was May 2002 when Pat Saizan, with no background in the travel
business, launched her home-based agency, Saizan Travel, in
Altamonte Springs, Fla. It was October before she made her first
That sounds like a
recipe for a short career, but a determined Saizan invested in
education and technology.
Today, she has an
all-leisure business heavy on all-inclusive resorts (45%) and
cruises (30%) that grosses about $400,000 to $500,000
She aims to grow
sales considerably and expresses her financial goal in terms of
take-home pay: She wants to be making $100,000 a year in
commissions within the next two to five years.
It was technology,
and a career that might have been, that lifted Saizan Travel out of
the start-up doldrums.
In August 2002,
Saizan bought a Web site from Online Agency. A month later, she
bought the vendor's Web site optimization package.
She wanted her site
to appear high on the free lists produced by the search engines.
She said it was important to optimize her Web pages by using
algorithms that Google and Yahoo use.
package worked, bringing in her first customer and many more after.
But Saizan said the algorithms changed all the time, so she learned
how to optimize her Web site herself, by changing her pages when
the search engines changed.
Along the way, she
became something of an Internet techie.
"I love it," she
said, adding she would have found her career in the Internet world
if the Net had been around when she was making those first choices
in the 1970s.
Instead, she became
a nurse. Then she changed course as a result of a chance encounter:
During a cruise with her husband in January 2002, Saizan said she
met a number of teachers who had left the classroom to become
travel agents. The idea sparked Saizan's interest.
She enrolled in a
travel program with the Galiano Career Center; she took the
home-study version although the center is in her hometown. Her
education continues: She is working toward her Travel Institute CTC
Aside from cruises
and all-inclusives, her business is about 15% Europe (Ireland,
Italy and the U.K.) and 10% Hawaii. And although all-inclusives
account for nearly half of her bookings, Saizan wants them to be a
larger part of her business.
About every four
months, she travels to inspect resorts she sells, and many of these
trips get her on the cruise ships, too. Because she is in Florida,
it is easy to hop on a ship to visit several islands. Shore
excursions are resort inspections.
Her host agency is
Joystar, for which Saizan is a mentor in the micro-hosting program.
She teaches and assists inexperienced Joystar agents. Their
commissions are distributed to her, and she redistributes the
earnings and keeps 30%.
It is no
exaggeration that the Web made all the difference to Saizan's
business. She said she tried other approaches to drum up sales: YellowPages.com, magazine advertising, even the local
church bulletin. They were all busts, she said.
her online opportunities with multiple Web sites, as follows: CruiseVacationTravel.com, HoneymoonChoices.com and SaizansTravel.com. In late March, she bought two
dot-travel domains, AllInclusiveVacations.travel and
Her customers come
from all over the U.S. with less than 5% from Florida. She must
satisfy state registration laws outside Florida, but as a
Joystar-hosted agency for all sales, she said she can use Joystar's
registration numbers on her Web sites.
She said her
customers shop for ideas on the Web but call her toll-free number
or e-mail her to pursue bookings.
"They are busy,"
Saizan said. "We talk and we establish a relationship, and we work
out what is best."
About half her
bookings are with repeat customers because "they trust
besides growing the business? Perceiving a need for networking and
shared learning experiences with other agents, Saizan proposed and
received the go-ahead from Joystar to create local chapters of
Joystar affiliates. The purpose is part social, as well.
Saizan's love of
the Web may be about to create a new business for her.
In May, she expects
to begin selling, at $25, a downloadable PDF version of her book,
"Search Engine Optimization and Internet Marketing for the Travel
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A honeymoon in
Pat Saizan, owner of
Saizan Travel in Altamonte Springs, Fla., prepared the following
Ireland itinerary for a honeymooning couple.
1: Arrive at Shannon Airport. Pick up a rental car at Dan
Dooley at the airport. Drive northwest
to Galway for an overnight at the Marless House Bed and Breakfast
in Salthill, an oceanside town about a mile and a half from Galway.
That evening, go into Galway for an evening pub crawl.
2: Drive to the Galway Docks. Take the Aran Ferry to
Inishmore, the largest of Ireland's three Aran Islands. Rent bikes
at Rothar Arainn Teo and explore the island. Return to Galway
around 3 p.m. Drive to Nellie Dee's Bed and Breakfast in Doolin, a
town known for traditional Irish music. Have dinner at one of the
town's pubs and enjoy the music.
3: Drive south to County Kerry. Drive halfway around the
Ring of Kerry until you come to Cahersiveen, where you will spend
the next two nights at the SeaBreeze Bed and Breakfast. That
afternoon, go the Eagle Rock Equestrian Center for horseback riding
on woodland trails and on the beach.
4: Spend the day in Cahersiveen
and enjoy the ambience. There are lots of good places to shop and
eat in town.
5: Drive north to Kildare. Check
into the Kilkea Castle, which was built in 1180 and is the oldest
continuously inhabited castle in Ireland, according to its Web
site. Explore the medieval rose garden. Dine that evening at the
6: Drive to Dublin Airport to
drop off your car at Dan Dooley. Take an airport bus to the
O'Callaghan Mont Clare Hotel, on Merrion Square in Dublin. Enjoy
the theater that evening.
7: Explore Dublin via the
hop-on, hop-off bus tour, which allows you to explore Dublin on
your own and see the areas that you are most interested in.
Overnight at the Mont Clare.
8: Return home.
Itinerary is an example of an itinerary an agent crafted his or
herself, not available anywhere else, but can be duplicated by
other agents to sell to their clients. To send an example of an
itinerary you've customized, e-mail to [email protected] with "Perfect Itinerary" in
the subject line.