Baconko Travel Edmonton
“Megan is an amazing wedding group specialist. As a top agent she always takes the time to learn and stay current on her product and works incredibly hard for her clients. She understands her value to her clients and based on how strong her business is from referrals, her clients truly understand it too. I am consistently impressed with how strong her business is based on referrals as it is such a clear indication of what a great job she does for her clients. I know she works crazy hours sometimes but manages to balance that for quality family time with her kids. Aside from her dedication to her clients and her family I love that she is really part of the travel agent community. I know she helps other agents who are not as experienced in groups and offers advice and feedback where she can. Megan’s knowledge, experience and industry relationships only prove how valuable a good travel agent is to their clients.”
Business Development Representative, Transat
Meet Megan Baugh
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how long you’ve been in the industry and what made you want to become a travel agent?
I started in the travel industry as a home-based agent more than ten years ago. I made a decision early in my career to specialize strongly in destination weddings, although my agency is a full-service travel agency. This decision was important for me because I did not have a lot of experience or education in travel when I started, and I did not have friends or family that travelled a lot, or that would use a travel agent if they did. I have had the good fortune of watching my business flourish over the years. Since starting as an independent contractor with a host agency, I now have a completely independent storefront location. I think the love of travel has to be one of the primary reasons anyone gets into the travel industry and I definitely love to travel. The other aspects of the job that were appealing to me were the flexibility to be able to work from home and the ability to be flexible with work hours as I had young children when I started. And the rest is history!
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Honestly, I think I have the best job in the world. I am not sure if I have one favourite part, being a travel agent is my favourite! Seriously though, I am incredibly passionate about destination weddings. While I love the whole process, the initial stages of choosing the best destination, the perfect hotel, the most amazing venues, this is the most exciting part for me. I love seeing the reactions of clients when they experience something new. With destination weddings, often some guests will be people who do not travel frequently, so being able to witness their reaction to a week in paradise with loved ones is very rewarding.
How has travel impacted your own life?
I believe travel is one of the most important aspects of life — we travel to find ourselves, to escape, to broaden our horizons, to learn, and to discover our strengths, our limitations, and our potential. Having been privileged to live in Canada all of my life, my travels have opened my eyes to how people live in other countries. The incredible opportunities I have had to experience other cultures, customs, and to learn about the history of different countries are priceless. I am so lucky I have had the opportunity not only to have these experiences myself, but to have been able to share them with my children, my family, and my friends. I can only hope to continue to be so impacted.
How are you coping in this crazy COVID-19 world? What are you focusing on right now?
I am coping. This has definitely been the most trying experience of my career, and one that I am sure many may not make it through. I believe most travel agents have gone through the stages of coping with COVID-19’s effect on the travel industry quite similarly to how we deal with grief. In essence, I have experienced denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and hopefully, we are now working on acceptance. It has been pure hell to deal with the constant changes, cancellations and upset clients.
As a single mom, I am doing this 16 hours a day from home for negative income while now homeschooling my three children as well. Since I specialize in destination weddings, I am dealing mainly with groups, and any supplier will tell you that while this situation has been beyond challenging on all levels, groups are a different animal. Groups are often under contract, which can include different terms and conditions depending on the supplier or hotel. Just getting 60-100 people to agree to the same new dates is extremely difficult. I am sure you can imagine the logistics of moving an entire group of 60-100 pax with different departure cities, durations, room categories, etc. to new dates.
My primary focus right now is ensuring that all clients booked through the coming months have been rescheduled, cancelled, or at least had a discussion regarding potential risks. I do have one client in destination, who is currently unable to return, so I am also prioritizing repatriating any travelling clients as soon as possible. Due to the unprecedented situation caused by COVID-19, suppliers have been changing their policies almost daily in some cases, so staying on top of the current policies, flight suspensions, hotel closures, travel advisories, and industry lobbying efforts is just about a full-time job.
At this time, I have a lot of interest for 2021 weddings, but brides are reluctant to ask guests to commit to deposits and dates right now as so many people are facing a lot of uncertainty with their financial and employment situations. We are still discussing details but not confirming anything at this time. It is an excellent opportunity to get caught on supplier updates as well, so I am taking several courses and webinars so I will be on top of my game when this is all over.
Prior to all this, what were some of the big trends you were noticing in travel or that your clients were looking for from a getaway?
I have noticed my clientele becoming more discerning — people are no longer looking for a deal or the cheapest hotel. They are looking for the best value for their dollar, but they are also willing to spend extra to get what they want.
Have you had any interesting or strange requests from clients?
Oh yes, I think we have all had a few. Here are a few of my favourites:
-I need an East facing balcony and North facing headboard
-Well if the Ambassador Suites are sold out, can’t they just make us another one? They have eight months to do it.
-I don’t understand why the single rate is so much more than double. Well, just book me a double, I will use the other bed to put my clothes on
-I can’t afford the single rate, but I don’t want to share a room. Can’t we just book double occupancy and request a room with two bedrooms?
How many countries have you been to and where would you like to go next when we can travel again?
I have been to over 25 countries including Mexico, Jamaica, USA, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Cuba, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman Islands, Honduras, Belize, Iceland, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, Sierra Leone, Morocco, Croatia, and Montenegro. As soon as travel restrictions are lifted, I will be back in Mexico. My bucket list includes Asia and Australia, but realistically, I need to travel most frequently to where I sell, which is the all-inclusive destinations.
What’s a big misconception people have about travel agents?
I think the biggest misconception is that it will cost you more to book with a travel agent. I believe there are a lot of people that don’t realize that they could have the assistance of an expert, a professional to take care of any issues with suppliers, an agent with established relationships with suppliers for the same price they would pay booking themselves online.