Deb Fogarty is a Florida-based travel agent who found her specialty easily, by focusing on her interest in health and fitness.
Fogarty, a home-based agent who is affiliated with Nexion, worked for several years as a personal assistant to a local travel agent while she considered opening her own business.
“Some years ago, I was a secretary and was very unhappy. Beauty and wellness has been my passion, and I've been able to bring it together with travel,” she said.
She completed several online supplier and industry certification courses, including CLIA's program to become a cruise specialist. A little more than a year ago, she branched out on her own, starting Be Well Travel.
The impetus for making the jump to full-time travel agent work was a successful collaboration with Ivy Larson, a radio talk show host and author who discusses and writes about healthy eating and lifestyle changes for fitness through her Clean Cuisine brand.
Fogarty has handled the annual group cruise with Celebrity Cruises for Larson and her Clean Cuisine fans (she has 70,000 social media followers), giving Be Well Travel a natural client base for her agency's specialty. It's been an important change in Fogarty's own life.
Fogarty calls herself a “natural networker” and says it's important to distribute business cards and to be available to clients around the clock.
“Everywhere I go, I give out cards. I do yoga and give out my cards at studios. Never stop networking,” she says.
Her biggest challenge is competition with online travel suppliers. “But I go above and beyond with customer service. If people want to challenge me with price, it's not worth me wasting our time.”
Fogarty has forged a close relationship with Celebrity Cruises, whose onboard spa and healthy cuisine program fits with her specialty.
Through attending Nexion's Boot Camp program, which recently focused on social media, Fogarty amped up her social media marketing.
She said she was “a little wary” of spending too much time on Facebook but has found that it has paid off. She paid to use a Facebook marketing tool called Facebook Boost that resulted in new clientele from Facebook users who use keywords — “well-being” and “cruises” among them — that direct them to her Facebook page.
About 75% of her business is cruises, and the rest is mostly spa packages that she sells to women as girlfriend getaways. Business has grown so that she has hired a summer college intern. Two outside sales agents are also bringing in wellness-related business.
“There's so much positive about this business and that makes it viable. It's definitely a great full-time business to be in.”