Carol Nichols brings in $1.4 million in annual revenue doing what she loves most — crafting independent and cruise vacations for her clients going to Europe. This luxury travel advisor lives in the northwest suburb of Chicago called Park Ridge (she has for most of her life) and the majority of her clients are friends and referrals. She also plans vacations for many of the corporate clients at Acendas, a mega-agency that brings in $185 million in revenue a year for its entire business and $22 million for its vacation division.
“I love to travel to Europe,” Nichols tells us. “I specialize in FITs, luxury Mediterranean cruises and, my favorite, river cruises. I wish everyone could experience Europe.”
She recently sailed on a Tauck river cruise from Leon to Avignon as well as a Scenic river cruise on the Danube from Nuremberg to Budapest. “I love to travel to destinations I have not experienced before,” she says.
Her strategy is to understand what each client wants from their vacation. With that knowledge in hand, you can add in things to make it special, she says. “I also feel you need to be honest with every client. I will never tell a client I have been somewhere that I have not been to, but I will tell them that I am happy to do the research and get the answers to any questions that they have,” she says.
Forging alliances with tour operators and cruise companies is also important. “If you build a relationship with them they can be very resourceful,” says Nichols.
This star travel advisor was a stay-at-home mom; as her children grew she took travel consultant courses at a nearby college. “I always loved the thought of traveling to new exciting places,” she says. Her first job was at a storefront agency, working with one other agent and the owner. “I am grateful for the enthusiasm and knowledge of travel that the Mom and Pop agency taught me,” she says.
That was 27 years ago, and it’s been a rewarding career for Nichols, who is now a grandmother, and along with her husband, enjoys planning outings for her young grandchildren.
She’s been at Acendas for eight years.
“I work for a company that appreciates its employees, provides me the tools I need to keep up with everything new in travel and automation. Most importantly, our Acendas team works together to give our clients the best travel experience possible,” she says. She also loves the people she works with, which doesn’t hurt.
Why does she feel she was selected as a trendsetter?
“I am knowledgeable, reliable and thorough. I am a top producer and can be relied on to assist any type of traveler, from the demanding high-end client to the young honeymooners,” she says. To grow her business even more, her plans include following up with clients after their trips.
“I also believe it is important to ask for referrals. The majority of my business has been created by referrals. I also plan to keep my online profile up to date and fresh so as to attract new clients,” she adds.