Stacey Ray is the CEO and founder of Groupit Travel and Groupit Travel Host Agency, the only host agency in the US to specialize in group travel. She is a veteran traveler having been to almost 70 countries and has sailed more than 50 times ranging from 5 days to 6 weeks onboard. She is a certified Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialist and also certified by the The Gay Wedding Institute for same-sex destination weddings. Stacey is proud to be a Certified Luxury Travel Specialist and to lead our Certified Accessible Travel Advocate agency. Stacey has been an invited as a fully-hosted buyer to the Global Travel Marketplace, ILTM (International Luxury Travel Marketplace), ITE (Incentive Travel Exchange), CruiseWorld and the Pacific Asia Travel Association Conference.
She recently co-hosted a Group Travel Mastermind-FAM opportunity in Malaysia and Singapore and in October and led a workshop as an invited speaker at CruiseWorld 2018. She will be training at Masterminds of Travel Group Travel Training in January in Riviera Maya.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi, Stacey. How are you today?
Stacey Ray (SR): Very excited and honored to be here.
TRO: How long have you been in the travel industry, and how did you first decide it was for you?
SR: I have officially been in the travel business since 2014. However, for approximately 30 years, I was a corporate and non-profit organization event planning consultant. Because I was an avid traveler all of my life, I always knew that this was what I wanted to do. However, it was not until 2014 that I decided to take the plunge, at the urging of my husband, and start my business.
TRO: You own, and run, both a travel agency and a host agency. Do you think this helps you stay grounded in all aspects of the industry? How so?
SR: Most definitely. Owning a travel agency allows me to keep a pulse on client and destination trends as well as styles of travel, especially what’s hot and what’s not. As the owner of a host agency, I have the pleasure of working with agents from around the country who have so many unique niche specialties and business goals. Additionally, because of the geographical differences among their client bases, I learn a lot from them as well. For instance, what is trending with clients in NYC is not necessarily trending with clients in Oklahoma. The best part of entrenching myself in both sides of the business is that I am able to leverage our sales volumes with many different types of suppliers around the world – not just the standard fare that one normally finds within most host agencies.
TRO: There is a video on the home page of the Groupit Travel Host Agency site that details what agents should be looking for in a host agency. Were these lessons learned the hard way, through experience, or through intense study of the travel industry?
SR: Thanks for asking about this. I made the video because I myself had been part of a very large organization that, due to size, could not be flexible in their offerings to agents; which made me feel that my business growth would always be at the mercy of their policies. I then switched to a newer, smaller host agency and found myself the victim of some very questionable business practices and unable to collect my commissions without retaining an attorney. When I started my host agency, I knew what business model I wanted, and I knew there was a need in the industry. So, I made the video because I wanted agents who were seeking a host agency to know that whether we were the right host for them or not, they should have all of the information one needs to vet potential agencies so that they would be able to make an informed decision that was best for them.
TRO: If you could break down your philosophy when doing business with clients or other agents, what would it be?
SR: Honesty, transparency, and the willingness to be flexible. I learned long ago that your reputation is all you have in this business and I am simply not willing to collaborate with anyone – clients, agents, suppliers, that do not have this same moral compass. Additionally, travel is not a one-size-fits-all industry. One of the reasons that I believe that I’ve been successful is that every client and every agent is unique, and we address their needs as such. For instance, we offer the ability for agents to do net groups, which can significantly increase the income potential of an agent. Now, with that said, we have very specific guidelines that they must follow before we will approve it and it takes hard work. We are insured as a Tour Operator and we act as such for our agents who do these groups.
TRO: What you would you say are the primary benefits for an agent who decides to become part of a host agency?
SR: If an agent can find a host agency that is the best fit for them, then they should be able to receive the mentoring and support they need to be successful. While a host agency’s responsibility is not to teach someone “how” to be a travel agent, it is their responsibility to help them become a “better” agent. Another benefit of being with a host agency is that, hopefully, the host is doing a great job on the backend. However – I will warn agents that they should never, ever, rely on someone else’s information when it comes to finances. Every agent should know exactly what they are owed and from whom. The other benefit I would like to speak about is that, when you choose a host agency, be sure that they are in line with your own goals. For instance, if you want to sell only cruises, it makes no sense to go with a host agency that rarely sells them. Our host agency is unique in that we are the only host agency in the United States that specializes in group travel – and we do so across many niche micro-specialties such as luxury, romance, MICE, and so much more.
TRO: Where are your favorite destinations for travel?
SR: Without question, and as everyone who knows me can attest to – my favorite destination is Iceland. I also love just about everywhere in Europe, especially the Mediterranean. And, of course I love Mexico and the Caribbean with a special shout-out to my favorite island of Saint Lucia.
TRO: If you had any advice for agents just starting out, what would it be?
SR: Wow. I have a lot but in the interest of time: 1) you must remember that this is a business venture – you are not an employee. This means you must have the money and resources to invest in your business just like you would any other. 2) Collaborate with more experienced agents, especially when you get a lead for something you don’t know anything about. You only have one chance to impress, so it’s better to split a commission than ruin someone’s travel plans. 3) You are not selling a product – you are selling experiences. 4) NO ONE is your competition – you are unique, and you need to remember that. 5) Value over pricing! You are allowed to say no to price chasers because they will never be loyal to you because they are always chasing the cheapest price. LAST, remember my motto – “If it ain’t perfect the first time, there will be no second time”.
TRO: Does Groupit have any upcoming projects or news that our readers should be on the lookout for?
