KHM Travel Agent Spotlight: Debra Cooper

Written by: Amanda Bailey on December 27, 2017

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Sometimes it’s the simple things that stick with us. In 8th grade, Debra Cooper was assigned a travel-related project for school, and from that moment, she was hooked.

In 1989, she attended travel school and then worked for an airline for a few years. She first became a travel agent in 1992, when travel agents faced much different challenges than they do today.

“We made over 50% of our revenue from air tickets,” Debra says. “The airfare wars in the early 90’s about destroyed us all.”

Eventually she moved into the home improvement industry, and began working in sales, which gradually turned into a 60-plus hour a week job. In 2013, she decided to transition back to the world of travel and launch her business, Getaway Layaway Vacations.

This time around, finding the time and budget to market herself proved to be the biggest hurdles. She was putting in the same hours at her regular job, so she was forced to get creative with her marketing strategies.

She joined a local Business Networking International (BNI) group and got to know the group’s members. While initially it didn’t bring her many bookings, the relationships Debra gradually began to build with BNI eventually led to her long-term success.

“My BNI group only had 16 members when I joined,” adds Debra. “We swore in our 49th member last month. My referral network is deep and loyal.”

By 2015, her Indiana-based business had reached our Pinnacle level of top-producing agents.

She also emphasizes the importance of developing connections within the travel industry. She has made attending events like Destination Success, our Crystal Conference and Awards, and FAM trips a priority. Not only does she learn something new with each opportunity, but she also deepens her network of supplier partners, KHM Travel staff, and her fellow agents.

“I have a core group of people that I can trust and reach out to and I know they will always give me the help and support I need,” Debra says. “They are also great listeners when I need to rant and cheerleaders when I have something to celebrate!”

As much as learning about destinations is essential for agents, she says that they need to think of themselves as salespeople. After establishing a business and learning the basics of booking, agents should invest time in learning sales skills, and developing their networking abilities.

“Remember – no matter if you believe you can do something or you believe you can not – you are right,” she says.

Debra doesn’t limit herself to a specific niche, preferring to offer a range of travel opportunities to her clients. She loves the challenge of coordinating a vacation that’s off the beaten path, and most recently even worked with a client on planning their trip to Antarctica.

Her own most memorable vacations are tied to the people she gets to share them with. She’ll never forget her daughter’s first trip to Disney, or the first time she took her grandson to the beach.

“I have seen so many beautiful places, but there are still so many to see,” Debra says. “My grandson says that it is a ‘Big Earth’ and he is right.”

Thank you to Debra for sharing her expertise and passion for travel with us, and congratulations on building a successful travel agency!


If you’d like to learn more about how you can start a fun, rewarding travel agent career from home, fill out the form on the right side of the screen or call 1-888-611-1220 to gain access to KHM Travel’s free Travel Agent Information Guide.