Travel Advisor Insights with Henley Vazquez

Tech Solutions for Travel Advisors: Henley Vazquez of Fora’s Recipe for Success

Episode Overview

Episode Topic:
In this episode of TravelPreneur, we engage in an insightful conversation with Henley Vasquez, co-founder of Fora, who shares insights into revolutionizing the travel experience by empowering entrepreneurs to turn their passion for travel into a thriving business. The episode explores Fora’s unique approach, emphasizing community building among travel advisors, integration of cutting-edge technology, fostering collaboration, and the role of inclusivity in the travel industry.

Lessons You’ll Learn:
Listeners will gain valuable lessons on how Fora’s tech-driven platform supports travel advisors, streamlining processes and enhancing their ability to curate exceptional travel experiences. The episode delves into the significance of inclusivity in the travel industry, creating equal opportunities for diverse backgrounds. Henley also shares her vision for Fora’s future, the role of technology in staying ahead, and offers insightful advice for aspiring travel advisors and entrepreneurs.

About Our Guest:
Henley Vasquez is the co-founder of Fora, a visionary leader dedicated to reshaping the travel industry. With a mission to empower entrepreneurs, she has played a pivotal role in creating a platform that fosters collaboration, embraces technology, and promotes inclusivity. Henley’s journey reflects a commitment to supporting travel advisors in building successful businesses while enhancing the overall travel experience.

Topics Covered:
In this episode, we delve into various aspects of student travel, including the meticulous planning process, the comprehensive safety measures in place, and the role of technology in streamlining operations. The conversation covers Fora’s mission to empower travel entrepreneurs, the tech-driven approach to enhancing the travel advisory process, building a collaborative community, and the pivotal role of inclusivity in Fora’s vision. Additionally, the episode explores how Fora stays ahead in technology, its future plans for growth, and Henley’s advice for those venturing into the dynamic world of travel entrepreneurship.

Our Guest: Henley Vazquez, Architect of Inclusive Travel Advisory Platforms

Henley Vasquez, a dynamic entrepreneur based in New York, co-founded Fora, a groundbreaking platform empowering travel enthusiasts to turn passion into profit. With over a decade in the travel industry, Henley is committed to reshaping how travel experiences are curated and shared.

As the co-founder of Fora, Henley spearheads a team dedicated to bringing new individuals into the travel advisory space, with an impressive 97% of advisors having no prior selling experience. Fora’s mission is to democratize the industry, providing a platform for diverse backgrounds to build travel advisory businesses. The modern, tech-driven approach sets a new standard, offering training, community support, and cutting-edge tools for collaboration.

Before Fora, Henley co-founded Passported, serving as CEO for seven years, transforming it into a planning platform for the modern traveler. As a Web Development and Content Consultant at Indagare/National Geographic, she managed redesign projects, contributed to publications, and appeared in media. Henley Vasquez, a visionary leader, is dedicated to inclusivity, leveraging technology, and supporting aspiring travel entrepreneurs on their journey to success, reflecting a deep understanding and passion for redefining how we approach and appreciate travel.

Henley Vazquez of Fora

Episode Transcript

Henley Vasquez: It’s so hard at times to put yourself out there and say, this is what I’m doing now. It can be very scary because you’re scared of failure and you’re scared of exposing your hopes and dreams to the world, but you will never be successful without just one foot in front of the other. So the best thing to do is to just talk to your friends and family. Say, this is serious. I’m starting my own business. Because we say all the time, you build the business you want. If you want to build big, we’ll be there to support you. But you’re going to have to want this. You’re an owner of this business, get started. Sooner better than later and louder more than quiet. Put yourself out there.

Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston-based travel journalist Megha McSwain. Each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry-focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel business, if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on Travel Preneur. Hello travel enthusiasts, and welcome to another episode of TravelPreneur. I’m your host, Meghan McSwain. Today, we are joined with Henley Vasquez, the co-founder of Fora. Hello, Henley, thanks for joining us today.

Henley Vasquez: Hi. Thanks so much for having me.

Megha McSwain: Henley, your mission with Fora is to empower entrepreneurs to transform their love of travel into revenue. How does Fora’s approach foster a community of travel advisors and enthusiasts, providing them with the tools, technology and support to curate exceptional travel experiences?

