Everest Travel is an independent travel agency located in Henderson, Auckland. It specialises in air tickets, hotel bookings, cruise bookings, and complete holiday packages. We caught up with Everest Travel director Suraj Sapkota to see what makes him tick.
How do you define a great travel experience?
As a customer if I can travel all around the world then that’s a good travel experience. As a travel consultant, if I can make my clients happy, I personally feel that’s a good travel experience. For my clients if I can get them good rates, if they have no visa issues or changing rules while in transit, if the travel is hassle free then that is a great experience.
What inspires you?
My people, my customers. They are the ones who inspire me. I never planned to open this business. When I used to work for an agency, I was the only Nepalese consultant so every day I used to get so many calls from the Nepalese community to book their travel. The customers told me ‘we will support you because you are the only Nepalese consultant’. It feels incredible to be uplifted by the Nepalese community.
What do you like about being part of the GTN family?
Support – in one word 24/7, 365. I don’t think I need to explain more than that. GTN is there when ever I need.
What is your biggest frustration about the travel industry?
Visa issues – I encounter lots of those. Especially when transit visa policies change without us knowing. I had two families that were affected by that issue recently. They took an 18 hour transit for a flight through Singapore because the airline said it would provide accommodation, but when they got to Singapore the visa policy had changed and they were told they weren’t allowed to leave the airport and ended up having to spend the whole 18 hours there. But that’s the challenge, and I love challenges.
What’s been the hardest moment in your career?
When one of my customers sued me and I went to court. The customer had purchased a ticket on Singapore Airlines flying in December that was non refundable. I sent him all the details and he was happy, everything was verified by him and his wife. In late October he emailed me saying he’d like to cancel the ticket and asked what the charges would be. I explained again that the ticket was non-refundable. He took two days to reply back and when he did it was a 15 page complaint drawing in the Consumer Act. He then took me to the dispute chamber at Hamilton District Court. I ended up winning the case, as I had clearly marked the terms and conditions – like we put on every single ticket. But I think it’s made me stronger and now when somebody tries to threaten me I have more confidence because I’ve been through the whole court process already so I can explain it to them.
What’s been the greatest/a highlight?
When someone acknowledges me for my work. When people in the local Nepalese community notice and recognise me and my work and come to me for their travel.
How do you balance work and life?
My job hours are 9am – 7pm, so after seven I generally do not take calls unless it’s an emergency because that’s my family time. Nowadays we are also circulating our after hours number between the staff so that we get to share the workload.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone first starting out in the industry?
I would say – do your research and development, know your job very well, know this industry very well. I have come across lots of people who have started a travel business on the basis of hiring people. If you’d like to come in to this business, know this industry first, have enough product knowledge by yourself, for the community market especially.
What is your life motto?
Be happy, make people happy. My tasks, my actions or reactions will always be about making people happy. Making my customers happy makes me feel happy in return.