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One on one: Sasha Tellen

Alaska Railroad passenger sales account executive of travel agent relations, talks about her career in the Alaskan travel industry

 

Why did you choose a career in the travel industry?

In college, I took a summer job greeting guests on cruises in Seward or Whittier, Alaska. From there, I was hooked, like a coho salmon to a fishing lure! I returned to college in Wisconsin and, after graduating with a degree in business administration, worked as a product manager and sales representative — but before long, the mountains were calling me home to Alaska. I was ecstatic to join the travel trade sales team at the Alaska Railroad (ARRC) and have been embracing Alaska tourism as my next adventure.

What’s a typical day at work like for you?

When I’m in the office, I’m reaching out to travel agents to see how we can assist them in growing their business. It’s all about collaboration and reminding them that ARRC is their Alaskan partner; they can work with us on everything from rail travel to creating multi-day adventure packages to explore the Last Frontier. When I’m not in the office, I’m traveling within the continental United States, educating travel agents and consumers about the Alaska Railroad at various travel trade events. There’s nothing like being able to explain all the different activities we have on offer in Alaska — and how the Alaska Railroad is a partner they can trust to connect all the components, such as ‘flightseeing’ over Denali or enjoying a marine wildlife glacier day cruise. We can also help with lodging too.

How does the rest of the company operate?

Running a year-round rail service across 500 miles of Alaskan wilderness is no small feat. Our onboard team does a fantastic job of providing great customer experience across two classes of passenger service and five regular routes. As the only railroad in Southcentral and Interior Alaska, we serve a lot of different passenger needs.

What’s new on the horizon for your organization?

In Passenger Services, we’ll be rolling out a new 2017 onboard menu, featuring local seasonal ingredients — including sourdough French toast, reindeer penne bolognese, local brews and, of course, seafood. In addition, for our health-conscious travelers, we have gluten-free and vegan options that are sure to please the taste buds. Meals are included for passengers traveling in our premium GoldStar glass dome cars.

How important are travel agents to your business?

Travel agents are responsible for being the destination experts for clients dreaming of visiting Alaska. We, on the other hand, need to make sure everything an agent needs is at their fingertips, in order to be successful. Having the opportunity to build relationships with agents, as well as provide resources, knowledge and build trust, is crucial. Agents need to know they can reach out to any of our friendly, Alaskan-based reservation agents and quickly make a rail reservation, book into one of our multi-day adventure packages, or create their own tailor-made tour.

What are your major objectives for 2017?

One of our main focuses this year is to further develop our Alaska Railroad Travel Expert Program. Residing on the travel trade page of our website, it’ll encompass educational seminars, online guides/resources and branding resources to help distinguish the Alaska Railroad Travel Expert Partner and provide the resources they need to be successful. These will allow partners to become better acquainted with us, so they can sell the railroad as the ultimate way to experience Southcentral and Interior Alaska.

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