Stacy Small
Stacy Small

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 experience.

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.

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