Adventure Awaits: Empowering Travel Advisors to Thrive in a Dynamic Industry - EP0066 with Chris Grum, Scott McAlister, and Michael Akana - Episode Drop Date: July 7th, 2023
Chris Grum - Premier Custom Travel
Chris was born in Dallas and has lived all over the country since then. Growing up, he spent about ten years in Westchester County, just outside of New York City. He also spent a couple of years going to school in Pennsylvania. His high school years were spent in Lufkin, Texas and that’s where he got his first job in radio.
The broadcasting industry would ultimately take him to Boston, Las Vegas, back to Lufkin and finally to Houston. Over a 25-year career, he played every type of music and met (and worked with) some amazing people. Throughout that time, he was an amateur travel agent, constantly helping his friends and family book vacations and plan travel excursions.
He is the founder and owner of PREMIER CUSTOM TRAVEL, a travel agency based in Iowa Colony, Texas and specializing in cruises, theme park vacations, the Sandals & Beaches Resorts, and destinations worldwide.
Chris lives in Iowa Colony, Texas with his girlfriend Melissa and their cats Otto, who serves as the company's mascot and official office kitty, and Sammy. In his spare time, Chris enjoys going to see live theatre, traveling, sports (especially baseball, hockey and football), spending time with his friends, and going to restaurants and wine tastings.
In 2022, Chris was inducted into the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Hall of Fame as the Elite Cruise Counsellor (ECC) of the Year. Chris is a CLIA Elite Cruise Counsellor, a CLIA Luxury Cruise Specialist, a CLIA-certified Travel Agency Executive (TAE), a Travel Institute Certified Travel Counselor, an IATA Accredited Agent, a member of ASTA - the American Society of Travel Advisors, a Certified Sandals Specialist and a SNG Certified Accessible Travel Advocate. In July of 2013, Chris was selected from among thousands of travel agents to be Carnival Cruise Line's Fun Planner of the Month. In 2020, Chris was chosen to participate in the CruiseWorld Star Program. Chris also has a seat on the CLIA StarBoard, the travel agent advisory committee for Cruise Lines International Association.
Chris is also a co-author of the #1 best-selling book The Travel Advisor's Handbook.
Scott McAlister - Premier Custom Travel
Scott was born in Anchorage, Alaska and has since lived in Texas and Mississippi with his family, while attending schools in Maine, Massachusetts, Texas and Oklahoma.
Scott’s love of travel goes back to his Grandparents. His Grandfather was a recreational pilot who owned his own plane, hangar and airstrip near current day Houston Hobby Airport. Scott was raised hearing the tales of their travels, and as he grew up was able to begin adventures of his own.
While attending high school in Maine, Scott was introduced to photography and it continues to be a favorite hobby today. At a young age, he was also introduced to the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities available all over the U.S. and has since visited and photographed national parks and wild life scenery.
Scott married his wife Michelle in the fall of 2005. They currently reside in Willis, Texas with their cats.
When not working, Scott and Michelle enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, cycling and hiking. They are both active committee volunteers with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and enjoy spending time with friends at live theatre events and wine tastings as well as cooking with family.
Scott is a CLIA Elite Cruise Counsellor and a CLIA Luxury Cruise Specialist as well as a Certified Sandals Specialist.
Scott is also a co-author of the #1 best-selling book The Travel Advisor's Handbook.
Michael Akana - Michael Akana Travel Services
Michael Akana is one of the few travel agents certified by the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) as an Elite Cruise Counsellor Scholar (ECCS) the highest level of certification available from CLIA. Michael is certified by the Travel Institute as a Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) and The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) as a Verified Travel Advisor (VTA). Michael earned a Master of Science in Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism from California State University East Bay (CSUEB). Michael brings the organizational experience of professional work with a variety of government, educational and human services organizations including Stanford University, County of San Mateo, the YMCA, Shelter Network, the Core Social Services Network, and El Centro de Libertad. Michael currently volunteers with Kiwanis and the American Red Cross.
Michael Akana tackles a variety of topics as a writer, speaker and facilitator–Travel Sales, Agency Ownership and Perspectives on the Industry; Government and Community Relations; Organizational Change; Environmental Change; Quality and Process Improvement; Ethics and Leadership; Disaster Planning and Recovery; Program Design; and Logic Models.
In addition to industry-specific topics, Michael designs and trains on branded, proprietary, or custom systems. He consults on systems design; data management; program design from concept through funding and execution; consumer life-cycle; contact management; documentation of systems, policies and procedures.
Michael offers a small travel agency owner’s perspective on the travel industry, operating an independent travel agency under his own name, Michael Akana. He is registered as a Seller of Travel in California; is a member of ASTA, CLIA, and TTRA; is accredited by IATAN; and serves on CLIA’S Strategic Trade Advisory and Review Board (Star Board). Michael is an agent for Dugan’s Travels. Current projects include authoring, co-authoring, and advising on books for agents, consumers, and students of travel. Michael sees his contribution to travel education as distinct– “We are fortunate in the travel industry to already have many good educators and training programs. I am more interested in gaps in concept, organizational structure, and program design.
Michael is also a co-author of the #1 best-selling book The Travel Advisor's Handbook.