SR: Yes, we do! First, I am so proud and excited to announce that Lorraine Simpson, the leading expert on destination weddings and romance travel in North America, has joined Groupit Travel Host Agency as our Executive Vice President. This makes us the first and only collaboration between the US and Canada and allows us to combine our expertise and resources for agents from both countries. Second, I have joined Lorraine in her brainchild, Masterminds of Travel, where we will be offering incredible mastermind/FAM opportunities for qualified and vetted agents who are ready to take their business to a new level in the areas of group travel, luxury travel and destination weddings. Our very first Mastermind will be held in Malaysia and Singapore in about two weeks! We have a lot of exciting things planned for our Mastermind graduates with more info to come soon.
Additionally, we will be announcing shortly that we will begin working with agents throughout North America who are approached for groups but don’t know how to plan and execute them – but don’t want to lose their clients. We will be working in a collaborative fashion, whereby we will be doing all of the work, but the agent maintains the clients. For more information on this, you can contact me at email@example.com.
TRO: Thank you for time, Stacey.
SR: My absolute pleasure!
Posted on August 27th, 2018 by Joseph DeLoach in 1:1 Read the original here
Press Release - July 5, 2018
Groupit Travel Host Agency, based in Raleigh, North Carolina has announced that Lorraine Simpson of Concierge Travel Group in Canada has joined its team as Executive Vice President.
Simpson has 25 years of experience within the travel industry and previously managed The Wedding Holiday from the time it was launched 12 years ago. The Wedding Holiday was one of the first companies to specialize in the destination wedding field and was a multiple award winner, including several awards as a top producer for Karisma Hotels & Resorts. Simpson now owns a group of companies that are each based on a niche specialty and believes niche travel specialties are the future safeguard for travel agents. Simpson recently was the recipient of the prestigious Gold Magellan Award for innovation for her Wine and Food group travel division, www.wineclubconcierge.com
Groupit Travel Host Agency, owned by Stacey Ray, Founder and CEO, is the only host agency in the country to specialize in group travel and niche specializations. Stacey is a group travel and logistical expert with over two decades of experience in customizing, designing, planning, and facilitating meetings, conventions, incentive travel, events, and group travel for both corporate and leisure groups. She is the creator and administrator of Group Travel Best Practices, a Facebook group of over 2,000 aspiring and experienced group travel specialists.
“We are extremely pleased to have Lorraine join us, and we are excited about the future collaboration between US and Canadian agents, the first of its kind in the industry. We will be providing a unique service to travel agents in Canada and the USA by offering destination wedding and group travel expertise through a network of home-based agents which will span both countries,” said Ray. “Most important, we will provide comprehensive training to our combined 78 hosted niche travel agents, building upon Lorraine's extensive knowledge in the area of destination wedding and both my and Lorraine’s expertise in group travel planning. We look forward to welcoming more travel agents who desire this type of expertise and host agency support into our family.”
As an insured Tour Operator, Groupit Travel and Lorraine Simpson will work with experienced agents who wish to excel in the profitability of net groups. Groupit Experiences will be a new specialty division offering North American agents the opportunity to sell into existing specialty groups as well as to have custom groups and itineraries created for their clients at net.
Simpson has recently built an excellent reputation in the Food, Wine and Luxury Sector and will be bringing this to Groupit Experiences offering her experience, flair and creativity to agents for their clients. “I am excited to be joining Groupit Travel! I thoroughly enjoy packaging my group itineraries and have always wanted to be able to offer these to other agents throughout the industry. I am very happy that under the Groupit umbrella I will now be able to do this and am confident we will soon become the leading go-to company when agents are looking for something a little out-of-the-box for their luxury clients as well as Food and Wine Lovers.”
Ray and Simpson are both well-respected speakers and educators at conferences throughout Canada and USA and have both said that their reputation is very important to them. “Agents who book groups with us can have full confidence that their clients will remain their clients as we will use a database that tracks past bookings and the agent involved. Reputation is key and our clients are the agents! As this segment continues to expand, we are committed to putting additional resources behind this new division, and through Lorraine’s tremendous knowledge and expertise, we are confident that Groupit Experiences will quickly become a leader in Group Travel and the only choice for those planning a custom luxury group, wedding or themed travel experiences” said Ray.
Simpson and Ray have teamed up to offer a number of Luxury and Group Travel Mastermind trips offering a combination of FAM plus extensive knowledge-sharing from these two power house experts. The first Mastermind will be held in Malaysia in September and is open to all agents in USA and Canada who wish to specialize in niche travel. Agents booking soon may have the opportunity to have their flights also hosted however, there are only three spaces left.
For more information contact:
Stacey Ray, CEO - firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorraine Simpson, Executive Vice President - email@example.com
How much of your time do you spend lamenting that your business is not growing? How often do you find yourself repeating one of these negative mantras?
And the list goes on and on and on. So why is your business not growing?
Assumptions! Each of the statements above are an assumption - a belief you've convinced yourself of, but not based on any facts. We can convince ourselves of anything and when we use assumptions to cement our belief system, we don't grow. The same holds true for our business. Basing your actions and business plan on negative assumptions will ensure that you never grow beyond the exact point that you are at today. In fact, if anything - assumptions can take your business down very quickly.
Let's take a quick look at what the assumptions above would look like if you were to change your belief system to one of positivity:
Today begins a brand new year full of possibilities and prosperity. I challenge you to cast aside those negative assumptions and move your belief system into a growth mindset - one that includes positivity, hard work and belief in your value.