The absolute dedication that Debbi Ashes of Helloworld Travel in Lane Cove shows her customers was recognised when she won Best Travel Agency Manager, Leisure Single Location at the National Travel Industry Awards (NTIA’s).
Debbi says much of her success comes down to the complete and utter trust her clients have in her. She earns that by always delivering what she promises.
Debbi says her goal is to always deliver quality and knowledgeable service for all her client’s travel needs.
She certainly goes above and beyond too, even personally delivering French champagne to her guests at Christmas time.
You can read our full interview with Debbi below.
What does being recognised by the industry in this way mean to you?
Being recognised by the industry is the biggest compliment you can get.
We work with our industry peers throughout the entire year and they know how we do things and how our business functions.
To get this recognition from the industry is the ultimate compliment to myself and my staff who work with me on a day to day basis.
It is true that without our clients we have no business, but without the support of industry and our suppliers, we would not be where we are today.
What are some little or big touches you and the team make to ensure you leave a positive impression on clients?
We go the extra yard to deliver our clients the best possible service. This comes in many forms. We want their experience with us to be memorable for the right reasons.
New clients receive a courteous greeting and we give them the best possible answers to their questions. We get back to them when we say we will and always over-deliver.
For our existing clients, we want to build our relationship beyond their last trip. We get involved in their forward travel plans by keeping the lines of communication open.
This can be in the form of an email or a quick call from time to time. At Christmas, we personally deliver gifts that can be a bottle of French champagne or a gingerbread house.
The overriding thing we try to deliver is quality and knowledgeable service for their travel needs, this is why they deal with our office.
What are some changes the business has made over the last year that would have contributed to your success this year?
We have increased our coverage and advertising on social media, engaging a part time employee to keep our sites current and relevant. This has been a great help, but whether it was the major factor I doubt it.
I feel the most important thing is to maintain the consistency of your business contact with your clients. You need to deliver quality performance every time, from every employee and every contact with clients.
This is no small feat and takes a great deal of effort from everyone concerned and service is the corner stone of our business.
It is not possible to re-invent the wheel every year, in fact most things stay the same, but you must adapt to the changes that occur within the industry or outside the industry.
Such things as, the value of the AUD dollar against other currencies or current affairs of the world stage. Some destinations cease to become viable due to internal problems and alternatives need to be found.
What would you recommend to other businesses hoping to win in future years?
The results we have achieved have taken many years to achieve and comes from a vision I have to deliver great service to our clients and build positive relationships with our suppliers. You must be honest and consistent with both parties.
You need to earn your clients trust by delivering to them what you have promised, if you have, they will return in the future and recommend to friends and family members.
Your suppliers deliver the products you sell to your clients, you must have an open relationship with all suppliers.
How important are agents and your organisation to the industry?
There is certainly a place for bricks and mortar travel agents in the travel industry. Many trips are most complex to organise if you take into account all the details that need to be correct and some people believe they can organise the travel themselves.
Some can, but we promote ourselves as being the total package organiser and always deliver a seamless result.
I think it is important to promote yourself as having this travel knowledge because knowledge is power.
This information is on the internet but is scattered around and our role as a travel agent is to bring this together for our clients, thus steering them clear of unforeseen pitfalls, had they organised travel themselves.
It is vital as travel agents that we actually have this knowledge. We go to a lot of trouble trying to keep up to date with destinations by attending conferences and also attaining information from our suppliers.
Our educational trips play a huge role and we visit destinations that are popular and places we have not experienced. Clients love the fact that we have been to their proposed destination.
Helloworld Travel plays a big role for us when marketing to the public. They are a recognizable and respected brand that people can identify with.
What do you love about the industry?
The travel industry is unique and I have been privileged to be working in it for many years.
Our clients generally come to us wanting to organise a happy time and this in itself is a positive thing.
We guide them to fulfil their travel dreams and it is so satisfying to discuss their trip upon their return hearing what a wonderful time they have had and we have been part of that experience. It makes all the work and hard yards worth it many times over.
What do you think the future holds for the travel industry?
The future looks bright for the travel industry. Modern society does not have the physical constraints of the past – like long times spent moving from place to place.
Australia to London now with no stops, it will only get better.
Information about destinations is so accessible and nothing is out of the question. There is too much information on Google which in my opinion only confuses people. They need an expert to put it all together.
What’s your advice for people thinking of joining the industry?
For people joining the industry, I would advise them to be prepared for a lifestyle career. If you love travel and mixing with people you are headed in the right direction.
As with all jobs, there is hard work but you get rewarded with great experiences.
There are many areas of travel that you can take. From front line sales to a tour guide, it is an almost unlimited choice. Pick the direction you love and go for it.
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