travel agent next door, elizabeth rodgers 2017
AGENCY:  Journeys by Elizabeth, Belleville, Ont.
AFFILIATIONS: The Travel Agent Next Door; TTAND is associated with ACTA, CLIA and IATA.
HONORIFICS: None, actually. It’s hard to win these awards when you work in a small-town travel market.

How long have you been an agent and why did you get into the business?
I have been an agent for 27 years. I actually got into the business because my dad suggested this as a career when I was in grade 13… he thought this would be a great fit for me, since I really had no idea what I wanted to do. (So) I went to travel and tourism school for one year, took a few years off and worked various other jobs… then went back to travel and tourism school and before I finished my first year I applied for a job to work in a local travel agency and got the job, even though the owner wanted to hire someone who could type faster. She was a long-term owner who loved the challenge of hiring new agents and training them. I owe my entire career to her, because she was willing to take that chance on me.
Do you have a specialty or favourite niche to sell?
I specialize in corporate travel. I do some vacation bookings but corporate travel in my main thing. I have two team members, Anne and John, who are completely amazing. John specializes in small group travel and Anne specializes in vacation travel, so it is perfect balance for us. Between the three of us we have more than 100 years of travel experience. The great thing about TTAND is that they have programs that allow us to further develop these niches. Our website can be completely customized to highlight our specialties. It also has nine booking engines and a person to support us with that, which is a godsend.
What kind of support does TTAND provide?
The support is amazing! It is such a great team at head office, from the support team to everyone in accounting and marketing. Flemming (Friisdahl) and Penny (Martin) are just so approachable about any little concern or problem. How many companies do you know where you can send the founders of a company an e-mail and they assist you promptly and efficiently? They are so dedicated to their agents!
It is also things like they pay 100 per cent of the commission on many of the top-rated suppliers like Transat Holidays and Air Canada Vacations, but I have the choice to sell any supplier that I like. The commission is paid twice a month, which is more like getting a pay cheque from a regular travel agency. They also offer a profit sharing program. TTAND also has great tools to assist us. I love the calendar in the Clientlinq program. I enter all the flight details for each client in it and at a glance I can tell where everyone is on any given day. TTAND also provides really great selling tools to us that are not provided by other host agencies. I have my own personal loyalty program that I can offer to key clients, which allows us to build our business by referrals while allowing them to earn money toward a free trip.
And what makes TTAND stand out with your clients?
I love that I can be branded by my own business name, Journeys by Elizabeth, on my website, invoices and on my business cards while still being part of TTAND. Clients see me not as a brand but as my own company. The website, advertising, marketing and print marketing with Canadian content stands out with the clients, assisting them with their vacation planning.
Why did you decide to move from working in a store front to going home-based?
I moved from working in a store front to being home based just 15 months ago. I had known for a while that if I made the move from being at a storefront agency that I would go to being home-based. I was intrigued when Flemming started TTAND and watched his progress over the years and decided that was the host agency that I would go with when I finally made the move. I was feeling discontented with the agency that I had been with for a very long time and felt that I was at a point in my career where I could afford to make this move and was pretty confident that my corporate clients would follow.
I was incredibly lucky in the fact that two of my friends, who I worked with for more than 15 years, decided to make the move with me. We are a great team. I tell everyone that making this decision was one of hardest things that I have ever done and the best decision that I have ever made! I sometimes miss the atmosphere of an office and seeing my teammates every day, but I talk to them every couple of days and we try to get together at least once a month for lunch or dinner and catch up on our news and just spend time together.
I have kept the structure of a storefront office. I am in the office between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. every morning and usually leave the office around 5:30 p.m. My clients know that I can always be reached after hours and they love the fact that I just need to go upstairs to my office, thus providing them with emergency assistance much faster than when I use to have to drive back to my office.
What qualities do you have that help you be a successful travel counsellor?
I am organized to a fault. My husband insists that my to-do list has a to-do list. That really helps in corporate travel when you are juggling a lot of travellers.
What’s your bestselling tip that someone else might not think of?
I’m always kind of envious when I read travel agent interviews and they have some great thing that they say or do to help close the sale. I have just never found that perfect thing. It varies depending on the client.
What do you love about being a travel agent?
I love my clients. I love the opportunities that I have had to travel. I have seen some amazing places over the years. I love the challenges that travel presents. I love hearing from vacation clients that they had the most amazing holiday at a destination that I recommended. I like being able to assist my corporate clients with all their travel plans. I always try to anticipate their travel needs so that I can make their travel arrangements go as smoothly as possible, as some of them are on the road a lot of days in a year. I really have trouble imagining myself doing anything else now. 

Elizabeth was chosen by The Travel Agent Next Door to be profiled in CT Magazine. Why?
Highlighting just one The Travel Agent Next Door travel professional was a very difficult decision because we have 280 amazing primary agents. Elizabeth is one of our newer ones and at the same time she has become one of the top-producing agents in a very short time. Elizabeth has a great perspective about the organization and we know that she shares our “3 Ws” vision: A Win for the agent and a Win for the Supplier equals a Win for The Travel Agent Next Door.
- FLEMMING FRIISDAHL, Founder, The Travel Agent Next Door

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