Merging of Two Passions to create a new business direction for this Travel Professional
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Sometimes, when things are hard, a question that arises is WHY….
Why have I chosen to do something. In this instance, a question I am hearing often right now is: “Why am I still here in travel?” “Why do I still remain on the roller coaster of emotions as a pandemic surrounds me?”
If you have asked yourself this or many other “Why” questions, you are not alone. Sometimes I too ask myself this when having a tough day. I answer myself with my love and passion for the industry, travel and adventures we can have exploring this incredible planet we live on and my passion for helping others create memories of their own experiences as well.
Over the last few years, I have shared my journey with you. How my team and I have worked through the struggles, challenges, and moments we faced. As a team and also as individuals.
In this episode, I asked one of my long term clients share her story. She has ridden the same roller coaster, lost thousands of dollars worth of bookings, but decided that this was not the end of her travel experience as an advisor.
It is a journey of discovery, experience, up-skilling and working ON herself and her business to come through this time. A story of hope and what you can do too.
Kerstin has been part of the Travel Agent Achievers community since its inception and to watch her overcome the challenges has been an honor and privilege. I have seen her grow and flourish. Riding the wins and achievements as well as walking with her through the challenging times.
Her big heart for travel and wellness has helped her pivot and cope at times during the pandemic.
Even though her business ground to a halt, when the shock and main activity subsided, she did not let emotion and challenges bring her down. She asked herself - "Why" but then also followed with "What".
She has worked on what resonated with her and has taken action working ON her business. Given the greatest gift of time to get organised.
Business can be challenging. No one ever told you that having your own business would be easy. But with the right support and guidance, you will come through this time stronger and more resilient than ever.
You can be the Travel Advisor that clients are looking to turn to. One that is an expert, knowledgeable and ready to take care of them.
Kerstin is a member of the Achievers Mastermind as well. Her progress, implementation and training have been remarkable. I know that with the solid foundations she is putting in place, her business will soar when we are once again allowed to travel.
If you are looking to uplevel your business, check out the resources at www.travelagentachievers.com
Links Mentioned in the Episode
Quotes in this Episode
“What does it mean to be ready?” And it got me thinking. If you are waiting to be ready, you will be waiting forever. And many of us wait to be “ready” and therefore miss the boat. So I have decided to take action and stumble along the way. I am not perfect, but I make it work and learn along the way. - Kerstin Rheinlander
I just have this strong belief that we will travel again, COVID is a temporary roadblock, a challenging one I must admit, but we will find ways to travel again. - Kerstin Rheinlander
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Announcer: Welcome to Travel Agent Achievers, the place to learn how to grow your travel business and have fun with it. Join Rosalyn and her guests as they walk you through proven steps to a fulfilling and profitable business.
Ros:: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the travel agent achievers podcast. I have a very special guest here once again today with one of our achievers mastermind members, but also an incredible travel professional herself. Kerstin, welcome to the Travel Agent Achievers podcast.
Kerstin: Thanks for having me here. I'm really delighted to have a chat with you today.
Ros: I'm so glad that you are here. And I wanted to kick off this episode. If that's all right, Kirsten, with a little bit about you, would you mind sharing your travel background? So let's talk pre, you know, 2020 What has been your travel journey?
Kerstin: My travel journey. It's been an interesting one. I think my travel journey started about 35 years ago, I told you my age, baby. So my travel journey actually started with student exchanges that I did while I was growing up in Germany. And then after that I, you know, found my way to an airline, had they, they helped me travel around the world, you know, free of charge and paid me for it as well. And then I found new places to live, you know, I left Germany, moved to Hong Kong and lived there and worked in travel there for an airline again. And then I moved from there to the other side of the world to the US and lived in the US to explore the West. I didn't work and travel there but I shipped steel around the world instead. So you know whether ship people or steel, it just doesn't matter. Yeah, but the same process. And then I moved to Australia, but 15 years ago, a little playground conversation pulled me back into the actual travel industry into the retail industry. And, you know, I've been in the industry on and off then, you know, working here working there in real estate in wholesale and in retail. And then in 2017, I started running my own business. And here I am still here, still Aspire 2020.
