It was an emotional evening for Tasmania-based agent Melanie Whyte as she was crowned the 2019 Avis Travel Agent Scholarship winner last night.
Melanie, who works for TravelManagers, beat off competition from four other finalists to take out the prestigious award, worth a total of $35,000 in prizes. It’s the third year in a row a TravelManager has picked up the award.
Speaking exclusively to Traveltalk straight after her win, Melanie said it was “overwhelming” to become the recipient of the Scholarship, which is now in its 23rd year.
“The calibre of entrants this year was really high and very varied. There is no-one out there doing the job like I do the job so it would have been a really tough job for the judges to compare us.”
The other finalists were Natalie Morgan (Phil Hoffman Travel – SA), Jen Lloyd (Savenio – QLD), Ben Ogden (CWT – NSW) and Charlotte Chalman (House of Travel – New Zealand).
Praising her fellow finalists for being “much-better presenters,” Melanie suggested that what got her over the line was her ability to prevent challenges before they arise.
“I do a lot of travel for special needs kids – both of my kids are special needs so I know what it’s like – and I head off the problems before they even happen. The big question we were assessed on today was about staying ahead of the curve and that’s how I do it.”
She also thanked TravelManagers for allowing her the flexibility to combine work and raising children with special needs.
“It is tough. I’ll have days and they will be easy and everything will get done. And then the next day I’ve got a black eye or a fat lip from an autistic melt-down when something has gone pear-shaped.
“But the ability to do my job with an amazing company like TravelManagers, that lets me drop everything and go to school when things can’t be brought back via a teacher, is amazing.
“I actually feel like I owe the industry something now because I get to do the job I absolutely adore in the way I need to do it for my babies.”
A finalist back in 2014, Melanie revealed she only entered this year when she read the application criteria.
“It was almost like the questions were written for me, because they were all based around customer service and going the extra mile.
“For me, that’s the whole point of the job otherwise people can book on the internet. There’s no reason to work with a travel agent unless you can get something that you can’t get anywhere else. I know everything about my clients – sometimes too much!”
One of the highlights of the winner’s package is two Qantas business class travel tickets to an industry conference of the winner’s choice within the Asia-Pacific region, with Melanie revealing she will probably head to Japan.
The Scholarship recipient also receives professional coaching and profiling for one year from Right Path, industry training opportunities and Cruise 365 Conference tickets, courtesy of Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIAA).
The Devonport-based consultant was quick to encourage all her fellow agents to apply for the Scholarship in 2020.
“Whatever the format is going to be next year, don’t let that stop you. I didn’t have a presentation or slides. I just went in and told my story and obviously today that’s worked.”
Subscription successful! Thank you for subscribing.