Growing up in a family that never travelled, Colleen Hodgson was determined to make travel part of her world. The passionate travel advisor has now been part of the industry since 1983 and loves turning other people’s travel dreams into reality.
Colleen is a terrific asset to her clients and to our industry. She is always keen to learn what is new and what travel opportunities will suit her clients best. Colleen to be a pleasure to work with and I look forward to our visits.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry?
My name is Colleen Hodgson and I have been an International Travel Advisor with AMA Travel since 2005. My journey in this exciting travel industry began back in 1983 when I graduated from the Travel program at Grant McEwan College in Edmonton, Alberta. Back then it was a two year inclusive program that included many aspects of a career in travel including marketing, sales and business strategies. It provided a good fundamental education to prepare me to be successful in the travel industry and I focused on maintaining a positive and resilient attitude through the many changes we have endured in the industry since then.
Why and how did you decide to become a travel advisor?
Growing up my family never travelled. I had a love for maps and books and would pour over them fascinated by the world and the beautiful sceneries and landscapes. I determined that I wanted to somehow make travel part of my world. I wanted to see these historic sights and experience new cultures and great adventures and share that with others.
What’s your favourite part of being a travel agent?
I love my job. It is hard to pick just one favourite part as I am so passionate about my job and my client family. I love bringing people’s travel dreams to reality. It’s a wonderful feeling when they are excited about their next adventure whether it is a safari in Africa or an all-inclusive cruise in Tahiti. I enjoy creating exciting and exotic itineraries that they may not have thought of. I share in their excitement with them as we plan and anticipate their upcoming vacation together. The majority of my clients’ trips are booked more than a year in advance, and during that time my clients truly become like family and that would have to be my favourite part — getting to know each other like family and friends.
What’s a key thing you learned during the pandemic?
I think just how much the details matter. I’m lucky that I get to spend my days looking through trends and changes across the industry, but for most people who just want to plan a family trip, they understandably don’t want to spend a lot of time looking over every little thing. It’s supposed to be their vacation. But the pandemic introduced so many things people need to be aware of: cancellations, future travel credits, the constantly changing restrictions. I’ve always paid attention to these things in my work, but the pandemic made them much more visible and important. So, I’d say being present, both in work… and life in general.
What will be your first post-pandemic trip and why?
At this point I am not sure what my destination will be, but what I do know is that my first post- pandemic trip will definitely be with family and friends! With the restrictions in place because of COVID-19 I have missed travelling and missed my family immensely. I am engaged to be married and what would be a more perfect post pandemic trip, but my own destination wedding. Of course, the biggest decision would be where — on an exotic white beach in the Caribbean or a romantic Italian villa in Tuscany. Both sound equally wonderful right about now.
From charging fees to re-evaluating which suppliers you will work or won’t work with in the future, how have you changed the way you work since the pandemic hit?
I’m fortunate that AMA Travel chose our partners based on their values and how they’ve treated our customers from the get-go, so that hasn’t required much re-evaluation. And as far as fees, I think now of all times travel agents can show just how much value they provide for what comparatively little cost it is to sit down for an hour and talk about all the details most people would never even think to look at. Fees are an important part of reflecting the value that we provide as travel counsellors.
How have you adjusted your business strategy over the past year?
A lot of the adjustments have come down to what people can/can’t do and finding that middle ground where we’re keeping our clientele safe while also helping them escape their house, even for just a little bit. We’re also currently telling people that, while they can’t travel now, they’ll be able to travel soon, and it’s prudent to start making those plans. Because once travel comes back, we aren’t going to see a surplus of capacity for a long time. So rather than getting people out the door now, we’re promoting booking far in advance while looking at products a year or two (or three) out.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for travel advisors right now?
Have a plan in place and BE READY. Travel will return. Be sure to educate yourself. Communicate and stay in contact with your client family. Keep your promise to deliver the best travel experience to your clients as they will be looking for your expertise and inspirations as travel returns.