First, and as my website attests, the whole reason Scuba X Travel (and now SXT Adventure Travel) began was purely out of frustration and repeated disappointment with the industry as a whole. It was unbelievable for me to see how many successful people cared so little or went to such few lengths to 1) plan an itinerary you – and your client - could really fall in love with and 2) put the time, effort and heart into fully developing and successfully delivering a product that is worth offering. My goal has always been to design an itinerary that leaves guests in awe about their experiences and certain that they could not have had as incredible a vacation without my help. So, in short, I pour my heart into the details of every design as if it is my own and possibly the most valuable vacation I ever intend on taking. I think maintaining that as my primary focus is what allows me to be successful.
When it comes to whether or not I believe that other dive store operators and retail stores should create their own travel agency facet…well, yes and no.
Yes for the fact that I believe in supporting my colleagues, dive shop neighbors and other related small business owners that have the desire to take on this new venture. Yes because I believe that having the “time, effort and heart” to put into trip design and development comes from individuals that care and I know so many store operators and owners that give so much for their customers on an every day basis. And finally, yes in that I believe a better guest experience comes from the personal interaction and attention you get from an individual agent rather than the huge commercial travel business where you’re given a customer and itinerary confirmation number, and that’s about it. That’s about where my “yes’s” run dry. Don’t get me wrong, I believe I was born to give people unforgettable experiences as part of the journeys I create and I love making whims and far off dreams of “maybe someday” into a reality that leaves my clients talking, reliving and daydreaming for years afterward.
On to no. No if the retailer is just annoyed with paying a wholesaler or other retailer to do the basic planning for them. No if they envision having their own “cookie-cutter” style trips to dole out to clients whether it suits them – and fulfills their vision for their vacation – or not. No if anyone thinks this is some get rich scheme where money flows in and you reap every benefit known to the travel industry. And most certainly no if the honest desire and drive to deliver isn’t really at the core of the “why”. I cannot stress enough that, at times, it really does feel like a thankless undertaking. If you aren’t fully prepared to take (with a smile, of course) all of the potential bad while knowing that you’ll be able to relish in every bit of the potential good later on, please don’t do it. It does your prospective clients a disservice along with the whole of the travel industry. Overall, it makes it harder for the rest of us to maintain clients’ belief and trust in those agents willing to go the distance when perhaps, it just wasn’t a good fit for you to begin with.
As I said at the beginning, there is no short answer. The travel industry is exciting and can lead to so many new and inspiring possibilities. I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel more than most individuals my age. The cultural experiences, the people I have met and come to know and love, the deeper understanding I have gained of our world and, possibly most importantly, the trust and respect of my clients that I have been fortunate enough to earn are one thousand fold worth every single bit of time, effort and heart I have ever put into what I do.