Secrets to success
Travel advisors share advice on thriving in an ever-changing career landscape


In a world where potential clients have thousands of options to choose from, Jet Lag Voyages’ Ola Ulewicz believes travel advisors need to stand out from the crowd. 

“The industry is constantly changing and as a successful advisor you need to constantly change with it. There are thousands of advisors out there so find a way to stand out,” Ulewicz, the founder of the Barrie, Ont.-based agency, tells Travel Courier. “Perhaps that is a niche product, perhaps it is a niche demographic — whatever it is, do it well and be the best at it. Being ‘okay’ at multiple things will never make you stand out and will not make you sought after.”

On a more practical level, she says it’s also important for those in the industry to take their time and focus on all the details when making a booking. 

“It only takes the smallest little thing to derail a whole reservation,” she adds.

For Wendi Gladstone of Unique Group Tours in Hamilton, Ont., building strong relationships with  the trade and suppliers has been integral to creating a successful and lucrative business. 

“Excellent trade relationships can only benefit your clients in the long run,” Gladstone says. “You need to establish and maintain trust with your chosen tour suppliers by being honest, reliable, professional and ethical. Pick five or 10 good suppliers in a range of fields of expertise and demonstrate loyalty by supporting these suppliers.”

Focusing on creating solid relationships has not only been beneficial in creating custom itineraries but also comes in handy if something inevitably goes wrong due to unforeseen circumstances. 

“You will be surprised what you get back from them when you are a loyal customer,” Gladstone reveals. “They will support you when you need it. I have created long-term partnerships of 30 plus years with a handful of really good key suppliers and I have never run into an itinerary idea for a group or for an FIT they won’t help me create or a problem they won’t hesitate to solve or help me to solve. I am not on my own. I have partners.”

Similarly, Ken Stewart, owner/agent, Crowfoot Travel, Calgary, Alta., who has been in the industry for 25 years, recommends being professional with those in the travel trade/suppliers. “Learn as much as you can, you can never know it all, don’t be afraid to ask for support or help from other agents in your office or other agent friends, I do it all the time, and don’t tell a client you know something and you really don’t,” he adds. “Just tell them you’re not sure but will get them the answer.”

Notably, Amy Davoli, travel and cruise consultant, and the owner of Travitude Travel Group, also says that this is a never-ending learning industry. 

“You have to continuously stay educated, take training programs and keep up to date with the changes of suppliers and destination,” she says. “Find a good mentor to work with. My second piece of advice — not every client is your client. It is okay to decline working with someone who requests your services.”

On a similar note, Alyssa McGee, manager, corporate and leisure travel consultant at Fernweh Travel in Vancouver, B.C., recommends concentrating on the clients who bring you joy and satisfaction. 

“Value yourself and your expertise. Take a peek at your revenue – you’ll likely notice that a small group of clients contribute the most to it,” she notes. “So, why not channel your energy into serving them well instead of spreading yourself too thin? And don’t forget to charge those fees for your valuable services! You’ve earned it.”

For Matt Houtby, who had a 27-year career with the Canadian Armed Forces before becoming a travel consultant for Vacations for Canadians in 2023, the secret to a quick rise to success came down to marketing himself and he advises other agents to do the same. 

“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because the more relatable you become, the more people will be drawn to you and want to work with you,” Houtby says. “There is a certain level of comfort and trust that can be generated from something as simple as a video of yourself on holidays and sharing it with your clientele.”

For example, the first time he sailed on Virgin Voyages, he made a series of videos to highlight the differences between the cruise line and other traditional cruise lines. 

“It was met with tremendous response and opened a lot of eyes to the brand and an alternative cruise line our clientele may not have considered before I made those videos,” he adds. “Plus by featuring myself it showed my value because I knew the product and could speak to it so well that it gave new cruisers that were unfamiliar with the product confidence to reach out to me and eventually book with me.”

Meanwhile, Cindy Gaudet, COO of Fareconnect in Winnipeg, Manitoba, points out how important it is to manage a work-life balance.

“I learned early on how important it is, especially new-to-the-industry agents,” she explains. “Plan out your training either weekly or monthly. Set goals and use a vision board to meet your goals. By working on your business instead of in your business you will have no problem succeeding.”

Finally, Tom Gehrels of Adventure Coordinators, who describes his job as offering impartial travel advice and personal experience from 105 countries — and counting) — suggests agents get out and see the world.

“Travel,” he says. “Anyone can book a trip but only if you travel can you speak to a destination from your own experience. Invest in yourself by booking trips for yourself.”

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