With over 20 years of experience in the travel industry, Janine Ferko’s passion for travel and for helping plan the perfect trip is as strong as ever! She loves just about everything there is to do with travel! From discovering new places, to tasting new foods whether in Tuscany or the South of France, to just relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean. Janine’s experiences have provided her with the knowledge and information that she needs to help plan a customized trip for her clients so that they get the most out of their own travels. She specializes in planning Destination Weddings, Honeymoons, Vow Renewals, Anniversaries, Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties, and Getaways. Read our interview with the lovely Janine below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I organized a ski weekend trip with a few friends to celebrate my birthday. We had such a great time the girls wanted to make it an annual event. My first introduction to travel was a bus trip as the group leader which meant I had the opportunity to visit different states that offered skiing to groups. We went to Vermont, Pennsylvania and Quebec which was my favorite destination. After several years of getting buses together, people started asking about other vacation getaways and that is what inspired me to learn more about the travel industry.
Tell us about your business.
We are a full service travel agency helping clients with choosing their destination, hotel, flight arrangements, ground transfers, and plan itineraries including sightseeing tours. Although I manage all departments, my niche is honeymoons, destination weddings and romance travel and I created a new company last year that strictly focuses on honeymoons, destination wedding and romance travel along with providing a course to train future destination wedding specialist.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We are offering couples a program called VIP Destination Bride, a 3-day jaunt to visit a destination which they are planning to have their wedding and visit with the three top resort choices to experience firsthand what their wedding day will look like.
Where is your business based?
We are located in Oakbrook Terrace, IL, near the Oakbrook Mall.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Before I started my business, I wanted to know everything about group travel and would drive 2 hours every other week to learn how the ski tour company operated and I also took a travel and hospitality course at a local community college. Once I thought I was ready, I rented a desk in an insurance agency. After a year, I decided to open my own storefront and have been in business since 1994.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
I network a lot, use print and social media, most effective promotions are referrals from clients who booked trips and their honeymoon/destination wedding with us.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
The constant change in the industry. Trying to educate the public why they should use a travel agent instead of the online agencies. With the (OTA) Online Travel Agencies, they are just order takers and when a problem arises, you’re out of luck and on your own. Working with me or my agents gives my clients our experience of the different regions, hotels and excursions offered because we have personally gone to these destinations and experienced the local favor.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I explain why working with a professional destination specialist is important, our clients can place a small deposit toward their vacation package and make payments interest free instead of making a full payment. We offer perks, customer service from start to the completion of their trip something that the (OTA) Online Travel Agencies will not offer.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I have daily/weekly conference calls with my agents, attend industry specific and local networking events.
How did you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I work directly with resorts, planners onsite and offsite and local wedding vendors, making customer service my first and most important priority. My 20+ years experience and continually starting current with the wedding and travel industry, keeping up with education by attending webinars, destination visits and attending destination specific trade shows along with destination and resort certification courses which are offered.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Focus on my business but be aware of what other industries are doing – be relevant.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Find a mentor! Education and training is very important, learn everything you can about your niche and network a minimum of twice a month. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
My CRM, constant contact, industry materials and other industry professionals with similar experiences.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Twitter @dreamscapevac4u @janineferko
Hashtags #dreamscapetravelgroup #destinationweddings #welovebrides #janineferko #VIPDestinationBride #DestinationWeddingSpecialist #Honeymoons #DestinationWeddings #VowRenewal #LGBTWeddings
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Haven’t read any books lately only articles about weddings and travel.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I would like to get more exposure for the honeymoons, destination wedding and romance travel package we offer couples and the destination wedding specialist course we’re offering in the Spring/Summer, the first to be held in Puerto Rico for 6 nights.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goals for the next 12 months are to host at least two bridal show focused on destinations weddings, have DWS courses scheduled for 2016/2017 in the Caribbean. I’ve already created proposals to send to various industry contacts.