116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Lisa Person just returned from a business trip to Ochos Rios, Jamaica, where she toured three different resorts, met with resort managers, and sampled the food and drink.
'They're called fam trips, or familiarization trips, and they give travel agents first-hand experience to share with clients,' she said.
The opportunity for quarterly fam trips is just one perk of Person's new career as a travel agent, which grew out of less-than-ideal circumstances.
For the last several years, Person had been teaching Spanish in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, most recently at the elementary school level. When the school district announced that it was eliminating the elementary Spanish program after the 2015-2016 school year, she was one of 12 teachers whose jobs were affected.
'I thought I would always be a teacher,' she said. 'But I've always loved planning travel and I enjoy reading about and investigating different places to travel. The light bulb finally went on.'
As a Spanish teacher, Person planned and hosted multiple class trips to Spain over the years.
'I organized it all, and I really loved doing that,' she said. 'But I didn't think of it as a profession.'
When she first learned that the Spanish program was on the chopping block, Person said she looked into the feasibility of a career as a travel agent.
'I wanted to make sure I was going into a business with a future,' she said. 'I was surprised to see an outlook for growth again for travel agents. Consumers are becoming overwhelmed with the information available to them on internet travel sites and are looking to the experts to plan their trips for them.'
Through her research, Person discovered that demand is growing in particular for specialized travel agents.
'I want to focus on a niche, which is Spanish-speaking countries,' she said.
In January, while still teaching full-time, Person signed on with a host group, which serves as a broker between independent travel agents and vendors and provides the advantage of immense buying power for agents. She also began obtaining the necessary certifications towards eventual IATAN (International Airlines Travel Agent Network) accreditation.
Now that the school year is over, Person is devoting 100 percent of her working time to her travel agency, which she named Traveling Person.
In addition to providing the typical group, family, and individual travel services one would expect from a travel agency, Traveling Person will draw upon Person's background as a Spanish teacher and offer Spanish lessons to those traveling to Spanish-speaking destinations.
'Learning even a little bit of the basics can really increase your cultural understanding and can give you a better travel experience,' Person said.
Language lessons will be just one unique offering of Traveling Person. Person said she is collaborating with friend and 'Survivor: Philippines' winner Denise Stapley, a Cedar Rapids therapist, on an adventure travel trip that will push participants out of their comfort zones and increase their confidence levels.
At a Glance
Owner: Lisa Person
Business: Traveling Person
Phone: (319) 431-6710
Know a company or manager who has been in business for less than a year that would be ideal for 'Ground Floor'? Contact Francie Williamson at email@example.com