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Associated Press Newspaper Article

Associated Press did an interview and picture of me that was on CNN TV News and then printed in newspapers across the United States on the front page of the Travel Section of Sunday newspapers.

 

Travel Agents Get Creative in Tough Times

Travel Agent Connie Ebright books packages to Africa out of her home to keep expenses down.

(AP) -- Many travel agents have left the industry since airlines cut their commissions early this year – after already being hit hard by the September 11 terrorist attacks that seriously crippled the travel business.

But others are finding ways to be more creative in the face of increased competition from Internet travel sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia.

Connie Ebright, (Ebrighttravel.com), an expert on African travel who claims firsthand knowledge of crocodiles and hippos, runs her business from home in Glendale, California, now. She closed another office to reduce expenses. Ebright, an independent agent, has been booking travel packages to "the continent I love" for about eight years following a career as a fashion representative for designers.

"Things were very tough after September 11," she says. The cutback in airline commissions also hurt.

Now she makes commissions from the tour operators she represents in Africa. She recalls putting together a special package for two couples for $35,000 per couple.

"They were pampered in luxury from start to finish." The trip included stops in London and Cape Town, South Africa, before a short flight to Botswana for the photo safari of a lifetime.

"Botswana is the heart and soul of Africa," says Ebright, whose clients stayed "in luxury tents" at safari camps owned by Orient Express hotels. "Botswana is the only place you can do a safari in a mokoro, a small dugout canoe for two propelled by a native with a pole. You are inches above water shared by hippos, elephants, and crocodiles."

The couples went on to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, then back to South Africa's Kruger National Park, "the premium game reserve in South Africa," wrapping up the trip at the lavish Sun City resort for a round of golf.

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Reprinted with permission of Associated Press


Travel Market Article

Connie Ebright, owner of Ebright Travel, attributes her success to a stroke of luck and millions of dollars in free advertising. While luck certainly didn’t hurt, Ebright’s attribution downplays her own initiative.

Ebright was a relatively new travel agent the first time she went to Africa on a trip with her six sisters. While there, she fell in love with the continent, the people – “the adventure and the silence of the bush.”

“Africa connected with my heart and soul,” she said.

She knew immediately she wanted to be able to share her love of Africa with others. So upon her return to the United States, she enrolled in every specialist class for every country in Africa that she could find. She read everything she could get her hands on and she talked to anyone who would listen, and it was at this point that luck and initiative overlapped.

At the time a new Web site called Travance.com was garnering a lot of attention. A precursor to Tripology.com, the site helped link travelers with niche travel agents. Ebright noticed that the site had terrible write-ups on Africa and contacted the owner of the site to offer her services as a writer. She wrote blurbs on every country in Africa she had taken specialist classes on.

Because the Web site was new and different, the press began to take an interest, and eventually Associated Press contacted the site’s owner. But he didn’t know what to do with the press, so he sent AP to Ebright and asked her to do the interview, concentrating on her own knowledge of African travel.

Ebright was interviewed by the Associated Press. Not long afterwards, an article about her was splashed across the front page of every Sunday travel section that buys AP articles.

“I had a lucky angel on my shoulder,” she told Travel Market Report. “I had a million dollars worth of free ‘advertising’.”

At the time, although she held several specialist certifications in African countries, Ebright’s agency business still mostly consisted of standard fare cruises and tours.

That quickly changed.

“I was inundated. I had so many calls I didn’t know what to do.”

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