Megan: Welcome to the Travel Agent Interview Podcast. I'm your host Megan Chapa and today with me is Matthew Wahlgren. Matthew, welcome.
Matthew: Thank you.
Megan: Matthew, today we’re going to start off talking about some technology related to the travel industry that I love and I love to recommend to my clients. And we are going to talk about specifically mypostcard.com. Have you ever used this app before?
Matthew: No. Actually I never even heard of it.
Megan: Well, so I like to recommend it to my clients and your clients might also like it and that you can use it on your desktop but while you're on vacation you can actually create a postcard from the pictures that you're taking and send them to mom and dad, or grandma or whoever couldn’t be on your trip but have some interest in your wellbeing and knowing that you are still on track and where you said you're going to be et cetera. You can use it on your desktop but if you use the app, it will also give a time stamp and a date with a location if you allow it to. It shows up in the mail with the picture of you on the beach but also says set from Jamaica which I think is a pretty neat feature. And they're purposively inexpensive. You can send a postcard for $1.99 or you can do a card for $2.99 and that includes printing it and shipping it out. It’s a really neat little function for that app. So that’s my little tech minute for today. But enough about that. Let’s get on to you, the star of the show today. Matthew, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the travel industry and a little bit about yourself and how you work in there?
Matthew: Yeah. So actually my boyfriend Jason was very close with the owner of my host agency, Ticket to Travel. He did lot of programming work for them and so as she invited us over for dinner one time and went up going on a Carnival Cruise training session because he needed to do a presentation. And I just thought, wow, this is so cool. Like I’ve actually helped people plan their vacations before and I didn’t know that you could get paid for it.
Megan: Do that as a job.
Matthew: Yeah. I mean I’ve heard of travel agents and I had used one like maybe 10 years ago or something. But I just thought they kind of went away when the internet kind of sprung up and so I just never thought of it but I was always kind of looking for a job that would allow me to travel and do stuff related to travel and I just can never think of anything. I didn’t want to be a blog writer or anything. Like oh this is really cool so I almost immediately signed up.
Megan: Nice. Yeah. It’s an exciting industry and there are plenty of travel agents out there and the business is good. There’s a lot to sort through on the internet and I'm glad that they have you as a resource. So that’s good.
Megan: Matthew, what are you specializing in? Most travel agents specialize in something. What are you, what do clients come to you for specifically?
Matthew: Yes. So what I'm really trying to focus on right now is river cruising. So I've been getting certified with the various suppliers and doing all that. I do have a lot of experience in Europe because I live there for a couple of years in the Peace Corps so I know that area, been all over Western Europe and Eastern Europe. And I just think river cruising is just a really comfortable way to travel. When I did it, it was with the big backpack and staying in hostels and maybe finding some hotels here and there. But it was tough and with the river cruise I actually experienced my first one last October. I'm like this is the way you travel. So I've been increasingly focusing on that. And actually I didn’t told anybody this actually but I'm looking at doing an Amazon River cruise in Peru. I see it just held space to charter a ship. It’s a 30-passenger ship on the Amazon. So I'm holding space right now and I'm looking to sign papers next week.
Megan: Okay. That’s exciting.! What are the potential dates for that trip?
Matthew: So it’s most likely going to be the week of May 19th of next year.
Megan: Okay. Good.
Matthew: Yeah. It’s small. It’s like 30% of 15 rooms. It’s a small group kind of an adventure and you go out o the Amazon. This is for people who are looking to see Toucans and Sloughs and pink dolphins out in the wild and that you get on these little skiffs. You know, your excursions aren’t so much like the European river cruises where you drop off in towns although you’ll do that too. You’ll meet some communities but it’s really about kind of getting off on these little skiff boats and go in into the jungle and just exploring. So towns like – I’ve never done a jungle trip before so I'm like this sounds exciting.
Megan: Wow. Yeah that is really a lot different than the luxurious kind of slow-moving river boats that we see on the advertisements. That’s really unique and really intimate. I'm excited for you. Be sure to get me the information for that. We’ll put it in the show notes so that guests can find you and book that. Let me ask you this question. Do you have a success story that you would like to tell our listeners about one of your clients?
Matthew: Yeah. So there’s actually one that comes to mind when I first started doing this work and helping people with their plans. It’s kind of hard to explain what I did and people were wondering, “Wait, travel agents still exist? I thought they were extinct.”
