Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

By Lauren Sable Freiman  |  Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

Sharon Pearson and her husband, AJ Clonts, opened their home-based travel business, As You Wish Travel Agency, in March. Thus far the question they get most often isn’t which resort best accommodates families? Or which resort has the best food? Instead, it’s why open a travel business when booking travel is so easily accessible via the Internet?

“That is what people want to know the most,” Pearson says. “When we answer that question, it makes sense to people.”

With the abundance of online travel sites, booking travel can be both confusing and time-consuming. According to Pearson, booking a trip that has more than one component could take five hours or more. Using a travel agency saves time and most often costs the traveler nothing.

“We have the inside scoop and can add extra insight to make the trip more special,” Pearson says. “And if you have a problem, you have someone you can call to try to assist you. People don’t think of that.”

The couple, who focus their business on romance travel, including honeymoons and destination weddings, was excited to bring a new travel agency to Oberlin, a town that at one time had two brick-and-mortar travel agencies. Neither of those businesses is in existence today.

“We have a lot of people in town who do a lot of traveling,” Pearson says. “Oberlin has a lot of people who are transient, and it also has an older population.”

So, as Pearson, a councilperson for the City of Oberlin who works full time as the program coordinator for The Oberlin Project, and Clonts, who works full time as a trucking dispatcher, eye retirement in the next five years, a travel business seemed like a welcome asset to the community and a fun way to harness their endless energy.

With back office support from Montrose Travel, an agency from California, Pearson and Clonts have been spending 10 to 20 hours each week serving their travel clients while learning the ins and outs of the business. Clonts has been working on complex trips for clients, including a three-city trip to Paris, Nice, and Rome as well as a holiday trip to Belize for eight people. Pearson just booked a honeymoon to Riviera Maya.

Surprisingly, it’s the millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, who are using travel agents most often. According to a March 2015 article in Travel Weekly, that group has used agents more in the last 12 months than any other group.

“Millennials know what they want from their own online research, but they want someone else to book the travel because they feel an agent is a trusted resource,” Pearson says.

As the couple works to grow their new business, they’ve found their participation in the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce and the Oberlin Business Partnership to be a valuable tool. Last year they were instrumental in bringing a bridal show to Lorain county as a way to showcase their business and connect with other businesses in the wedding and events industry.

“Any business is about building relationships,” Pearson says. “It’s really about building these relationships and letting people know you exist.” 

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