Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrea Norfolk.
Hi Andrea, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was always drawn to travel because I didn’t travel much outside my home state of Maryland growing up. After doing a stint in the corporate world, I decided to follow my passion for travel and started looking for something different. I began working for a local travel agency and had a great mentor who had been in the industry for over 15 years. After a year or so of working with her, I knew that I wanted to make a name for myself and decided to open my own travel agency. I built a great client base and have never looked back. Today, I have a great team of women and an incredible network of clients who believe in what I do and value my expertise.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Most people assume booking trips is easy but it has been an immense amount of work to not only service the large client base I have but to grow the company as well. Being a travel agent means you never really are able to turn off. People are always in destination (except for last year during COVID) and this is a sales-driven profession. With the internet as our competitor, we have to maintain a very quick turnaround time while also providing an exceptional level of service.
Our client base is 95% referrals, so people who come to us are expecting the same level of service (as they should) that their friends and family received. It’s the word-of-mouth referrals that has led us to grow so quickly but with that comes intense pressure never turn work off. When one client travels, there are 100 more waiting to go and 20 quotes to get out the door. Everyone wants your attention, your response quickly, and a quote faster than going on the internet.
COVID by far has been our biggest challenge to date. The travel industry was one of the hardest-hit segments in the market. Many agencies were forced to close or agents to pick up other work. We were able to survive but it was not easy. We knew that our client base was strong and as soon as people could travel again, they would and that’s what kept us going. We worked tirelessly on refunds, cancellations, date changes and are still dealing with the aftermath of Covid as we now have to navigate the ever-changing protocols of each country. However, I still wake up excited to see what the day holds and where I’m sending people. I’ve been in this industry for eight years and I cannot imagine doing anything else.
We’ve been impressed with Shoreline Destinations, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Whenever I tell someone what I do, I’m prepared to hear one of the following: “Do Travel Agents still exist?! Doesn’t everyone book online? Why should I use a travel agent?”
Yes, travel agents still exist and in many ways, we believe the business is thriving because it’s become information overload online. People usually start off excited about planning a trip but quickly become frustrated & overwhelmed with the options available when researching online. We agents often have to validate what we do and prove to new clients that we really do save them time & money. It’s a very misunderstood career, but one that I personally love and can’t imagine doing anything else. Yes, I get to travel to the most wonderful places… it’s what I consider the ultimate perk. However, travel is about 10% of the job. The rest is an enormous amount of work and dedication.
We focus on giving clients a personal experience and we don’t like “cookie-cutter” vacations. Each vacation we plan is different. By the time our clients go on their trip, they feel more like friends to us. Many times, trips are 18 months in the making and we’ve spent a lot of time emailing, talking, and finalizing details over that time frame. We are 100% invested in each of the trips we plan. There is nothing we love more than getting pictures from clients while they are away and hearing that they are having a great time.
The idea of providing a personal experience guides us in our marketing. Our social media posts, website, blog, newsletters, etc. are all very personal. We love sharing our pictures with clients and our reviews of resorts. We also consider ourselves a team and while I may be the leader of my own “dream team”, I try as much as I can to use the word “we” and that I work “with” my agents. Those two words are important. I don’t want my agents to feel that I’m their boss. We have a great dynamic and that resonates throughout all our social media and with our clients.
Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
Grow smartly — If the right infrastructure isn’t in place to handle growth, it will lead to poor customer service. As mentioned, I’ve been strategic in growing this agency only to a certain point. I don’t need 50 agents. I just need five great ones. Build a brand, not just a business — I love my business name, my logo, and my marketing materials. It’s cohesive and professional. Not every travel agency exudes professionalism. I want to stand out in the crowd.
Network — You have to ensure you have strategic relationships in place for many reasons. I have incredible relationships with my travel suppliers and peers. When an issue comes up, I have a person I can turn to if needed. It’s key in this industry, which spans the globe.
Be Confident in saying no — I consider myself an expert and I’ve done this long enough to know my worth. I will turn clients away if I do not feel it’s a good fit (i.e. unrealistic budget or expectations). It’s important to be confident to say no.
Teamwork — There isn’t a successful business out there that doesn’t have strong people behind the leader. You cannot grow without a good team. Find your “right hand” people and always appreciate them. I try hard to thank them and to make sure my clients know there is a team behind what I do. I couldn’t do this alone and I’m vocal about that.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.shorelinedestinations.com
- Instagram: @shoreline_destinations
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shorelinedestinations/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxNKyL7iD1BxHGQrkXuJbVg
Desiree Ortman Photography- Photos By Desiree Ortman