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Becoming a Disney Earmarked Agency!
In 2008, we were excited to receive an honor from the Walt Disney Travel Company that we'd been waiting anxiously for - we were being Earmarked and could proudly display the title of Authorized Disney Vacation Planner!
I wrote this article right after I found out we'd become EARMARKED! Many facets of the program have changed and we've come a long, long way in some areas and surprisingly not such a long way in others. For example, we just now hit 30 agents & we never dreamed we'd be a multi-million dollar selling agency, but we have been for many years. It's been quite the journey!
I can't wait to share more of our Earmarked Agency and other memories with you!
Originally published on February 15, 2009
Have you ever seen this logo on a Travel Agency website? Well, guess what! It's about to go on ours! We have now earned the distinction of being a Disney earmarked travel agency! Stand back! This blog is going to be long and detailed, because I know if you're reading this, you must be interested in either the Scott family, 3D Travel Company or how this whole earmarked thing works. I know I was! So, here we go!
First we need to go back to the beginning of 3D Travel - when it was a glimmer in my little eye. That was during our first family Walt Disney World trip in September 2004. I spent many months prior to our trip planning and preparing. We took my parents, which gave us two rooms at Pop Century Resort for 8 nights (up from the 6 I'd originally planned when I was able to apply a room only discount to our rooms!) and 8 day tickets. I pored over the Unofficial Guide until it was falling apart and read every website I could find to round out my education. In retrospect, I still spent about $3,000 too much on my trip. That's right. $3,000! And, it was easy to overspend that much!
So, after we returned from our trip, I knew we had to go back. I was looking for more discounts and began to research and how to best book groups providing a discount for everyone involved. At that point I began to dream big. What if I coordinated a group and I was able to bless, not only our family, but other families! After much research, I decided to complete the College of Disney Knowledge in the summer of 2005. At that time they actually still sent you a book and materials in the mail. Of course, like everything else, it's now an online course. I wanted to take the course without getting everything I needed as an agency (i.e., I didn't want to spend the money to set up shop unless I knew for sure I wanted to do this!) I somehow managed to talk the Walt Disney Travel Company into letting me log in with their IATA# (TA license) and complete the course as if I were employed by them. After I finished, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I also kept my promise to myself and tore up the piece of paper with their # and log in information on it, because I wasn't going to continue looking at everything unless I had access to it by my own merit. But, I had already seen a part of the Disney Travel Agent's website called "Earmarked Designated Area" and I immediately looked for it when I finished getting my agency set up. Alas, it was not there!
The reality of being a new agency
What I was finding out was that there are tiers to the travel agencies out there. Of course, being new and not having sold anything for them, I was starting out at the bottom. I pored over the website and found where I could order brochures. I excitedly rushed to place my first order. My excitement waned just a bit when I found out I could only order one brochure from each destination. That's right. One! I called the sales team to ask how to go about getting more, only to find out that was standard for a new agency in their first year. What's a girl with a big idea to do?
Grass Roots Growth
I promoted for the rest of 2005 and 2006 without a business card, a website or a logo. I really didn't have anything except a vision and an excitement to provide the magic of Disney for others. My one woman show booked hundreds of people by the end of 2006, most of them on our second annual "The Ultimate Field Trip" for homeschool families that started it all. As we hit 2007 we spent a few hundred on a website to show everyone we booked Disney year round, not just in the groups we're famous for, (still no business cards) and had just a little left to expand our promotions. Part of the reason we've grown in promotions so slowly is our commitment to spend a good percentage of our earnings on a cause - preventing child abuse. By the end of 2007 I had personally booked over 1,000 happy vacationers, still as a one woman show. I won't even go into everything else I was doing with my life, because I think that alone can show you why things had to change and expand, lest I go insane.
Becoming the 3D Travel Team
The end of 2007 we completed the hiring process. We formed a team and I finally made time to attend the onsite program in 2008 - the graduate program of the College of Disney Knowledge - and I got to go with my new team! I also finally bought business cards for all of us. My first cards! We launched a new website for the Ultimate Field Trip and 3D Travel. My husband, David, came on as our payroll and all things financial director. I began to research options for further promotions to support our team and placed my second call to the Disney Sales Team. In retrospect, I guess I should have expected a different reception from the first time I called them! I immediately got a call back and our team was invited to lunch!
Recognition by Disney
We met our regional sales rep and she was wonderful! Since then Jennifer has gone on to other things and Freddy is working with us. He's amazing. The first time we met, Freddy said "I want you to be earmarked!" I said "Me too!" I didn't really know what it meant, but it sounded good. And, heck, he was already buying me the occasional lunch. Maybe it would mean lunch and a present! I'm a "keep my nose to the grindstone" kind of gal, so I'd spent just a little time researching it. I'd found out there was a convention, and.....that's it! That's all I knew! I wanted it, though. I wanted it because it was an acknowledgment of all my hard work!
Hints of things to come
Then, while our team had their celebratory breakfast at Tony's Town Square (Good Morning Gathering) in the Magic Kingdom this September, one of the waitresses asked me if we were spending "our points" on our breakfast. Our points? What did that mean? Turns out it's part of being earmarked, too. There are more benefits! Think back to 2005, when I couldn't get more than one brochure per destination. Now I'm sitting in the Magic Kingdom with a team that takes up multiple tables, hearing that even more great things are coming our way! I also took time to read the newsletters of currently Earmarked agencies and found out the Earmarked convention was really incredible! I was getting excited!
Long Wait Expected
The first time I spoke to Jennifer and later to Freddy, we were thinking it would be a few more years before we earned this designation. But, it wasn't! It took first me, then the entire 3D Travel Team, exactly 3 1/2 years to earn the distinction I got to glance at while I trained under the Walt Disney Travel Company log in.
Being Earmarked - What does it mean?
Well, Disney is a business. We're earmarked because we're growing at an incredible rate and we follow the rules to all things Disney. Disney has every right to protect their brand that they have so long built as a symbol of quality. I have gone above and beyond to maintain the integrity of their product and make our relationship with our clients an extension of that level of excellence. Everyone who works for me knows this. It's tough to maintain, but why would we settle for anything less?
- Earmarked Convention - We get to attend our first Earmarked Convention this year. I only know what other agency owners and agents have told me - which is to say that it sounds amazing! I can't wait to let everyone know about it! We'll blog a ton! It's 2 nights and 3 days of learning how to dazzle our clientele while Disney dazzles us with gifts, giveaways and amazing experiences. I'm excited already!
- Points - For every $100 we sell, we earn a point. We get to spend points on our clients and towards providing better experiences for everyone who is a part of our group trips. Yes, we could spend them on a big breakfast for ourselves, but we won't!
- The logo - The logo I posted above is only for earmarked agencies. It means we've entered into a contract with Disney destinations - Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney - exclusive to top agencies. It was very cool to sign a contract that I knew would end up in the hands of four other Disney VP's! Tickets and other incentives - We're going to get some additional help to experience Disney destinations and keep up on all the newest. It's all about providing the best experiences for our clientele! So, that's it! We've "made it!" to the top. My next goal is to be in the top 5 agencies in the U.S. How long do you think it will take? Before that, I'd like to build our team to 30 - 40 agents. I know that will take a few years! I keep getting surprised, though! I never imagined that, as big as I dream, God is dreaming bigger!