After high school Tara Sparshu headed to university to study accounting before making the switch to travel and tourism. She’s now been in the industry for 18 years and can be found representing her home team when she travels. #OilersAroundtheWorld
Tara has been one of the biggest advocates of Contiki for the past 10 years having travelled on multiple trips herself. Like so many agents she was forced to adapt and change to a different agency. She has continued to persevere and is always visible at every event and is one of the most engaged agents in the country. She is also one of the biggest Edmonton Oilers fans and always takes her fan attire on all her trips around the world.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry?
After high school I headed to university to business school to study accounting but after one year I decided that was definitely not for me and made the switch to travel and tourism.
Through my almost 18-year travel agent career, I’ve had a variety of experiences. I started off my career at a small independent travel agency in my hometown. After about six years, life led me to the city, where I worked for a large travel company for about 10 years. Both gave me great learning experiences which have helped me as I transitioned to where I am currently as an independent travel consultant with TierOne Travel. After 18 years I’m lucky to still love what I do. This past year has been hard, the most difficult of my career, but I’m here for the long haul and look forward to when we can start traveling again.
Why and how did you decide to become a travel advisor?
When I was a kid, my family did a month long road trip down from Alberta down the Western United States all the way to the Mexican border, with a week stop in Disneyland. When we got back home I remember telling my mom that I was going to see the world one day. My passion for travel only grew and my love for travel made me want to help others see the world and have amazing memories and travel experiences. I absolutely love helping people plan their travel, see new places and make amazing memories.
What’s your favourite part of being a travel agent?
I’m lucky because I love my job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. There are so many reasons why I love what I do but here are a couple of the top reasons. I love that my job is like a puzzle. Taking my clients wants, needs and wishes and helping them find and plan a trip that fits their criteria. I love the relationships that get created between me and my clients which also helps in the planning process. I love helping my clients see the world. I love using my travel experiences and the feedback from my clients to create stress-free and memorable vacations. And I love hearing about clients’ experiences once they’ve returned.
What’s a key thing you learned during the pandemic?
I think one of the biggest things I learned was that your clients respond to how you respond to a situation. If you can stay calm and think rationale, most clients will follow suit. Panic and your clients will feel the fear. I really noticed this was the pandemic was starting to unfold in February 2020. Agents that were panicked or fearful of what was going on had a lot of passenger initiated cancelations. I found that as I stayed calm, my clients were okay with watching the situation unfold. Unfortunately, we still ended up having to cancel their bookings but by the time we did the suppliers had adjusted the cancelation penalties. I think this is also true going forward. As an agent, if we show confidence in the safety protocols and flexible terms and conditions, this will help with client confidence.
What will be your first post-pandemic trip and why?
When asked this question by a friend last week, I told her anywhere. I can’t wait to hop on a plane and be somewhere different. There are a number of destinations that I’ve been dreaming of… One trip that I’ve mentally been planning is a back-to-back trip with Exodus Travels through Egypt and Jordan. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen right away post pandemic. Beach, Sun, Relax and Adventure! That’s what I want once we can start travelling. The St. Lucia tourist board’s virtual roadshow moved that destination further up my wish list as they’ve been showing me all the things this beautiful island has to offer. I think just based on the flight availability, cost and the ease of entry, Mexico or Jamaica will most likely be the first post pandemic trip for me.
Do you believe more people will use travel advisors after covid-19?
I said early in the pandemic as travel agents were working 12+ hour days, sitting on hold for hours to make changes to clients booking and get clients home, that the pandemic would highlight the importance of booking with a travel agent. I believe going forward we will still see three types of clients.
Ultimately I would like to believe that there will be more of one and two going forward.
How have you adjusted your business strategy over the past year?
At the beginning of the pandemic it was triage. Get clients home, getting bookings cancelled or rebooked, assisting with insurance claims. As the pandemic went on, it shifted just to keeping in touch with clients and keeping them dreaming about travel.
Through the TierOne newsletters, the TierOne Virtual Travel event series “Keeping the Dream Alive” that we started in April 2020 and through increased social media presence. As things slowly eased, my focus switched to letting friends, family and clients know that I was here and could assist with Canada travel. Sadly that didn’t work as well as I had hoped and most still just booked themselves. Now the strategy is back to reaching out to clients. Letting them know that tour operators and cruises are open for booking now through 2022 and some into 2023 and I am here and ready to help with their travels when they are ready.