Kathleen Whalen has been a luxury travel advisor since 2016 but her wanderlust sprang to life when she went to Sweden as an exchange student. She’s lived on the East and West coasts of the U.S., in China, Guatemala, and now, Texas. Her prior career had her working with foreign exchange student and au pair organizations that helped build her familiarity with different cultures and underscored the vital importance of listening and practicing patience.
“During my first couple of years as a travel advisor, I got off to what I would consider a slow start as far as bookings,” shares Kathleen, “I spent most of that time learning at Nexion’s Boot Camp, completing the Travel Institute’s CTA certification and various supplier/DMC training programs to build my knowledge base. At the same time, I sent an email to my personal contacts letting them know I had embarked on this new career. Their responses were so supportive and encouraging.”
Did that translate into an avalanche of bookings? Not so much. But a few friends who did entrust their travel to her eventually told a few of their friends/family who eventually told a few of their friends/family.
Word of mouth (WOM) is now how Kathleen gets all of her client referrals. “My first client reached out to me because the travel advisor he originally contacted never returned his call. He is now my most prolific traveler – all because I made the effort to contact him, then listened.”
“It wasn’t until I attended the Luxury Sales Summit in 2019 that I felt really fired up,” Kathleen said, “I knew that 2020 was going to be my breakout year!” Then, COVID happened. Patience has always played a big role in Kathleen’s life. COVID and a client put that patience to the test. “I have a client who is a well-traveled, multi-million-dollar business owner who, at first, only allowed me to book air, car, and hotels for her staff’s business trips. The basic, non-sexy stuff. As we worked together, she began sharing stories about her extensive personal travels that I had not booked. I used active listening skills to glean her likes and dislikes. I was patient and, over time, our conversations became a bit more two-sided. She started to trust me as I had grown more confident in my knowledge and experience by continuously building my network, traveling and developing relationships with suppliers/DMCs. Eventually, she allowed me to design a personal trip for her. And recently, I curated a 1.2 million dollar once-in-a-lifetime around-the-world jet journey for her and her family!”
Quite the accomplishment for a luxury travel advisor who thought she got off to a slow start. Congratulations, Kathleen, we are so proud of, and for, you. Here’s to your continued success.