Krista Schroeder used to spend her time talking to people on their worst days. As an insurance claims adjuster, she spoke to people who’d been in car accidents or seen their homes damaged by storms. It wasn’t exciting and it wasn’t fun.
Since transitioning to a career as travel advisor, it’s been the polar opposite.
“It’s something people want to do and they’re super excited about it. It gets me excited, too,” she told Travel Market Report.
It’s also rewarding in a way being a claims adjuster wasn’t. And it gives her the freedom to spend time with her young daughter.
Like other recent entrants into the travel advisor community, Schroeder started her travel agency during the pandemic. It was also not long after giving birth to her daughter.
“We decided that I was going to transition into staying home with her,” she said during a sit-down interview at the CoNexion 2022 annual conference. “I wanted to have something that was mine that I could put my energy into that wasn’t just being a mom.”
Schroeder considered a number of options, but kept coming back to travel.
“I’ve planned trips, our personal trips, and I have notebooks that I would write out, like, if we ever go here, this is what we’re going to do, this is where we’re going to stay… maybe I could turn this into something where I could take these and help other people go on them too.”
On top of her own travel planning, she’d used a travel advisor before, for her honeymoon and for cruises, so she knew that was an option.
Schroeder didn’t jump in right away. She took her time, did some research, found a host agency she felt comfortable with, did their training program and took it slow and steady.
Leaning In to the Familiar
Schroeder’s slow and steady has resulted in $150,000 in sales in her first year in business, with $20,000 of that in air alone. She’s done it by focusing on building a clientele among her family and friends and developing a specialty in one style of travel she was already familiar with – all-inclusive resorts.
“I’m from Wisconsin. People want to escape the cold, so that’s what a lot of people in my area, my clientele are looking for, a lot of Caribbean, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Jamaica… I think leaning into what I’m familiar with in those cases has been beneficial just because I can apply it right away.”
She’s also embracing a small FIT specialty, specifically domestic national park itineraries.
“There’s so much from coast to coast. I don’t feel like I need to always push all-inclusives or to go out of the country. There’s a lot of great opportunities here, too.”
Her current clientele is formed mostly of friends and family, though her circle is slowly growing as they provide referrals.
She’s also leaning into social media, which as a 27-year-old she’s very familiar with. But she’s keeping her focus narrow, sticking primarily with Facebook.
“At first, I was like, I have to be on it all, but after a little while, it was really overwhelming. So I narrowed it down and chose to do Facebook… Most of the people who were reaching out were coming from my Facebook page. For now, that’s what I focused on and I’ve stayed really consistent with it and it’s generated more leads.”
Keeping It Personal
Schroeder tries to keep it casual and personal on Facebook, with lots of photos of the resorts and destinations that she’s either sending clients to or learning about.
“I’ll make a post that’s ‘just booked’ with a picture of Jamaica Beach in the background or ‘I have this couple going on their honeymoon, they’re going to be in a swim-out suite’… Someone will reach out, ‘hey, I saw your post, what resort was that?’”
Other posts include tips and tricks to reinforce her travel expertise.
“Just building that confidence between someone who’s maybe on the fence about working with me, and those posts help in the sense that they have credibility.”
But her overall strategy is to keep it personal, “so they know they’re working with me as a person. If they feel like they know me, they’re more comfortable and more likely to reach out.”
Personalization is also important to her interactions with clients, she added, attributing much of her success to that single tactic.
“Travel is a personal experience. I really want to get to know these people, because you can say ‘I want X,Y and Z,’ but I’m listening to you talk about what you’ve done before and what you liked and what you didn’t… it’s looking at each client completely different. It’s not a cookie cutter, you want an all-inclusive or I’m only going to offer you these same three resorts that I offer to everybody else. While there is a benefit to that, because you can get really familiar with products, I think it makes it more personal when you’re taking time to do research for them and figure out exactly what it is that they need.”
Support System & Education Key
Despite being at it less than a year, Schroeder comes across confident in her role as a travel advisor. When asked if that confidence comes naturally, she told TMR that having a support system, from other advisors acting as mentors and coaches, and being able to stay educated on what’s available for her clients has been key in her development.
“Don’t get me wrong. I definitely have dealt with imposter syndrome, where I’m, like, am I really qualified to do this kind of thing. But just the support of the people around me…”
She completed Nexion’s Travel Leaders of Tomorrow training course early on in her career, and continues to do coaching sessions with one of the instructors. Another Wisconsin-based travel advisor has taken her under his wing and made himself available for any questions.
“It’s knowing that I have the support behind me and that if there is something that I run into where I don’t know what to do, I know I have people to turn to that are going to help me through it.”
Just as important has been the education she’s taken advantage of.
“Doing the Travel Leaders of Tomorrow program was another confidence booster. It walked us through not only destination information, but the background [of selling travel] and different tools, and do you know the actual business side of things that I wouldn’t have known. If I didn’t have that, I probably wouldn’t be where I am because I would be focusing so much on that stuff still versus actually working with clients.”
Of course, getting repeat clients has also been a confidence booster, she added.
“The biggest thing is already in my first year having repeat clients… that’s been a real thing for me. Like, I can continue to do this. It’s not like I just did this one random trip for these people and I’m never going to hear from them again.”