Henley Vasquez: What I’d say is that, first of all, like 97% of our advisors have never sold travel before. And that’s really our goal, is to bring new people into this industry. But if you haven’t done this job before, you may have been planning lots of travel for your friends and family, but you don’t know exactly what goes on behind the scenes to make that happen, that magical experience. So we really focus on training in small groups, bringing people in, giving them lots of content that they can do asynchronously, then joining office hours and labs and workshops with our team here, we are the trainers. You will be training with me so that you can learn how to do the job, right? Because, what our advisors are doing is really using their own network to build the book of business that they’ll have to get their this career started. You don’t want to make a mistake with your friends and your family, and so they’re very cautious about making sure that they’ve got the right training. We want to support them in the right way so they can kick off really a new career, whether it’s full-time or part-time.

Megha McSwain: Well, Fora is known for its modern and tech-driven approach to travel. Can you elaborate on How you integrate cutting-edge technology and data-driven recommendations to offer these experiences?

Henley Vasquez: Yeah, so tech and travel aren’t two words that go together very often in this side of the travel industry. A lot of what we’ve seen is people coming in and realizing, I mean, I’ve been a travel advisor my entire career. I’m used to the lack of technology in travel, but going like, wait, what there’s no easy way to collect payment information? There’s no right way to store this securely to keep my client’s information. So a lot of what our tech team has done is when we started two years ago, we said first like, oh, we’re going to build a great front-end experience, a great website. And then we looked at and we were like, no, we need to build tools that are going to make doing this job easier, more efficient, faster, particularly if you’re somebody who’s like doing another job, you’re taking care of kids and you’re booking travel and decide you need this to go a little bit more smoothly. So all of our launches have really been revolving around what is going to make it possible to do this job better and faster. So things like the vault, which is a secure payments collection, you can send a link to someone via text via email. They can just enter in their credit card information that’s saved, which then you can use, you just attach it to any client information and to the booking that you’re making. in our bookings platform, which sits on top of the GDS, the very ancient way that the travel industry has been using to book hotels. So you can put them all together and everything gets logged for, you know, chasing your own commissions, No trying to come up with your own way to sort of craftily save payment information, a way to save all of your client details that you need to be able to pass on and all in one place where also you can get your training.

Megha McSwain: That sounds like a miracle having everything.

Henley Vasquez: Yeah, that really does. It sounds really nice.

Megha McSwain: I know you mentioned some of them before, but how does Foura facilitate a collaborative environment between its advisors and clients? I know you mentioned the training and but just like on an ongoing basis and should a challenge something come up, a problem, something.

Henley Vasquez: A collaborative environment with you and your clients as a travel advisor is like a given, right? You’re always going to be talking to them. We train a lot around that. Like, how do you match-make your clients to the right destination, the right hotel, the right cruise line? I think the harder thing in our industry is how do you build a collaborative environment within your agency. How do you make sure that your community doesn’t see each other as competition, but they actually see each other as companions in learning how to do this job better? And that’s something that from day one until now and forever, as long as this company exists, I will be dedicated to and it is like incredibly heartwarming to see these people working together because again, there are, for the most part, all new, all building businesses in their own way, but all really dedicated to supporting each other too. So we have our community app, which they are all in, where you can go in and like any time of the day or night, share something, “Hey, I’m really struggling. I have a client and she’s planning a honeymoon in Paris, and this is her budget and this is the kind of hotel she likes, and she really wants an Eiffel Tower view and I’m, like, struggling to find that”. People will jump in and help you share their thoughts, share their feedback and that really makes a difference. Because I think for most people, this is a pretty solitary job. You’re doing it on your own, you’re talking to your clients a lot, but you want to always look like the expert with your client. So you need to have your community there to, like, help you. When you don’t have somebody you can turn to next to you and say, “What would you do in this situation?” And it is just it’s wonderful to see how this community has come together to help everyone learn as they go.

Megha McSwain: You mentioned these advisors are like, never have done this before, they’re new. Is that by design or is that something that you have a vision for this company or why is that?

Henley Vasquez: Yeah, it is very much by design. This is an industry that I think is smaller than it should be. When you look at the data, only about 8% of hotel bookings are done by travel advisors. Now, a travel advisor booking is a better way to book. It’s better for the client in the sense of, you’re going to get these better perks and amenities, these upgrades. You’re going to get to the relationships you have like a bestie. In the world of travel, it’s better for the hotel because they pay lower commissions to us than they pay to the OTAs like Expedia or And it’s better for the advisor because for someone who maybe was doing a lot of planning for the friends and family because they’re the go-to person for travel tips, they’re now getting paid for the job that they’re doing. So, we really think that this is the right way to be planning trips. But there aren’t enough travel advisors in the industry right now in order to be able to service all the demand, we think that 8% should be 18% or 28%. Let’s do that up. Let’s pull Bookings out of the OTA world, put them in the hands of humans who are essentially creating their own small businesses, and help create better trips. Along with that.