And I'm like, “Yeah, they used to be on the endangered species list but we’re back…” And they just really didn’t understand why, why would I want you to do that? …I can just do it myself on the internet. So, I had a client and he’s like, okay, well here, this is what I'm looking at and he looked at some other sites and he was really giving me a hard time like with different things. I really had to work hard to get this business. But he actually ended up going with me rather than booking to one of the online agencies. When he came back he is like, you're booking on my travel from here on now. I’ll never, I'm not even going to look anymore like just the experience was just so much better and the personal touches that I added and I know that he had two young daughters. It was a Disneyland trip actually. So he had two young daughters and so I put together little gift bag for them because they were going to take a road trip down from San Francisco to LA. And I put little card games and they're like, you know, the games you play to pass the time in the car and stuff, ideas for that and just kind of, you know, and they loved it. And so he is like, that’s it, I'm done. I'm just using you from now on.
Megan: Yeah. It’s so rewarding because you do get a lot of those, “I didn’t think travel agents existed?” Well, the internet is a big place and so is the world. And anyone can put up a website, anyone can put a phone number et cetera but you know, you are an actual person, you have sellers of travel numbers associated with your name. That means that you are regulated and you're someone who is reliable and be checked up on if they need to. And you know, you won that client and you bet you won them for life. And especially Disney, Disney is a beast as much, you know, even beast came up. I know. But their website is tricky and so it’s great that you could make that easy for them. And that’s our job. And I'm glad that you won that one over.
Matthew: Yeah. What I tell people is, you know, the internet is great. It’s got tons of information out. That’s the great thing about the internet. The bad thing about the internet is it got tons of information that you have get through.
Megan: How do you get through it?
Matthew: Yeah. And you know I go to conferences and I am like, you know, in the loop I'm connected in with the various suppliers and stuff. So I always know what’s kind of what’s hot, what’s going on, what’s new.
Megan: Sure. And is that picture 20 years old or was that taken last week?
Megan: Yup, that’s awesome. Okay Matthew, this question near and dear to my heart because I'm a good cook and when I travel I’d like to have a good meal and if I'm paying for it, it’d better be better than what I can do or at least needs to be memorable to some extent. So do you have a story for me?
Matthew: I do. So you said memorable. You didn’t say necessarily tasty. So I actually just recently got back from a trip to Japan and I'm known as a person who will try anything. And so once our guide figured that out she’s like, okay, I'm going to find something for you. And so we went down this little street market and she’s like, “…Come here, come here”. And there is this guy selling basically, I don’t know if it’s barbecued or grilled sparrow on a stick. It’s basically defeathered but it’s got, it’s everything is there, the bones, it’s the head, it’s the beak, it’s everything and she take it to me. And I'm like okay, and you eat everything, the bones and the beak, nothing, everything is there.
Megan: Was it crunchy?
Matthew: It was crunchy. It actually had a very good flavor. The meat part was really good. I didn’t like the bones. The bones are weird, chomping down on especially the head that was really weird.
Megan: For real!
Matthew: But I'm kind of one of these people who would try anything. So that’s like, I’d say that was probably one of my most memorable things that I’ve eaten.
Megan: Good for you.
Matthew: But in terms of like something really good that I enjoyed and this is also Japan. I think it’s because I got back couple of weeks because I'm really thinking about is just the traditional kaiseki meal that they had one of the real kind of stay there which is like a traditional and over there it’s kind of fancy and relaxing. And they just have all these little dishes and some things you can look at and you know what they are like okay that is salmon. Some things, I'm like, I don’t know what this is but that’s what I love about it because I like surprises and like I said I have no qualms about eating anything. So you would just take these little treat and put it in my mouth and that’s oh okay and I figure out what it was and I just thought that was really cool.
Megan: Good for you. You are really willing to get into the culture and I appreciate that. I like a good meal but I have to say that I pretty much want to know what’s in there before I eat it. So good for you!
Matthew: I think it must be too.
Megan: Yeah. All right. Well, Matthew, thank you for being on the Travel Agent Interview podcast. And if you want to get in touch with Matthew you can go to travelagentinterview.com and there is a section where it says, guests and you will be able to find Matthew there and you’ll be able to find his contact information especially if you want to go on the Amazon river cruise. Thank you all very much and until next time, this is the Travel Agent Interview. I'm Megan Chapa, you host, good bye.