Thanks to the Whitehead Internship Program, I am able to intern this summer at a travel agency called Valerie Wilson Travel. I have spent the last thirteen weeks living and working in New York City at the woman-owned, family-run business. Though I am working in the leisure department – focusing on vacations – the company also specializes in corporate travel as well as meetings and events. While I have a passion for travel, and after thirteen weeks in the business, an extensive bucket list, I was very unfamiliar with travel as an industry before applying to Whitehead.
Most of my work comes from the travel advisors in my department on a need basis, therefore it is usually given to me in the moment and to be completed soon, rather than long term projects. Unlike in the corporate department, leisure travel does not require as immediate planning, and there are usually many months that go into developing a trip. The first stage of planning involves research on various destinations if the client is not set on a specific place, or on one destination to make sure it is a good time of year to visit. Once the location is set, I compare hotels, and then the advisor begins to look into flights and tours. Because our agency focuses on luxury travel, our clients usually ask for customized and privatized tours. After all the details are decided, I build the itinerary on a platform called AXUS, which once the itinerary is uploaded, the clients can access on their phone on the VWTraveler app.
The most crucial advice my coworkers shared with me is that relationships are a central part of the business. Almost every day different hoteliers, tour companies and airline representatives visit our office. Even though I have only worked there for thirteen weeks, I have started to see familiar faces and gotten to know some of these people who visit the office. Along with the first piece of advice, the second is that no trip ever goes as planned. Quick thinking and problem-solving are imperative skills to the job; both are skills that Haverford helped me to further develop. As an economics major and psychology minor, most people I have encountered on the job come from hospitality schools, but I think it shows the versatility of a liberal arts education.
One of the company’s biggest undertakings at the moment is recreating the company-wide intranet. Along with help from the technology department, each department is responsible for designing their page on the site. I have helped the leisure team to develop their section of the intranet, and I have also created my own page that will feature restaurant lists that I have made for cities all over the world, as well as past itineraries the advisors have booked in the past. This page will help the advisors when they need ideas or inspiration.
Throughout my internship, my department and the company as a whole has helped me to learn about the various areas of the industry. Each week, the six other interns and I met week each team leader over lunch. Though we focus on travel, the company has over 300 employees and functions like any other business. In addition, I participated in many events that my company was invited to such as walking next to a hotel’s float in the pride parade, dressing up in the MET gala “Camp” theme for dinner, and sailing on a yacht on the East River as well as a couple others.
Working at Valerie Wilson Travel this summer has been incredibly fun and I have learned so much about the travel industry as well as different parts of the world. I am so grateful to have spent my summer working at the company and living in New York!