A vacation to Cancun, Mexico, more than four years ago began the transformation of homemaker Linda Dickerson into one of the most successful travel agents in Utah.
Dickerson and her husband enjoyed that trip so much that she decided to become a travel agent so they could take more vacations - inexpensively.Since starting CTI Travel Inc. 31/2 years ago, she has yet to do any leisure traveling. Business has soared, and they now have three offices, which do more than $12 million a year in business, leaving little time for vacationing.
Linda Dickerson learned the travel business by working for another company but left when she realized the needs of business clients weren't being met by the agency. "The business traveler was put on the back burner," she said.
She started her business with one goal in mind: meeting that need. It was an idea whose time had arrived. The first contract she landed was with a local company that had a $4 million travel budget.
"Our goal is to provide each and every client with the full range of services of a business travel management company," she said. "The business public is ready for some pampering without being gouged."
To provide her clients with the best service possible, Dickerson invested in the best equipment on the market.
"We invested some initial money into computer programs and up-to-date automation and then took an extra step and offered credit-card invoice reconciliation as part of our monthly services," Dickerson said.
The software system used at CTI is comparable to those used by national companies such as American Express. CTI is equipped with the latest, state-of-the-art airline reservation systems, including TWA's PARS computer and United Airlines Focalpoint Apollo system. CTI Travel is the only agency in Utah to use the Focalpoint package.
With a full-time computer programmer continually updating programs, CTI can provide the latest in travel information and services to the business public . . . and to the leisure traveler.
Dickerson said her employees' knowledge and quick service have enabled them to save their accounts millions of dollars in travel expenses.
"You have to be on your toes and know the systems to be creative for your clients," she said. "We have hired experienced people in the travel industry, and I attribute my success to my employees."
Some of the services offered by CTI include an after-hours emergency 1-800 telephone number, employee personal travel discounts, full-time account manager and account team, free travel consultant services, overnight ticket distribution and a satellite ticket printer.
The growth and success of CTI has come through partnerships with growing businesses in the community.
"It's fun to see a company start out small and see them grow," Dickerson said. "And we know they are growing because of the travel they do. We have a lot of pride in Utah."
Dickerson knows what it's like to grow. She started with four employees in her Orem office and now has offices in the San Francisco area, South Towne Mall in Sandy and automated systems throughout the United States with more than 30 agents ready to service accounts.
"We're big, but we want to feel small and hometown," she said.