While a good number of new travel
agents have no experience and come instead from other successful careers, some
do come from within the industry.
Stacy Small, founder and president of the
California-based agency Elite Travel International, is a mix of both — she
worked in the industry before becoming an agent, but never had any sales
Small has been in the industry
since the 1990s, but didn’t start selling travel until the mid 2000s. Since
then, she has amassed a team of 20 associates, and a successful luxury agency. She was named Virtuoso’s “Most Innovative Travel Advisor” in 2013.
In the 1990s, Small was fresh out
of Syracuse University with a journalism degree. She ended up securing a job as
a reporter at Travel Agent magazine, where she worked for six years. “You get a really good education
in all things travel industry,” she said.
In 2001, she took the next step
in her career and launched Elite Traveler Magazine, a luxury travel magazine
geared toward private jet travelers. Small quickly got an education in luxury
travel, and had people calling the magazine asking her for help planning their
trips, or for contacts that could help.
When she left the magazine a few
years later, Small was freelancing and figuring out her next step — then it hit
her. She would become a travel agent.
“It was just a light bulb going
off after years and years and years of covering the travel industry and writing
about it, traveling all over the world,” she said. “It was something I knew a
lot about, and it really helps to have those contacts — it’s who you know that
helps make the trips perfect for everybody else.”
Small started selling travel to
friends and family as an independent contractor with a host agency, but a few
years ago she got her own IATA number and Virtuoso membership. She has a team
of around 20 associates working with her, none of which were travel agents
before. They are a mix of former
journalists, teachers, hoteliers and more. Small said most became agents with
Elite Travel International after around 10 years in their former careers.
She believes the diversity in
their backgrounds helps set Elite Travel apart, but they all share one common
bond: a love of travel.