There was no question as to what Maureen Paap wanted to accomplish after graduating college. She promptly went on a four-month backpacking excursion though Europe and Africa and then landed a job as a travel advisor in Chicago at a global agency, working in the leisure and corporate sectors for a few years. She took a short break and explored marketing, but now that she’s with Departure Lounge in Austin, TX, Paap says she can’t see herself ever leaving the world of travel again. She’s been with the agency, which uniquely also serves as a coffee/wine bar, for more than three years now, and says it’s a perfect fit for her trendsetting style of selling travel.
“As an independent agent, the Departure Lounge model provides me with an amazing space to work from when I need to get out of my house and it allows me to engage with my clients in a very relaxed environment instead of from behind a desk,” says Paap. “When I meet with clients we can enjoy coffee or a glass of wine from an international destination while planning their trip; we can also utilize one of Departure Lounge’s interactive screens to showcase different destinations.”
Departure Lounge’s founder Keith Waldon created this new style of agency with the hope of showing clients that travel advisors are on the forefront of creating unique experiences, and not a thing of the past. Paap is the ideal example of that credo. “When I re-entered the travel industry with Departure Lounge I worked really hard to build my clientele,” she tells us. “This included very long hours spent meeting with clients, working on proposals, networking in the wedding and events industry, creating a marketing plan and then providing customers with outstanding service.”
Because so many clients are used to dealing with the Internet, getting back to them quickly is very important, she says. “I like to let my clients know how I work and that I’m often dealing with suppliers in the country they will be traveling to, to create unique itineraries that aren’t available at the click of a button. This helps set expectations as to how long it might take to receive a proposal.”
Paap designs trips for families, retirees, and travel and incentive groups. When planning her own wedding a few years ago, she started to specialize in honeymoons and destination weddings.
Apart from creating romantic getaways for her clients, Paap is personally passionate about adventure travel and loves spending time in Mexico, Central America, Europe, South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.
So what’s the secret to Paap’s success? With an annual sales revenue of $1 million, she has a unique perspective as to what keeps her clients coming back. “Not every budget or trip calls for a camel ride to a private dinner in the desert, but just recommending little things clients can add to their trip like a spa treatment, a hike or a romantic meal can make a huge difference and show your value as an advisor,” Paap tells Luxury Travel Advisor.
In her personal life, Paap and her husband are expecting their first child. But, being the trendsetting traveler she is, Paap won’t be settling in for long and is already planning what will be their first trip with the baby in February to Cabo, Jamaica or St. Barths.