Ros: That's right, you are still here. So you are a travel professional, a travel travel expert with your own business. What was your specialty? Or what is you know, Preet let's talk through 2020 because I know that things have changed, and I'll share that journey with everybody on the podcast, but for anybody that's listening today. But what was your nature, your specialty?
Kerstin: So because I grew up in Europe, I really know you very well, how to travel from one state to another. I speak a few languages as well, so I can help out with that. So my specialty was mainly helping clients discover Europe in a special way. Also streamline their plans, because sometimes they come to me and they have six weeks to travel, but they want to fit in three months worth of travel. And I have to then say okay, well, what did you do? And what do you do that, you know, you can't just discover Europe in six weeks, you know, it takes you. I'm still discovering Europe, you know, and I grew up there. And every time I go back, I find a new little place that I enjoyed. So it's really helping the clients to get the best out of their Europe trip and show them some little gems they would maybe not find if they just, you know, planned it on their own and just help them to, you know, have the best experience of their lives.
Ros: Absolutely. And my youngest sister lives in Germany with her two kids who I absolutely adore. So I know even travelling over there with them now, I get the opportunity to have my own little translators on board with me, which is super cool. But I agree with you seeing those little you know, places that you wouldn't have expected and the gems it's just amazing. So would you say that your business was mostly fit or were they group experiences?
Kerstin: Where was your online? Yeah, mine was solely fit. So clients would come to me and say, This is what I want to do. Put it all together for me. And we then plan anything from, you know, getting their accommodation, car, hire, train, travel, river cruises. And we'll just make it all fit together perfectly. For them to have a fabulous experience. That's all tailor made down to a tee.
Ros: Amazing. And so labour intensive, it was hours of noise. So talking about the amount of time that you would spend on these bookings are in pre pre COVID, did you have a professional travel fee that you implemented with every booking? Or was it a bit of an ad hoc thing? Like how did you go with the commission structure then.
Kerstin: So what I usually do, all I did, then was charge a planning fee, because I knew a big trip like that would take me about three to five hours, just to get a simple itinerary together. And sometimes I would add a little bit for the airfare. But most of the time I would base it on the commission that I would earn from the accommodation or from the cruise companies or anything like that. So there were no extra fees that I added, then because it was pretty reliable.
Ros: That's right. So things have certainly changed. And I know over the last feels like you know, two years that it's probably close to that now that you and I have known each other when your business model has certainly changed and evolved and just watching the progression and that transformation for yourself has been, you know, an absolute honour for me to be part of that journey and to watch you grow and move into different things. So when COVID here, I mean, what happened to you and your travel business? Or whatever happens to everybody else's? What if Yeah, it all fell apart. But for you, I mean, working with your clients, what was the feedback that you got, because I mean, unravelling and fit and a lot of being bookings like that that's, again, really labour intensive. So I mean, what was your experience initially, in those first few months?
Kerstin: It was, it was hard work. It was many, many hours of work to get in touch with everyone. And there were times where I just didn't want to do it anymore. But I had to plough through. But I can say that I did get the majority of the refunds back for my clients. And sometimes I had to say, look, be patient, it will happen. And I kept at it on and on and on. And, you know, going back to suppliers and asking again and again and again, until I actually got the results. Sometimes it took me . I had some bookings that took me about nine or 10 months to actually get some money back. But I got all the refunds back. And the clients were then even happy when we credits that were initial credits could be then refunded. So whenever I had good news, I would call them up and say, Well, guess what, I've got some more money for you. So I think they so far, they all said, you know, we're so glad we have you on our side, because we know when we travel again, we can trust you and that you will do the best for us. And I think that was important to me because I, I believe they were entitled to a refund. And I just worked hard for them because they're my clients now I love them. And that's how I approach the customer service that I offer.
