Before we get into the interview, you should first know about Laura’s background. Laura Cohn is a Certified Travel Counselor and Meeting Planner. She is also our assistant managerial director here are EWA Travel. She has been in the travel industry for about 25 years and has been with EWA since 2013. Leadership is one of the major assets that she brings to our company, as she has held previous managerial positions at other firms. She is also highly skilled in delivering customer service and has big number of clients that have been loyal to her for many years. If you were to ever call Laura up, I can ensure you that you will hear the most pleasant, sweet, and calm voice ever. She is very helpful to all of our travelers and for that reason, I wanted to ask her some questions about being a travel counselor and what advice she has for NGO and corporate travelers.
1. What made you decide to become a travel counselor?
While working in a bank after school, I noticed a travel agency next door. I talked to the agents and became ever more interested in planning trips for my friends. Then I enlisted my bank customers to book travel. The agents noticed my efforts and recommended that I should enroll in a travel school; I did and the rest is history.
2. What do you find hard about your job?
I don’t know if ‘hard’ is the right term to use, but noting the current terror threat, you presently have to be precise to assure that a customer’s name exactly matches their passport identity, and you have to be very cognizant of the pricing structure and fare rules, especially when passengers are traveling internationally.
3. Customer service is very important to deliver in any type of service industry particularly in the travel industry. How do you handle angry and frustrated clients?
I have had great success when handling angry clients by remaining calm, sympathetic, responsive, and available. I try never to take anything personally and always attempt to place myself in the disgruntled traveler’s position; that works every time.
4. Besides being a certified travel counselor you’re also a certified meeting planner. What is the difference between a certified travel counselor and a certified meeting planner?
Except that one certification leads to travel and the other to meeting arrangements, the certification programs are quite similar. Both are designed to enhance knowledge and performance. They promote status, credibility, and lead to a uniform standard of practice. The certifications are achieved by professional experience, study groups, and examinations. They are kept current with continuing education.
5. Since you’re a travel counselor I must ask you this question. Do you love to travel?
I love to travel but the myth, that travel agents get free trips all over the world whenever they like, is just that, a myth. On rare occasions I am offered a discounted rate or a free site inspection; when that is available, I do try to take advantage of it.
6. What’s one of your favorite places to visit when you travel?
I love the Caribbean; anyplace there has tropical sunny weather. I also very much enjoy cruising.
7. You’ve been with EWA Travel for two years now. How would you describe the experience that you’ve had with EWA Travel compared to the other agencies you’ve been with in your travel counseling career?
In former travel agencies I was the most experienced agent; I now have 25 years of travel experience. But when I joined EWA I immediately noticed that all of my co-workers were equally experienced. All were working independently without need of assistance. Moreover, here was my boss Tom, with his Flat Line Leadership style, who could still teach me some intricate travel skills – I am still learning!
8. What’s your favorite EWA Travel memory?
My bitter sweet memories are linked to the Rosslyn Office. I call them ‘bitter sweet’ since one cannot remain tied to the past, one must look into the future. And there I see so much potential in the Herndon Office where I am challenged to build similar close working relationships with a new group of professionals.
9. So traveling can be very stressful for organizations and I understand that it can be hard for any organization to coordinate their own travel. What advice would you give to NGO and corporate travelers in what they can do on their own to better prepare themselves before they take off for their trip?
My advice to NGO and Corporate travelers is to caution them, that before they book travel (mode and carrier) and accommodation, make sure to check the Travel Information and Advisory Reports available, to ensure that travel conditions to the target market are safe. This is an excellent first step before the final itinerary is planned. The wise traveler also confirms any meetings and reservations, learns about the local culture and customs, about the applicable currency and exchange rate, and contacts the representatives at the Embassy or Consulate in the target country to make sure they have proper Visa documentation.
Posted by: Paul Kacoyanis
Director, Social Media Marketing, EWA Travel