Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Family travel is not only a lucrative proposition for an advisor, but it's also an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with a client while helping them expose their children to different cultures and experiences.

That's the way Christie Holmes sees it. Holmes is the co-founder, managing partner and principal of tour operator Global CommUnity, which sends families on trips around the world on "purposeful itineraries."

According to Holmes, Global CommUnity works with local nonprofit organizations that teach travelers about what they're doing to solve common community problems, which can run the gamut from poverty to ecological sustainability to preserving cultural practices. 

"Our suggested itineraries are curated to give [travel advisors] a jump start, so that it's easy for them to sell destinations," Holmes said.

Holmes herself is no stranger to selling travel, but her first career was as a graphic designer. Keith Waldon, a former Virtuoso executive who now owns the Austin-based agency Departure Lounge, hired Holmes when Virtuoso was being rebranded years ago. She then worked in the industry rebranding travel agencies for more than a decade, when Waldon suggested she try her hand at being a travel advisor.

She started selling travel on the side, and at Virtuoso Travel Week in 2014, she had a revelation.

"I remember thinking, 'Gosh, there is just no family product that I was excited about putting our own family on,'" she said. "I mean, if we were going to spend a lot of money, and I was going to ask my clients to spend a lot of money on their vacations  I wanted to make it more meaningful, and I wanted to make sure the kids were engaged."

Thus, Global CommUnity was born. Waldon is a co-founder and advising partner to the tour operator. The team is rounded out by partner Jena Gardner, who is also president and CEO of JG Worldwide, parent company of a number of brands including hospitality consulting firm JG Black Book.

Global CommUnity, Holmes said, is about providing families with the tools they need to help their children become "global citizens."

"We could provide them with the tools to help them engage their kids in a productive way that was fun," she said. Itineraries maximize vacation time, but also "create a conversation around creating global citizens, so that when our kids start college, they have a different perspective on life than just growing up at their local high school."

Global CommUnity works with advisors in a number of ways, including helping them help their clients plan travel years into the future.

"We find that we are resonating with travel agents that are familiar with booking families, that are in tune with their clients, because this is definitely a product that picks the interests and basically the heart of the end traveler," she said.

The tour operator is particularly interested in assisting the growing number of agents who work as home-based independent contractors (ICs), Holmes said, by encouraging them to hold local events to connect with clients and network.

"We're calling them, basically, house parties, where we help the travel agent with marketing materials," she said. "They reach out to a client that Global CommUnity resonates with and it's kind of grassroots marketing."

Clients are encouraged to invite their friends to a home or other location, like a coffee shop, where the advisor can talk about the tour operator's products. It's a tactic that works well for Global CommUnity and would translate to other products and similar client groups, as well.

"It's a great way to empower travel agents," Holmes said, "and they in turn build a book of business just through networking and through testimonials of clients who have traveled with us."

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