Los Gatos Travel
Maija Panger has accomplished the feat of being chosen as her agency’s trendsetter after only a year and a half in the industry. She tells us that as a newbie, she brings a fresh perspective to her office, and that starts from how she attracts her clients. It doesn’t hurt that her revenue from her first full year in the industry was roughly $400,000.
Dating back to her time at San Jose State University, Panger has worked in the food service / hospitality industry. While bartending on nights and weekends, Panger introduces her guests to the benefits of using a travel advisor. “It may seem like a strange connection, but people love to chat with their bartender, and frequently past travels or future plans organically come up in the conversation,” she says. Panger is careful to not come off as pushy; rather she explains that an advisor has a strong knowledge of destinations, that they will handle all of the time-consuming details, and that they will be there in the event that anything goes wrong. “Most of the time I get a phone call,” she tells us. “Not all pan out but I’m still educating people.”
In fact, it was the reverse conversation that got Panger into the travel industry. Los Gatos Travel founder, Maureen Conlin sat down at the bar one night, and, after a long discussion about travel, told Panger she owned an agency. “To be frank, I didn’t know people still used travel agents,” Panger says. After asking “what probably felt like a million questions,” Panger took Conlin’s card, arranged a lunch and discussed a job opening with the agency. The rest is history.
Panger also uses social media to attract clients. “It’s a delicate balance” between promoting her business and annoying her friends, she says, explaining that even she has a few connections who overdo it when promoting their respective businesses.
Panger’s clients are an assorted bunch but the majority is new to using travel advisors; many of these are honeymoon couples, young adventure travelers and families going on summer vacation.
Atop the list of her favorite destinations is Australia, a place she fell in love with during a yearlong work / holiday experience. She split her time between Melbourne and a small town in Western Australia called Exmouth — the base for exploring the Ningaloo Reef, the largest fringe reef in the world. “If I could send every one of my clients there, I would do it in a heartbeat.” Next on her travel list will either be Costa Rica or Thailand; she says both destinations have been on her bucket list for a while and are very popular among her clients.