialist!
What do you love most about being a travel agent?
I love helping couples and families create travel memories! From my own travels, the times I have enjoyed with my family on our travels have created lasting memories and I love the idea of others enjoy that as well.
What's one travel trend you've noticed as of late?
Travellers are placing higher value and expectation on their experiences. They are looking for places that are different and not just the usual top three south destinations. When we post a great offer for one of the more exotic locations, we see our inbox explode with people anxious to explore, seeing if it can work for them.
Over the years, how have you had to adapt to changes taking place in the industry?
At the end of the day, being a travel agent is all about relationships with people. People need to know that you're an advocate for them, and you're providing advice with their best interests at heart. This is the core of the business and I don't think it will ever change. What I have noticed changing is where those relationships get started and where they're maintained. Online spaces like social media – Facebook is a very important way for us to keep in touch with our clients, along with using a business page and Facebook groups – or our Travel Time TPI website allows for communication and relationship building.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary and/or travel package are you most proud of?
Typically this is probably about a high-value travel planning opportunity, but for me I would have to look back on meaningful travel. I had a client who always wished to go on a Sandals Resorts vacation, but always felt it ended up being ‘too expensive’ and they would choose something else lower priced. Then out of the blue, the wife was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, and they called me and wanted to know if I could arrange a Sandals vacation for them on short notice. With some help from my partners at Sandals, we were able to arrange an amazing experience for them to St. Lucia, and they took their dream vacation. It was their only Sandals vacation together, but it makes me glad that I was able to help them put together their dream vacation while they could.
What's your number one piece of advice to other travel agents?
Especially for the home-based travel agents, I would recommend the importance of becoming integrated in the travel agent community, both in person and online. The network of support is amazing, and I have realized this more and more – especially this year. Getting to attend conferences and events is a huge learning and professional development opportunity. It represents a significant avenue of support as you meet and develop relationships with other agents.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!