Ros: Yep, absolutely. And I think that that's one thing about you, I mean, your openness and honesty, but also your strength of character. I mean, I admire that sometimes because there are times that I have come to you and I've been in a bad place.
But speaking to you, and you've had that confidence to go You know what, yeah, you've got this, you've got this and you know, to but also to be there for you when you've had the tough times has been an honour for me to walk the journey as I say with you because I know that it's not easy and it's not easy just for you and I being in the travel industry, but for everybody else out there, whether it is suppliers already as travel professionals and travel agents, whatever you want to call it, but I think that for everybody, we've gone through some really tough times, but I'm seeing now that those that have hung in there, and those that have done the work and those that are really ready to make a difference will be coming through the other side.
Now, during the quieter times over the last 12 months, you've also, you know, I hate to use the word pivot. But you have also invested in yourself, I think, is probably a better way to really look at who you are, what you do what you want to do in the future, I know that you and I have spoken a lot about finding your ideal client and who lights you up, and who you want to work with in the future. So what sort of training, what sort of education Have you done now to look at yourself and what you want to do in the future?
Kerstin: Well, when I had a bit of time to look around, I actually found a wellness travel specialist training. You know, we had a lot of downtime. You go, Well, what can I do next? So I completed that wellness travel specialist training. And that somehow triggered my interest in wellness in general.
I've always had an interest in wellness. But you know, when you're busy with travel bookings, you sometimes forget to look after yourself. Yeah, so this wellness travel specialist training was a bit of a trigger for me, because it encouraged me as well to try some of the modalities that are used in wellness travel word wellness retreats, you know, when you go out to you, you do certain massage packages, or water treatments or things like that.
So, I personally chose to have to look into I Aveda, as one of the modalities and you know, with Ayurveda, usually your clients will go to places like India, or to Bali, or to Thailand, where you have clinics that offer the Ayurveda and you know, if I wanted to offer this to my clients, of course, I had to try this out first myself, so I could say it actually works.
Ros: Yeah. So, wellness, it's your own personal journey as well as to go to wellness retreats as well.
Kerstin: I didn't do that very much when I went on a holiday. I sometimes put myself in massage, but a real wellness retreat is more than just a massage, it's really taking the time out for yourself to nurture the inside and the outside. And so with the as a wellness travel specialist, now I have access to all these hotels worldwide, where you can actually nurture yourself inside out so you don't just let's say for example, you'd go to Europe, you book yourself in for a real wellness retreat for a week and after that you go travelling around so you can combine the two which is really brilliant, love that so long story short, I you know, I discovered my own wellness journey through the wellness travel specialist training and it took me on a completely different path, you know, I've I've embraced my wellness, I've applied my Ayurveda prescriptions, I've lost weight, a lot of weight that was put on because of my comfort drinking and comfort eating during COVID I can relate all that.
Ros: And I think a lot of people can know making choices that we wouldn't have necessarily made previously. So that's all part of the wellness right just to be taken care of, inside and out.
Kerstin: Inside and out, you know, it starts from the outside, we know have a hair catch if you can give yourself a new colour and and nourish yourself you know, you know, have some good food that is that is loaded with vitamins and so on to help your body become resilient and and healthy. So with this journey, what I did then is I actually discovered wellness coaching, I thought was so important to all of us. And I took it further and studied to become a professional certified wellness coach. And I'm loving that now as well. So this is my little pivot into the wellness area and I see that it has a lot of potential to be combined with travel when we can travel again.
Ros: Absolutely. So wellness coaching, what is wellness coaching? Somebody Yay. If somebody were to say to you, what does a wellness coach do?
Kerstin: Well, the way I coach or talk about wellness is I look at wellness from a holistic perspective. So wellness is not just your physical wellness, it's your mental well being, your spiritual well being Your financial well being, your social connections and how you impact the environment.
So it's a, it's a bigger package we look at most people, when they hear wellness, they think about nutrition and exercise, but it's so, so much more. And now I work with, you know, some clients that feel just stuck and overwhelmed and stressed out because things are bombarding them from all sorts of angles. And, and we've all experienced that as well, you know, we're trying to unravel travel and deal with our families, we're in lockdown. And it's just like, you get to a point where you go, I can't do this anymore, you know, and you feel your back against the wall.
