Success Stories focus on veteran travel advisors and how they achieved success. Here’s a look at Ateet Ahuja, CEO and founder of Complete Getaways.
How did you get your start as a travel advisor?
I started my travel journey being an avid traveler myself. I love experiencing new cultures and checking out new countries. I joined a host agency to get my feet wet and learned the basics. I immersed myself in the travel world by volunteering to go on as many fam trips as possible to learn and experience as many resorts as possible. My clientele always wanted to hear about the food, service and event locations.
Because of this, I focused my time during fam trips on taking very detailed pictures and videos of the event locations, interviewing the chefs, trying their food and meeting with the wedding teams. This gave me the knowledge to answer my prospective clients’ questions with ease and confidence.
After being with my host for a couple of years, I went on my own and started to build processes and trained and expanded my team to provide a scalable experience.
While I am better known for my Indian Destination Wedding brand, which specializes in executing South Asian weddings in Mexico and the Caribbean, I also own Complete Getaways, a brand for FIT travel or weddings that are not South Asian.
I have been in the South Asian wedding industry since 1996, as I also own a South Asian entertainment company in the Washington DC area.
How did you build your business over the years?
When I opened my own agency, I started to build processes, make training videos and set up the right technology to enable my team to be able to do their tasks efficiently. I set up an online scheduler so that all prospective clients could schedule a call with me at their convenience by having a view into my calendar.
Once I had those initial calls and had the clients’ sign up for my services, I would be the first person helping them through the sales cycle. Once they decided on the resorts and the contracts were completed, they were then turned over to a dedicated person in my operations team who would handle all the group room bookings, airport transfers and other logistics while I focused on driving sales.
A big part of getting new leads was to make sure I had created proper branding along with a strong social media presence. This is where my social media manager came in. She works on making sure we have a strong presence on Instagram and Facebook, while someone else on my team focuses on TikTok. My prospective clients will always talk to me but then do their own homework by reviewing our work on social media – so building that up and being consistent was a huge part of my current success as well.
What characteristics make you a successful advisor?
I think this goes back to my experience and knowledge. I spent so much of my initial time and money investing in seeing as many properties as I could to be able to effectively communicate the intricate details of each resort to show my prospective clients that I knew the property really well.
Having that property knowledge along with my background in South Asian weddings allowed me to become the subject matter expert in this area, and I have been asked to speak at multiple wedding conferences. I take a very consultative approach versus a sales approach. I educate my prospective clients and listen to their needs versus pressure-selling them on a specific resort. I believe our job is to match the right resort to the client’s needs, rather than push a resort or sale to better our numbers.
What have been your greatest challenges been?
One of the greatest challenges has been keeping up with all the changes and learning social media. As I mentioned, when I realized there is so much more to know, I hired a social media manager to handle those media platforms to truly give us the brand presence to match our website and service.
Another challenge for me has been creating a good work-life balance while trying to keep up with the demand. This is very important to me as I want to be able to spend time with loved ones, and there are days where I feel that work takes over and I don’t have enough time to spend with my family and friends. I am working on this and making strides each day.
What have your greatest accomplishments been?
I feel a sense of accomplishment when my team looks up to me as a mentor and when others come to me for advice. I want other advisors to feel comfortable to come to me for advice, as I believe in community over competition, which was the motto of my friend, the late Will Medina, founder of Destination Wedding Expert.
I truly believe that there is enough business out there, and we can all help each other get better. So, when I am asked to speak at seminars or advisors feel comfortable enough to ask for my help, I am happy to do so!
Scaling my business with a great team, efficient processes and technology have helped me hit my financial and personal goals of having a decent work-life balance, but I am still striving to get an even better work-life balance.
What tips can you provide advisors who new to the industry?
Get educated and listen to your clients’ needs. Sales is 99 percent listening and 1 percent selling. If you listen and educate, you are bound to have a new client sign up with you! Once you have that working successfully, then make sure to set up processes, technology and find people to help you be successful. Enable and empower your team so they can do things without your constant intervention.
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