Billy Ballantine, Samantha Johnston, Michelle Malcolm Billy Ballantine, Samantha Johnston, Michelle Malcolm

Awards finalists give tips for success, thoughts on trends

Keep your knowledge up, keep training and keep visiting new destinations. That’s one of the tips for success from Samantha Johnston of YOU Travel Taupo.

A finalist in the Best Young Travel Agency Executive category at the TAANZ National Travel Industry Awards, Johnston has been to 30 countries in her life (which is more than her age) and in her two years at her current job has been to Brazil, Argentina, USA, Canada, Cook Islands and Australia among others. She is soon heading away (on holiday) to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. ‘You’ve also got to love what you do and be passionate about it,’ says Johnston. She has worked for YOU Travel Taupo for two and a half years in a frontline capacity and says every day brings something different. ‘We’re doing a lot of UK – Europe and USA, like most agents around the country. But we are also seeing a fair bit of business from the younger market, they’ve been coming through the door lately and we’re promoting to them quite a lot.’ Michelle Malcolm, managing director of Helloworld North Harbour, is one of the three finalists n the Best Travel Agency Manager – Retail category. ‘To me it’s all about recruiting well and building trust, as well as creating a clear vision and values. It is also crucial to lead by example – and work bloody hard.’ Malcolm has 32 years experience in the travel industry, with 10 years owning her own company. ‘Travellers are becoming more and more travel savvy, with access to so much information online. Travellers will need a more personalised unique experience and service offering from us as agents and we will need to connect and have better, more instant touch points from the creating travel ideas/time of the travel idea through the booking process to connections whilst they travel. Social media and digital marketing will continue to play a critical role especially with the younger generation. ‘I see more and more agencies entering into ‘niche’ markets to ensure we are offering an area of expertise to the target customer – whether it be adventure travel, cruise, weddings etc. Technology will play a part in this but also the type of consultant that stays in the industry, they will have to be customer centric more than ever.’ Retaining a huge database with repeat clients is a key to success, says Billy Ballantine, of Lakers House of Travel Invercargill. ‘Also having the ability to sell – I actually focus on selling myself over selling the products, which builds a relationship between myself and my clients,’ says Ballantine, who is in the running for the title of Best Travel Consultant – Retail. He emphasises time management and being able to adjust to the market as other essential skills. Ballantine says he enjoys the challenge the travel industry offers. ‘It is an industry which is forever changing. ‘My success and enjoyment of the travel industry are not just down to me. I have the very best support with the team in our office and Tracey and Tony, the owners here at Lakers, are incredible – continually working on the business to give us all as many opportunities as possible.’ • (This is the first of a series of stories being run by TRAVELinc Memo in the build up to the TAANZ National Travel Industry Awards. Look out for more thoughts and comments from awards finalists over the next three weeks.)