So you need to sort of step back, take a look where you are and go, Okay, what can I do to just change a little bit of something, like just a minimal change, that will help me get back on track. And so with wellness coaching, what I do is help people, or particularly women, that feel stressed and that feel overwhelmed, to implement small consistent changes, so they can find back to themselves, get control of themselves and, you know, re energise.
And it's been a fabulous journey and the few of the women I'm working with at the moment, it feels like they just need somebody to talk to . That's the thing to say, what do you want? You know, what, where do you want to see your life go? And once you know where you want to go, like in business, you can step it back and go, Okay, what are you going to do tomorrow? Where are you going to start? What's the first thing you can do so, so we walked through all of that, and it's just amazing to see how a wellness coaching can help people have these aha moments and go, hang on, I need to look after myself first, to be the best for all the others around me. And that just excites me.
Ros: I love that. I think that that's so important. And particularly for the travel industry and for travel professionals globally, the heaviness that has been carried over the last 18 months, and a lot of people don't remember the phone calls and emails and messages that I get is that I'm stuck and being overwhelmed, or I've lost my mojo, and I don't know how to get it back to really move forward.
So I love that one thing that you've done, and you are continuing to do and now also helping others is actually moving forward and making some of these decisions. But on a holistic approach. It's not just a business, it's not just your personal or it's not just about the relationships in your life, it's on a holistic approach.
So I mean, I, I absolutely adore you and think that you're awesome at whatever you do. And this is just another beautiful path. I think then, you know, you're exploring, and you're getting fantastic results from people as well and seeing the transformations that those that you're helping are also getting so well done on that. And I love that you are here sharing that with the travel industry and the community as well. So awesome work. Thank you, Kirsten.
Kerstin: I think my thanks actually goes up to you. Because without the Travel Agent Achievers mastermind group, I wouldn't be here. I would have quit a long time ago. But being part of this group is actually one of the reasons I still have my mojo because on the days where I didn't have it, others had it, you know, and we picked each other up and we shared tears and we shared all sorts of things. And I say this is the mastermind. While it's still business oriented and travel oriented. It's so much more. It's like it's a lifeline, it was a lifeline. It's been a lifeline through the whole COVID you know and I think for all of us there
Ros: Yeah, absolutely I do. I love that I love that about the community that we have and the people that are a part of the mastermind programme. It is very special that I see so many opportunities and winds and goals and those sorts of things that are happening within the community which is super cool. Now I just wanted to come back to you as the travel professional and the travel excellent. One thing that I have been encouraging the community as a travel agent, achievers, the community to say you are not just a travel agent, you are not just a travel manager, travel counsellor or whatever label you want to put on it. You are so much more than that. And we've used language around being risk assessors that Oh, I know that you really I mean just trying to now Navigate, you know, the the travel landscape, but communicating the message of who we are and what we do to clients, not only for our own, acknowledging ourselves and the software that we have, but also to really put yourself out there to the community or to your clients and say, I am more than what you may have thought previously.
So this is something that I know that you have created something around. And would you be open to sharing how you now talk about yourself?
Kerstin: Absolutely. Okay. Yeah, well, this is one of the lessons we learned. Wow, you've been? You've been reading about that. I love it. But you're always one step further. Yeah. So I've taken that on board now. Because I think I find now is a good opportunity, actually, to be front of mind, with potential new clients. I've rejoined a networking group, which was a big step for me, because I initially thought I wasn't ready. But it's turning out quite good. And I've changed my tune a little bit. And I don't call myself a travel agent anymore. I emphasise that I am a travel expert. And when they asked me, I say,
Well, yes, I have a lot of knowledge and experience. However, I've added all these skills to my portfolio. I'm a risk manager. As you know, we always have to have a plan B, and C in place. Now when clients travel. I'm a solution specialist. I've become a travel coach, a lead negotiator, a legal translator, interpreter fare rules, you name it. I almost feel like a lawyer who's interpreting and manoeuvring this minefield of terms and conditions.
