Sandy Lidka has been in the travel industry for more than a quarter of a century. The co-founder and owner of successful bricks and mortar agency Further Afield Travel and Tours developed a passion for travelling at the age of 15 when she went to Finland to play hockey.
Sandy has a real passion for travel, and she is a brilliant sales and marketing expert. Sandy is an incredible business leader, and her clients receive nothing but the best support and guidance. I hold Sandy in very high esteem, and she has continued to demonstrate over the pandemic shut down why she has such a loyal clientele and supplier partner family.
Can you tell us more about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry?
Enamoured with travel from a young age, I have been in the travel industry for 25+ years. I am the co-founder and owner of Further Afield Travel and Tours, a successful bricks and mortar agency. When we opened the agency doors, many people wondered how we would survive. I knew if I worked hard and was able to provide our clients with personalized travel experiences, success would follow. Through my years in travel, I have enjoyed the pleasure of making worldwide connections with some of the most wonderful people in our industry. These people have all provided a great support network. I have enjoyed the privilege of travel, discovering new places and experiencing unfamiliar cultures. I am a proud mother of three adult children who also enjoy travelling.
Why and how did you decide to become a travel agent?
Why? I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for travel and creating exceptional travel experiences for others. I have always had a curiosity about the world. I’m sure I was influenced from an early age, watching the television series, Wild Kingdom, Mutual of Omaha, a documentary television series featuring wildlife and nature. At the age of 15, I travelled to Finland to play hockey. No parents along for the ride to guide and direct me. I was on my own to figure out the value of the local currency, which at the time was the Finnish markka, and to learn how to converse with the local people in their native language. From this experience, I had a yearning to travel and it wasn’t long before I became involved in the travel industry.
What is your favourite part of being a travel agent?
Connecting with people to provide life experiences, fulfilling people’s dreams and creating lasting memories specific to them. It’s rewarding knowing that I am able to assist and be part of this.
What’s a key thing you learned during the pandemic?
I think we took travel for granted. Destinations that once seemed so close are now out of reach at the moment. Travel is a privilege and we should embrace each opportunity we have to travel in the future.
What will be your first post-pandemic trip and why?
My first post-pandemic trip will be to Ireland with a side trip to England. Prior to the pandemic, the joke in the office: if you are looking for Sandy, you’ll find her somewhere in Ireland! For good reason, this is my second home. I am looking forward to reuniting with friends and family. It will be nice to experience the beauty of Ireland once again and spend time enjoying a traditional music session at our local pub. If travel allows, I will extend the trip to England and visit my sister who lives in the Peak District.
Do you believe more people will use travel advisors after COVID-19?
Absolutely! It’s not going to be easy for people to navigate the post pandemic world. Our clients will want to know they have someone supporting them before, during and after their trip. People have gained a greater appreciation for the value and importance a travel advisor provides the consumer.
How have you adjusted your business strategy over the past year?
It’s been crucial to stay present and up-to-date with our continually changing industry. Communication and actively engaging with clients has never been more important than it is today. I have reduced our advertising to lower our cost and increased our social media presence. We are considering new technologies to improve business efficiency. We have also redefined our price strategy to better demonstrate the added value we provide our clients.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for travel advisors right now?
We have come through many difficult and challenging days. It’s important to keep a positive attitude and have lots of patience! Make the most of your time. The industry is resilient and travel will return. When it does, our clients will have a greater appreciation of your role in making their travel a reality.
Do you have anything to add?
The future of travel will look different in so many ways. This is your opportunity to rethink travel and be a part of the change!