Being able to make the best out of a fortuitous situation led Leah M. Smith, of Coastline Travel Advisors, headquartered in Garden Grove, CA, to become her agency’s trendsetter.
During her senior year in college, Smith was hired by Coastline Travel Advisors to be their accountant, a job she wasn’t 100 percent comfortable with. One day, a phone call came in: a client needed to book a cruise, and no agents were available.
“I took it upon myself to assist with this booking, even though I had no formal training as a travel advisor,” Smith says. “Within an hour the cruise was booked and deposited. From that day forward I never processed another invoice and almost instantly became a travel advisor.”
Smith originally found her niche in selling luxury cruises. It was a great business model and an easy foot-in-the-door for her. In the 12 years since then, she’s begun focusing on FIT, land-based travel, which is what she enjoys personally. She obtains most of her clients by word-of-mouth and they range from close friends and their friends, to international billionaires.
At Coastline Travel Advisors, Smith balances selling travel with working with preferred suppliers on business development, and now she’s managing their newest retail agency, Tafari Travel, based in Cherry Creek, Denver, CO. Her various roles within the company, working alongside owner, Jay Johnson, have resulted in a wide variance of yearly revenue. Last year, managing only one client, she produced over $1 million in sales. However, she simultaneously managed millions more working with the agency’s suppliers. It all varies because Smith is always on the go, adding to her responsibilities.
“It definitely is not a secret that I do not like to stay stagnant in my career or even develop a routine for that matter,” Smith says. “I am always looking for a new challenge or ways to shake up my current role. I will always identify as a travel advisor but I do not limit myself to the traditional role of a travel advisor.”
Smith has developed a B2B operation called Powered by Tafari, which creates partnerships with preferred suppliers in order to facilitate business rather than remaining complacent and waiting for the market to dictate business. Some of the suppliers she’s worked with include Easia Travel in Southeast Asia, Exclusive Travel Group in New Zealand / Australia, and even Whole Foods Market.
“I don’t know exactly how or why I want to change things but I dedicate all of my work energy to being ahead of the curve, anticipating that next trend,” Smith says. “It is always nice to be recognized for innovation, even if it is just an attempt to innovate!”
She feels she’s in a good spot with her customer base to do that.
“I have incredible clients who are very open-minded and let my creativity run wild,” Smith says. “I love a new challenge so I tend to work a lot with emerging markets and upcoming suppliers.”
As for opening that new Tafari Travel office in Denver, it’s in a very visible location in the upscale neighborhood of Cherry Creek. “Denver is experiencing one of the highest growths in population, with most residents being trendsetters themselves, highly educated and eager to travel,” says Smith. “My goal is to become one of the most visible and experiential travel agencies in Denver in order to capture this growing market.”