Martha Gaughen, the vice president and co-owner of mega-agency Brownell Travel, headquartered in Birmingham, AL, has had an impressive career in travel. She has been an advisor for 35 years, with 29 of those having been with her current agency — first as co-owner of Sterling Travel and then as co-owner of Brownell, along with Troy Haas and Meg North. On top of all of her additional roles, Gaughen still pulls in $8 million in annual sales, she tells Luxury Travel Advisor.
It’s not these numbers, however, that make her a Trendsetter; it’s about the tone she sets at her agency, setting a strong example for others to look up to.
Brownell’s director of marketing, Haisley Smith, says Gaughen “continues to inspire and develop advisors with her innovative approach to client engagement.” For example, we’re told, Gaughen will often create video trailers to present itineraries to her clients. “The images, music and personal photos really ‘wow’ and create tremendous anticipation and connection with upcoming trips,” says Smith.
We hear Gaughen has “a Magic 8-Ball” when it comes to finding the next emerging destination. For those asking, Gaughen just returned from Canouan Island, where she stayed at the recently reflagged Mandarin Oriental. “I feel [Canouan] is going to be the new ‘it’ island in the Caribbean,” she tells us. “The island itself is a hidden treasure, now that the island has new owners and amazing people who have taken over and turned it around.”
Before crafting her vacation trailers, Gaughen must craft the perfect itinerary. To do that, she tells us “I stay focused on who they are and what their dreams are, leading them to those experiences that they don’t even know they want to have.”
She adds, “I educate them on how to immerse themselves into their destination so that they can be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Gaughen says she does not have any particular niche, but does sell a lot of multigenerational trips, Italy, Caribbean, Europe and Africa. “My clients are anyone and everyone who need an expert consultant that delivers personalized, custom travel experiences and are willing and happy to pay for that expertise.”
As the vice president and co-owner of Brownell, Gaughen has to set the tone for her team. What does she have to say about the agency?
“I love the environment that promotes and encourages innovation, graciousness, passion, integrity and excellence,” she says.
Gaughen continues, saying, “I am very proud to be a part of the Brownell community. There is not a day that goes by that I do not learn something new. There is not a consultant or support staff in Brownell that has not contributed to who we are and the successes we have achieved. We all take great pride in what we do and acknowledge the genius in each of us. I am nothing without my team.”