Kelly LaSlavic is an Arizona native who loves to escape the desert and experience the world through adventures and great eats. Her educational background includes a B.S. in Hotel Restaurant Management from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. Through that program, Kelly discovered a love of customer service and a passion for the travel industry, which led her to pursuing a career as a travel advisor for STA Travel.
In her time with the business, Kelly has helped countless travelers bring their adventures to life, in addition to traveling and eating her way throughout many parts of the world (her current tally stands at 14 countries over her 4 years with STA Travel). Whether its eating snails in Paris, skydiving in Australia or bungee jumping off bridges in New Zealand, Kelly is always on the lookout for her next adventure.
What inspired you to join the travel industry as a travel advisor?
My inspiration to join the travel industry started from a young age. I was fortunate enough to do a lot of domestic travel as a youth, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I got my first taste of international travel. That was just the beginning of many more adventures to come.
I ended up in the industry because what better way to combine my love of travel with my desire to share those stories! As the saying goes, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” and that is exactly what I did.
How long have you been in the travel industry?
I have been in the travel industry for about five years now. I did one year with a local Arizona company and then have been with STA Travel for almost four years now.
Where do you see yourself as a travel advisor five years from now?
Five years from now, I’d hope to still be seeing the world and creating memories and experiences to share with future travelers, sparking that fire to go out and see the world. During my four years at STA Travel, I have already moved from being a travel advisor to being a team lead and assisting my co-workers. I would like to keep that momentum going and move my way in to a management role, where I can work in training and developing future travel advisors.
What do you think Millennial-age travel advisors have brought to the industry?
I think that Millennial-aged travel advisors have brought a sense of trust to the industry. Many of our advisors have already explored many places of the world and continue to do so. So when our travel advisors have enjoyed the same style of travel that our clients have, it creates a better bond and faith in the product we provide. Our Millennial agents have the same mindset as many of our passengers when it comes to travel. We are looking for the best prices, secret locations, where to find that best local taco shop and with that, we encourage our agents to get out there and use our products and see the world. By having that firsthand travel experience themselves, it helps to better connect with the wants and desires that many student and youth travelers are looking for in their adventures.
How do you think the industry can continue to attract younger travel advisors?
I think it’s important that the benefits and perks of a job in the travel industry are aligned with what younger travelers are seeking, similar to what I mentioned above. The fact that our travel advisors are out having their own adventures when they’re not in the office (and the fact this is encouraged!) is a great draw to getting new travel advisors in the door. It’s about meeting people halfway, with the understanding that you still have to work hard, but there still exists a healthy work/life balance.
What motivates Millennial travelers and do you think there’s a tendency for Millennial-age travelers to seek out Millennial-age travel advisors and if so, why?The Millennial travelers, and even Gen Z travelers, that I have worked with seem to be most motivated by their desire to get more out of their travel than just a vacation. A majority of my passengers are traveling to be a part of something bigger and are visiting more remote areas to provide assistance and volunteer. This desire to help the world and become more educated through travel has grown in the past two years. I have a repeat passenger that did a volunteer trip and now, whenever she does vacation travel with her family, she still reaches back to that volunteer memory and goes out of her way to bring supplies to a community in need near her vacation spots.
I think that younger travelers do seek out STA Travel because while we are a full service travel company, we do specialize in youth and student travel, which we market and promote both online and offline at different student-attended events. I think Millennial’s are a bit more comfortable speaking with agents their age because it’s more of a conversation rather than a sales pitch.
How does the form in which you communicate with your Millennial-age clients differ from your older counterparts?
We have three different main forms of communication when booking our passengers and I think that the younger generation tends to lean more towards our social media and internet-based options. We are able to work with passengers by phone, e-mail and a chat system specific to STA Travel, as well as have passengers reach out and connect through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
We want to be versatile to all our passengers and make bookings as seamless as possible. I’ve found that our younger clients are more inclined to communicate through e-mails and chats rather than phones calls because many of them are multitasking through their day and don’t always have the time to sit down and have that phone call. While we do have Millennials and even Gen Z passengers call in to make bookings, we tend to see a higher call volume with their parents or our older clientele.
Are you starting to sell to the Gen Z demographic (those in their early 20s) and if so, how is that different from how you sell – in terms of their expectations – to the Millennial demographic?
Yes, we have actually seen an increase in Gen Z passengers travelling with STA Travel this past year. They are starting as young as 14 years old with specific programs that we work with. They differ slightly from the Millennial travelers because they are less experienced in their travel and they do not have full time jobs, as many are still in school. I find a lot of the Gen Z relying more heavily on our Deposit Program and seeking that out over other tickets. When booking the Gen Z demographic, we have to be a little more cautious with the flight options we select. They are younger travelers and are not always the most versed or even comfortable with certain routes and connection cities. We need to keep in mind that this may be their first time leaving the country, so you have to be more detailed in your explanation of why ticket A is a better option then ticket B. I feel like they depend more on our expertise.