And I think we should all see each other like that, because we have such a vast knowledge. And with everything that we've gone through the last 18 months, we've learned so much. And that should not go unrecognised. You know, we're really good at what we do.
Ros: Absolutely, Oh, I love this. I love that you've got in there as well. But you're a legal translator, and an interpreter of rules. I mean, that's a minefield itself. And I know that there are clients out there, that would just automatically go and book what they need to book. But really, as the travel experts and professionals that we are, we know these things, we understand them. But we need to actually tell our clients that that's what we also value then for them to book with us and to book through us because we can do so many things, we still need to communicate that message.
So the legal translator, I mean, they're the interpreter and Pharaoh, I think that's brilliant. I'm anyway in mind, is that okay? Okay, of course, you know, I've copied so much from you know, you can copy for me. I love it, the risk, the risk management, I actually got it from a conference that I was a part of, and the speaker was doing a whole talk on risk management. And throughout the whole session, I was sitting there going, Yeah, that is now who I am, I am able to find all of these different things.
And when we're now communicating with our clients to repatriate them home to Australia, we actually use that language and say, with regards to risk management, our aim is to reduce the risk and higher the level of probability are the outcomes to the most successful rates. And really, as the risk assesses, we can provide that information to the clients to then make them more I think, more fully informed, probably isn't the best grammatical way to say it, but a really good judgement and based on knowledge and expertise, information so that they can then make the informed decision on how they want to proceed.
You know, do you want to go on an economic class fair and risk getting cancelled? Or are you going to go to the higher class fare and make sure that those wanting 10 seats, you're going to come home?
Kerstin: Yeah, I also think it's if you put it out there, you know, all the things that you offer, you can create, like a kind of trust, you know, that the person can trust you because they know you do all these other things as well. That they're not left alone. And if something happens, you're still going to be there to help them. And I think that's important. Now, a lot of people have learned that they can't go, you know, they can't travel on their own as you know, the old saying with a travel agent, you're on your own on your own, and I love that. Thank you and I think this is important. I will be important moving forward.
Ros: Yeah, for sure. So The other thing that we touched on earlier was around professional fees, as well. And I know for you, you, you had a slightly different model and you were willing to share what, what your model is now, like, what are you doing now for your clients? Because I know for us, we're saying that, you know, we have this turf professional fee for our services and our expertise and our knowledge and all of the things that we've just talked about. But that is something that is for us. Not, you know, there's the Commission's but we don't know what's going to happen with any of those moving forward, but we still need to be paid for our expertise and knowledge. So where do you sit on that site? And what do you think?
Kerstin: Well, I do charge services now. And I'm upfront with that. I charge a commitment fee, when they start working with me, it's non negotiable, it's also non non refundable. Because I spend time on it, I advise them that for everything I do, I charge a fee. And it doesn't have to be a large fee, you know, it's just to acknowledge, look, I'm working for you. Now, if it's an amendment on airfare, it's going to take me an amount of time to do that. So I'm going to charge you 25 $30 $35 worth, whatever the complexity is, it's just I think, we need to value ourselves here, that we're providing a service. And we have to move away from the old model where, you know, everybody said, all the travel agents will do it for me, I still do it, but it's my time. Because my time is worth a lot more, I can, and I can do things a lot faster. You know, if we've seen that as well, you know, when there's airline cancellations, we can sometimes go behind the scenes and really fix it pretty quickly. Whereas clients hang on the phone for three to four hours, you know, time is money.
Ros: So it's a good place to start. Absolutely. And to value yourself as well. So the lesson here for everybody is that your time is valuable. We don't have that as a commodity to just give away, we've only got the one alive. So we deserve, I think, to be paying for the hours and the knowledge and the expertise that we have. It's exactly like going to anybody else, you know, and calling out fee from a tradesperson Oh, yeah. And then to fix it super quick. So why not?
