January 28, 2021

ilpuntontc

Just Do Travel

Travel Advisor Tough: Meet Maureen and Lauren Celli

4 min read

Tough times favor tough people, and times don’t get any tougher than they have in 2020. To succeed in the present environment, travel advisors need the durability to adapt not only to changing conditions but to great upheaval.

Our “Travel Advisor Tough” series spotlights retail travel professionals who are showing their toughness in this extremely difficult travel environment. This week’s subject is the mother-daughter team behind Connecticut-based MoGo Travel Service, Maureen and Lauren Celli.

ADVERTISING

Specializing in luxury leisure travel, Maureen Celli is the force behind the business with more than 35 years of travel experience beginning as an American Airlines ticket reservations agent, to operating a AAA Travel outlet, to starting her own travel agency in 2012.

In 2016 Maureen brought her “powerhouse” daughter Lauren into the business as sales eclipsed one million dollars and clients were “pouring in,” in Lauren’s words. After being in the top-10 producers list for the past four years, MoGo Travel Service finally captured the #1 spot in 2020 as the top producer in the OASIS network under the Signature Travel consortium.

Lauren is now “grateful to be learning from a veteran” like her mother. We spoke with her recently about how she and Maureen have weathered this unprecedented period in travel.

TP: What are you doing to navigate this difficult period?

LC: “MoGo Travel Service has taken this time to work with travel experts on operation efficiency. After a month of review, our business invested in a new CRM system and virtual assistant. This new process includes up-to-date terms and conditions, online credit card authorization, customer intake forms, automated invoice approvals and automatic email reminders. It was scary to invest during this difficult period, but we have already seen our efforts paying off with our professionalism and attention to detail.”

TP: What has been the most frustrating part of being a travel advisor during the pandemic?

LC: “Can we say everything? We will never forget setting our alarms for 3 a.m. to call airlines, as that was the shortest hold time for us to cancel flights or request refunds. Outside the lack of sleep, the most frustrating part of being a travel advisor during the pandemic has been the constant changing of refund policies.

“At MoGo Travel Service we consider ourselves warriors in battle for our clients. We won’t go back to our clients until we have exhausted every avenue to get back what they deserve. I can proudly say we got over 100 refunds and 50 future travel credit clients over the summer of 2020.”

TP: If she/he could do only one thing, what is one strategy a travel advisor must undertake now?

LC: “Think expansion! I know it sounds crazy, but MoGo Travel Service has taken on three new travel advisors since the pandemic. Not only is it a great opportunity for MoGo Travel Service, but also it’s what we all need right now; camaraderie, teamwork and support.”

TP: How are you advising clients with regards to personal health and safety while they’re traveling?

LC: “MoGo Travel Service has a very strong belief that everyone has a different level of comfort of traveling during the pandemic. We primarily only book five-star properties or experiences and have great partner relationships to know what precautions are being taken to keep our clients safe. Travel insurance has become a must now for all our clients. We have a 100 percent sell-in rate of insurance since the pandemic.”

TP: We’re asking the professionals profiled here to tell us of a recent find. Can you tell me about a product or experience that is a new, must-do experience for your clients?

LC: “The hottest thing we are seeing is small yacht cruising. In the Caribbean is Windstar. In the Galapagos are expedition ships such as Lindblad Expeditions. In Europe, Emerald River Cruises has come out with Emerald Azzura. The Azzura is marketing this 100-passenger yacht to explore small ports and deliver luxury onboard experiences.”

Windstar Cruises' Star Legend in San Juan
MoGo Travel is experienceing success selling small-ship voyages including Windstar Cruises’ itineraries. (Photo by Brian Major)

TP: How have your clients reacted to their travel dreams being deferred or delayed or put off altogether?

LC: “Being a mother-daughter agency we have a lot of baby boomers and millennial travelers. We have been very surprised that the first group to come back swinging has been the baby boomers. Not only did these clients primarily take future travel credits, they are the first to get back making new bookings for fall of 2021! On the other hand, many of the millennials have canceled and requested money back and seem to be investing more in home projects or near-home vacations.”

TP: There are some travel professionals who still prefer the term “agent” to “advisor” Where do you stand: travel agent or advisor? Which do you prefer and why?

LC: “We call ourselves travel agents not because we don’t appreciate the new title, but just because it gets right to the point. If we say advisor, the next question is usually ‘Oh, are you like a travel agent?’ At the end of the day, our clients are friends, we are 100 percent referral business and as long as they call us to plan their next adventure, they can call us anything they’d like, we would even take ‘travel agent warrior!’