It’s been quite a year for Michael Chick. After 30 years of working for others in the travel industry, he finally took the leap and went out on his own — and what a transition it’s been. With his decades of experience and hard work, and the industry soaring, his first-year sales will top $3.5 million.
“I took on the risks, faced the challenges, and have quickly transitioned from being a great house agent to being a great independent contractor, on track to become one of ASTG’s most successful ICs,” Chick says.
Now in his 12th year — though in this new role — with ASTG, the Los Angeles-based Chick deals primarily with high-net-worth, very well traveled families in industries, including entertainment, private banking and real estate. He works with the most exclusive hotels, resorts, villas, yachts and private jets, and partners with the most trusted DMCs.
At this level, of course, it’s all about “total customization, special access, amazing service levels, ‘wow factors,’ and striving to deliver a beyond-expectation holiday, every single time,” he says.
His role entails remembering and incorporating things that personalize his clients’ experiences, reconfirming everything, and ensuring their smallest requests are in place and their greeters are staged. On their return, he welcomes them home, asks for any feedback they may have, “and always remembers to thank them one last time for letting me plan their holiday,” he says.
Now that he is running his own business at last, Chick’s game plan is to continue to build and expand on his client and vendor relationships, and to stay on top of the “latest and greatest” by participating in conferences and trade events, and by traveling himself.
“Knowing about something new before a client does is critical to demonstrating your expertise,” he says. “Clients spending six figures love to hear you say, ‘when I stayed there last spring...’ It puts them at ease to be working with someone who has been there, done that.”
In addition to travel agencies, Chick has worked with customers at Amtrak, where his travel career began, and as an adjunct faculty member at a top hospitality school, training travel advisors on the Sabre GDS. He has visited 50 countries on six continents, most recently Mexico City; next on his agenda are Fiji and Antarctica. His favorite destinations include Paris, Buenos Aires, South Africa, Bhutan, Australia, and the New England coast, where he grew up.
“If you honestly care about everything you create, understand each sale is a direct reflection on your reputation, and appreciate that getting new referral business is the highest possible compliment, then all the rest follows organically,” he says. “The most important quality for being truly successful is to absolutely love travel.”
Clearly, then, great things await this newest IC in L.A., who says things like, “Every destination I have the privilege to visit affords yet another opportunity for me to step into the world of people from all corners of the planet. The differences and similarities among these cultures and daily ways-of-life, including my own, are truly just as inspiring as they are intriguing. The awareness and empathy I have progressively acquired as a direct result of my extensive travel experiences are unquestionably matchless. I truly cannot imagine how altered my life would be absent the ability to travel.”