Kerstin: It's sometimes Yeah, sometimes the parts only going to be $6, you know, put the call out for us. $100.
Ros: Exactly. But you pay it because you know that the job gets done quickly. It's much better than waiting for yourself to watch a YouTube video or harassing your partner or something to do it just ain't gonna happen. So rash, not much more of a pay for those experts to do that. So Kirsten, what's now happening for you moving forward? I mean, I'd love to see I personally love to come on a wellness retreat with you.
Kerstin: I actually have found some clients that operate in the wellness industry, and they are already planning tours, and I've got to get on board with them as their preferred travel provider, which means I'm working with them at the moment to set up tours for 2022 and 2023. It's a really exciting thing. And it's all within the wellness room, a lot of it is hiking, some of it is just combining walking and food. And in general, this timeout timeout space for yourself to regroup and recharge, then I'm working on my own wellness retreats that will also incorporate some wellness coaching.
So that's the plan for me, then also include massages because I want to come to one of those.
Ros: I'll make a note of that. I'll make sure that you get a massage when you have to learn first about wellness, wellness, and how to implement that you can have the massage after I would love that I just think that now more so than ever, we we are opening our eyes to really take care of our whole self, mind and body and the opportunities. I honestly believe that wellness travel is going to get a lot bigger than what it ever was before.
People are wanting to take care of themselves and they're wanting to have experiences that enrich their lives. And travel has always done that for me being able to see different places and I know for my clients as well. But I think that there's a real opportunity here for you to know people like yourself who live and breathe wellness both in the wellness coaching but also the opportunity to have the travel incorporated and the experiences there.
Kerstin: And I think people are looking to have more meaningful travel as well, you know, it's not it's going it's it will be going away from the I think I call it bucket bucket list fast travel to do more slow and slow travel where you can savour the moment and have really profound experiences rather than these quick fix things. And to have these profound experiences, you just have to spend more space, more , more time in one place, then rush through it, you know, that's, I think that's really important, that's going to be the new thing. And that's what I advocate as well, yeah, I take the time to have a look at a place, you know, take a day out to sit and just observe, you know, and learn from it, what they're doing, you know, what other people are doing differently. And so I think that's going to be more on the forefront as well as just really, What's your purpose when you go travelling, you know, how is that going to impact your wellbeing?
Ros: Absolutely, I love it. Well, Kristen, thank you so much for sharing your journey here today on the travel agent, achievers podcast with everyone. And it's really special, I think, for us to hear stories of how other people, other travel professionals and experts are getting through this time, but also what we're doing to enrich our lives, and make the most of it as we move forward. So thank you so much for coming on. And being such a fabulous guest today. I sincerely appreciate your time. But also just sharing your story with everyone as well. I know that it will really have an impact on the number of listeners. So thank you.
Kerstin: Well, thank you for having me here. I really enjoyed sharing some of what I have done, you know, so everything is still possible. And I still believe in travel. You know what you mean?
Ros: Yeah, absolutely. So if somebody wants to get in touch with you and learn more about your wellness coaching, is there a way that people can find you?
Kerstin: Absolutely. So I've set up a wellness coaching site called Shines for Wellness because that's exactly what you get, you know, when you focus on your wellness, you start to shine brighter. So you can find me on Facebook on Instagram, and my website is still being built so it's not ready yet. But you can definitely connect with me through Facebook and Instagram. And I believe I've given you the you can, you're welcome to share them.
Ros: We will have all of that in the show notes. We'll be shouting out from the rooftops and you know sharing this episode. So thank you so much, Kerstin for being a part of the programme being part of the achievers mastermind and our travel agent achievers community. You are so giving.
Thank you for being here. I sincerely appreciate it. Thank you. Awesome. All right, everybody. How amazing is that?
I'm feeling very re-energised and uplifted. And I really look forward to continuing to work with Kerstin not only in the travel side of things, but with her wellness. So if you're interested in coming on that wellness retreat with me for all those messages, then let me know when you hear about this podcast, send us a review.
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