KHM Travel Group’s 2017 Rookie of the Year: Erika Lafata
Written by: Amanda Bailey on April 03, 2018
When Erika Lafata joined KHM Travel Group in May 2017, she was in her sixth year as a travel agent. She had already spent more than two decades building a successful career in radio and television doing advertising sales and promotions, but she was burnt out. Her job included a long commute and had taken her away from children.
She wanted a new career that would allow her to work from home, and do all the things she didn’t have the flexibility to do at her previous job.
“Becoming a travel professional married my love of helping people find the best fit for their needs, with my passion for travel,” says Erika. “It has been happily ever after for me and my new career choice ever since!”
Her first bookings were in corporate travel, planning trips for her husband’s company. Gradually she developed a focus on destination weddings, honeymoons and other couples’ trips, making her a perfect fit for our LoveShack Vacations program.
As a romance travel specialist with LoveShack, Erika was not only named the top-producing LoveShack Vacations agent for 2017 at this year’s Crystal Awards ceremony, she also earned the Rookie of the Year award for all of KHM Travel Group.
Throughout her professional career, she’s developed two habits she says have been vital to her success. The first is the ability to read people and determine whether they’d make a good fit as a client.
“I don’t waste time with people who use words like “deal” or “cheap,”” says Erika. “Because of that, I think I have a really high closing rate – I am sure my background in media sales helps with that!”
She also has learned to follow up with prospective clients and clients as quickly as possible, because she knows that people get anxious and emotional about booking travel.
“I jump in feet first and find every way to keep them engaged throughout the process,” she adds. “The sale isn’t done until the commission is paid, so I make sure that I don’t go MIA if a trip is booked out a year in advance.”
Having five years as an independent travel agent was certainly beneficial for Erika, but attending the 2018 Crystal Conference and Awards really opened her eyes to the advantages of working with a host agency.
She was able to connect one-on-one with the suppliers she books, other agents, and our team.
“I saw, by seeing how hands-on and accessible the management team and staff are, that joining KHM Travel and LoveShack Vacations was the best decision I could have made for my business,” Erika says.
Solid partnerships do make it possible for agents to go to great lengths for their clients, as Erika discovered when planning an all-inclusive trip to Mexico for a client with a severe latex allergy. With her client’s safety at the forefront of her mind, she took up the daunting task of finding a resort that could accommodate her.
Erika finally spoke with the General Manager of Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, who assured her his team would be able to meet her client’s needs. When her clients arrived, they were greeted by department heads of each area that needed extra attention and care. Her clients were so thrilled with their trip, and the treatment from Erika and the resort staff that they returned a few months later!
However, this high level of customer service and attention to detail isn’t achieved overnight. Attending Boot Camp, and participating in FAM trips are valuable learning experiences, and they can also help agents focus their energy on what they really want to sell.
“Do not try to wing it by yourself until you understand basic travel principles, logistics, best practices, and especially compliance,” she adds.
We are thrilled you became part of the KHM Travel Group family, Erika! Congratulations on an outstanding year with LoveShack Vacations and KHM Travel Group, and thank you for sharing your inspiring story.
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.