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Military Hero to Vacation Hero: Running a Travel Franchise Amid Challenging Times She marches onward, planning dream vacations and growing her business.
Former Air Force Staff Sergeant Laura Dvareckas has always loved travel – it is one of the many reasons she joined the military and eventually decided to open her own travel agency franchise. Who knew one of the toughest battles of her career would be home-schooling her six-year-old son while simultaneously operating her Dream Vacations travel agency amid a pandemic when people are not traveling?
Dvareckas' military aptitude quickly kicked into high gear so she could march onward in planning dream vacations and growing her business.
The military teaches one how to adapt, be flexible and focused in stressful situations, and these traits are invaluable for travel agents when their clients' vacations don't go exactly as planned and they're relying on their agent to make it right. COVID-19 impacted millions of people's vacations, but those who booked with travel agents such as Dvareckas had an advocate on their side who navigated them through these turbulent times by answering questions, explaining policy changes, rebooking vacations, obtaining reimbursements, or even helping to get them home. In March 2020, Dvareckas had a military family client scheduled to vacation in Cancun and two weeks before they were set to leave, service members were no longer able to travel. Being resourceful, Dvareckas saved the day by negotiating a resort credit before any official policy was put in place.
While people may not be traveling right now, business must go on. Staying engaged with clients is more important now than ever before. Dvareckas has been communicating by email and phone with her clients regularly to provide updates on their vacations or just to check in and make sure they are doing well. She also is leveraging social media to stay engaged with and inspire her Facebook friends. "I keep things hopeful and upbeat on social media. I host a virtual game show "Roam from Home,' where contestants from all over the world participate in travel trivia; I post inspirational and beautiful pictures; and I share fond memories from my own personal travels."
Parents all over the world are figuring out how to juggle having their children home 24/7 while working from home and they are adapting to this new way of life. The military is built on systems and structure, which gave Dvareckas the foresight to implement a new daily routine that will continue even after school ends. Her schedule allocates dedicated time slots throughout the day for family bonding when devices are put to the side, as well as time for work. For example, they make breakfast every morning as a family. Her son has been promoted to the official scrambled egg maker in the house.
When it comes to working from home, Dvareckas strives to be the first one awake in the household so she can get as much done early in the morning as possible. Having a dedicated workspace is essential when working from home, and it affords privacy when needed. Her son knows that he can spend time with her when the door is open, but he is not allowed in when the door is closed because she is on a call or in a meeting. Dvareckas notes, "it is becoming more commonplace to see a tiny face pop into the frame of a video call and to hear kids playing in the background. We're all in this together and it's moments like those that remind us of that."
January and February were record-breaking months for Dvareckas, and her business was thriving and growing before COVID-19 became widespread. Now with lower bookings she needs to ramp-up her business all over again to regain momentum. To overcome this, she is spending time networking and creating new relationships so that she has new potential clients when widespread travel returns to normal.
While nobody knows what the new normal will be, one thing for certain is that people are going to want to get out of the house and travel. When asked about what the future of travel looks like, Dvareckas says, "People will probably start traveling by driving themselves to destinations within the U.S. In addition, travelers will be much more interested in cancellation policies when they book a trip and will be more inclined to purchase travel protection as well. They will seek the assistance of travel agents to provide advice and guidance on these policies, as well as to serve as an advocate if there are similar unprecedented circumstances impacting travel in the future."
Dream Vacations is a home-based travel agency franchise with more than 1,500 owners nationwide. It is ranked the number one franchise for veterans and is currently hosting a business plan contest for veterans and community heroes to win a free franchise. As an experiential brand, Dream Vacations is the only travel franchise opportunity to have a name that speaks to the variety of vacation experiences its franchisees sell. For more information, visit www.DreamVacationsFranchise.com.