Never being content with “good enough” has garnered Justine Sjurseth recognition, both as a Trendsetter and at Acendas Vacations, where she is a branch manager and travel consultant in Eden Prairie, MN.
Despite only having been with Acendas for a little over seven months, Sjurseth is already tweaking processes to improve personalization and customization at her business.
“Acendas prides itself on an 80 percent repeat and referral rate, and I hope to increase that number by creating and maintaining more in-depth customer profiles,” Sjurseth says.
That personal approach has won Sjurseth appeal with young, busy professionals, a demographic she says she works with best.
“These clients are savvy and not afraid of the Internet, but don’t want to spend hours researching a trip,” says Sjurseth. “Expedia is no longer novel. They want to work with a professional who knows their stuff and who makes them feel like a VIP.”
Sjurseth’s real secret to success, however, is a focus on branding throughout all customer interactions, an approach that she says many advisors often overlook.
“All the proposals and invoices I send to clients are beautiful, easy to understand and branded as Acendas,” Sjurseth says. “It’s little things like this that make you look professional.”
Another good tip? “You will never hear me say ‘No, I can’t do that,’” says Sjurseth. “Where there is a will, there is a way, and if you can come up with creative solutions to a client’s problems, they will come back to you time and again.”
Sjurseth did not set out to become a travel advisor. Instead, in college she wanted to be an event planner, with a focus on
“I quickly realized that being a wedding planner meant that all your nights and weekends will be monopolized because that’s when weddings happen,” Sjurseth says. “I wanted something that would allow me to have a life outside of work.”
Then, one day after a job fair, Sjurseth drove by a travel agency and had what she describes as a “light bulb moment” — a realization that planning travel is like planning many smaller events. She stopped, walked in the front door and handed in her resume.
“Like many my age, I didn’t really know what travel agents did, or that they were still prevalent, but I fell in love with the industry, and never looked back,” Sjurseth says.
Seven years as a front-line advisor later, Sjurseth now pulls in over $1.4 million a year in revenue, much of it from destination weddings and honeymoons.
While most of her Minnesota-based clients are interested in beach escapes, she has also recently started selling more
“It’s a very exciting time to be a travel advisor,” says Sjurseth. “Successful advisors today are sophisticated specialists, and it is so refreshing to understand that the OTAs are not our competition because you will never build a relationship with a website.”