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30under30 Q&A

An Interview with Advisors Abigail Batuik and Wallis Fairvalley

Travel Agent Central recently announced their 30under30 list for 2023 to recognize rising stars within the travel industry who promote innovative strategies, plan unforgettable itineraries, and are always looking for ways to grow their business. Two Brownell independent advisors were honored to be named on that list: Abigail Meckem Batiuk of Kristen Meckem Travel and Wallis Fairvalley of Red Letter Travel. We reached out to Abigail and Wallis to give us the deep dive into who they are, where their businesses are going, and their view of the travel industry as a whole. Keep reading to hear all about these two travel rockstars!

How did you get started in travel?

Wallis: My passion for travel is a legacy passed down from my mother, Debbie, a seasoned professional in the field. As I was growing up, our trips together allowed me to explore new places and cultures. After university, I joined my mother to gauge if it was a fit for my career aspirations. Following a two-year apprenticeship with Debbie, we took the plunge to create Red Letter Travel. 


Abigail: My love for travel began when I was 13 years old. My parents, brother, and I lived in Europe for a year. We sold our house, rented a camper, and drove to 22 countries. After that, I was hooked! I studied abroad in France twice: the first time to study the language in Provence, and the second time to study Burgundy (both the region and the wines). After working in the wine industry for 5 years, I joined my mother’s team at Kristen Meckem Travel. My role in the wine industry gave me the opportunity to work in a hospitality and leisure role on a local scale, and I was ready to expand my knowledge and provide experiences to clients globally. 

Misconceptions About Your Job

Wallis: Many perceive my job as being perpetually on vacation, which is mainly influenced by the glamorous images I share on my Instagram. What’s often overlooked is the amount of work that goes into each curated travel experience – grueling 13-hour workdays, addressing unexpected client issues like missed flights, and continuous hotel hopping. In reality, my job requires a lot more diligence than people assume. 


Abigail: I feel like people either know what I do or they don’t. I plan luxury travel for clients who want an elevated and customized experience that transforms the way they travel. Our clients come to us because they would like someone to plan an unforgettable trip for them, or they love that VIP treatment and extra amenities! 

What does the future of travel entail?

Abigail Meckem Batuik

Wallis Fairvalley

What does the future of travel entail?

Wallis: I envisage a blend of advanced technology and a focus on personalized and sustainable experiences. AI and machine learning will play a more significant role, allowing for more customized and streamlined travel experiences. These technologies can help anticipate travelers’ needs, predict preferences, and provide tailored recommendations, essentially creating a bespoke travel experience for each individual. Innovation will also drive the development of eco-friendly accommodation, transportation, and practices, making it easier for travelers to support our planet. 


Abigail: With the shifting of priorities during and after COVID, travel and work may start to be better combined. We may begin to see longer, slower trips – meaning clients may be able to be on the ground, traveling, for longer periods of time so long as they have an empty afternoon to work. Having ample and comfortable office space and amenities along with providing culturally immersive experiences may be on the horizon for those working remotely. 

What does this recognition mean to you?

Wallis: The 30under30 recognition was a great honor. This was my last year under 30, so this was very exciting for me. It has been challenging making my own path in this industry, as Debbie (my mom) has made a great name for herself. Getting this recognition was a nice validation that my hard work is paying off. 


Abigail: It means the world to me! I am very honored. 

What partnership is the most valuable?

What partnership is the most valuable?

Wallis: Without question, it is my phenomenal team at Red Letter Travel. Comprising of diverse backgrounds and clientele, our small but dynamic team of five offers a constant exchange of ideas and learning, providing the backbone to our growing business. 

Abigail: My team at Kristen Meckem Travel is by far the most valuable. The ladies on our team are power-houses! Each person has years of industry experience, incredible insights and advice, and endless contacts. And, they are some of the nicest and funniest women I know. I am very grateful for everything they give me: their kindness, their humor, their advice and their support. They inspire me to do better and learn more every day. 

How did Brownell help you succeed?

Wallis: My professional journey took a decisive turn when I entered the Brownell HQ in Birmingham for a comprehensive three-day training in 2016. The knowledge and expertise imparted by Brownell, which I believe has one of the industry’s best training programs, laid the groundwork for both my individual growth and Red Letter Travel’s success. 


Abigail: Brownell has the resources and an incredible network of advisors who are happy to share recommendations, site visits and advice on their specialties, which is incredibly valuable. Not only do they have fantastic, dedicated Air and Insurance Desks, they have helped with marketing, business development, IT questions, and the list goes on. I’m very grateful for Brownell. 

What is your favorite client experience?

Wallis: Honeymoons hold a special place in my heart when it comes to planning trips. The anticipation and joy of the couple embarking on their first significant journey post-wedding are unmatched. I love setting up little surprises for them during their travels and hearing about their trip when they return is so rewarding. 


Abigail: This is a tricky one, and I don’t think I can pick just one or two! We are so fortunate to have some of the nicest clients who are funny and so enjoyable to communicate with, and we also get to work with some of the best travel partners and suppliers who are so knowledgeable, gracious, and hospitality-driven. When all of these factors come together, you have a trip in which dreams are made! 

What is your favorite travel experience?

Wallis: I try to host a trip once a year that I open up to my friend group. Our adventures have taken us to places like Colorado, Turks & Caicos, and my personal favorite: Morocco. These trips offer more than memorable experiences; they allow me to create lasting memories with those dear to me. One standout memory is watching the sunrise over the Sahara dunes with eight of my closest friends – an experience that I hold dear. 


Abigail: There are so many! Probably at the top of the list is sailing through the Galapagos on Silversea’s ship, Silver Origin. It was such an incredible experience–from the intimacy of the smaller ship to the wildlife, it was truly a bucket list trip. Not to mention I was pregnant with my son at the time, who is named Darwin after my grandfather. So, exploring Darwin Bay was the icing on the cake! 

Advice for those trying to get started

Wallis: I would encourage young people to find a mentor who can guide them or consider starting as a coordinator under a seasoned advisor. Proper training and establishing the right connections are incredibly valuable assets when launching a career in this exciting industry. 


Abigail: Research, research, research! There are many ways to enter the travel industry. Have conversations, read about host agencies, talk to your family and friends, and make appointments to talk to successful travel advisors. Consider your circles of influence to determine if you will have access to clients who will be a good fit for your business model. Keep having conversations until the right path becomes clear.