Megha McSwain: Right. What role does inclusivity play in Fora’s approach to travel? How does the platform foster an inclusive environment that welcomes travelers from travel advisors from diverse backgrounds, and then providing them with equal opportunities? Because I imagine you have advisors from all over.

Henley Vasquez: We do. From all over, every background you can imagine living all around the world. I think a problem with the industry has traditionally been that you have to commit to doing this full-time at a traditional agency, so I’m going to do this full-time. I’m going to quit the job that I have. And just like hope I can pay my bills with the money that I’m going to pay for this. The payment cycles are very slow, so you don’t get paid until after your traveler has traveled. When that is the rule and you have to get very high sales targets. So if that’s the rules for engagement with this industry, it’s only a certain kind of person who can afford to take that risk, that they’ll be able to make the money that they need to live, and b meet the requirements of their agency. So we decided, let’s throw that out the window. We really want people to build the business that they want. So if you want to do this in a small way or in a little bit of extra money, cool. If you want to do this in a big way. Also, we’re there to support you. But what we see is for a lot of people, it’s they need an entry point and you won’t get inclusivity unless you create more seats at the table. And you vary who gets to sit there. The thing that I think is super cool about this, and is obviously it’s great to create jobs for lots of people and let anybody who wants to do this job have a chance to prove themselves. The difference for travelers is it’s much easier to find somebody who feels like you, who gets you if you have more inclusivity in the industry. So if you are somebody who needs support for accessible travel, we’ve got advisors that can do that BIPOC, LGBTQ, we’ve got advisors coming from all backgrounds. And as a traveler, that means, again, being more likely to plan with your travel advisor rather than to just go and do your research and click online and like hope it works out. So we really think inclusivity is something that makes a more inclusive travel agency than you get a more inclusive traveler too.

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Henley Vasquez: Well, yeah. I mean, I think technology and travel like “What’s the big bounds and leaps that have happened have not really happened on the agency side of this industry?” They’ve happened with the OTAs. So with Expedia and with all of that data they have, that’s been great for them and the partners that work with them are actually quite happy. Even though they may not love the commission levels, they’re stoked to have all that information that they’re able to get from their partner portals with the OTAs. So what we’re looking at is how do we create that data and that feedback loop for our partners in particular, because our advisors, they have the support, they have the training, they have the community, all of that we’re gathering into. So they have one place they can go and get everything they need to plan a great trip. Our partners often will talk to them and they’ll say, I actually can’t even see how much business I have coming. I know what stayed and paid the heads that have already been on the beds. My data shows me that. I don’t know what you have coming up in revenue, I don’t know how busy I’m expected to be, and I don’t know where I rank in terms of my comb set. What are your advisors booking instead of me? So a lot of what we think about in terms of our technology and our data isn’t solely for the advisor and for the traveler. It’s really also about our partners and how we support them because if we’re a better partner to them, they’re going to treat our agents and their clients better. So it really goes all ways, I think.

Megha McSwain: What is your vision for the coming years? How do you plan to further solidify it in the realm of the travel industry and continued success for the travel advisor on the client?

Henley Vasquez: Let’s see. So my plan, first of all, is to try to get a little sleep every now and then, our team is working 24 hours a day. I think we’re we are very dedicated team, and we are all going a little bit at sort of full speed ahead at all times. But it’s so exciting to see the changes that are happening and our view for the future is how do we continue to make this better. We’ve launched our booking platform. It’s like version 0.1, there’s so much more we can do. One of the first things we did even for launch is we layered in our bookings data with this. So if you’re an advisor, let’s say, your client says, “I want to go to Chicago for the weekend.” Maybe you don’t really know Chicago that well. Cool. You can go in. You can ask people, what do you like in Chicago? They’re this kind of traveler, that’s great. But you also can go into the platform, search through our partners and see how many advisors have booked a hotel how many times. So, that gives you an immediate feedback loop on. All right, if a lot of advisors are booking this hotel, a lot of times that means it’s got to be doing pretty well. All the reviews that we’re collecting, we’re going to be layering those in as well. So we really want our platform to be a place that you can learn about becoming a travel advisor, get your training, but also search, discover, and train yourself as well as you’re going through that booking process for your clients. So we just need to be bigger, and better as we keep growing and just build our team to help support this amazing community.

Megha McSwain: That sounds like a good plan, and it sounds like you guys are on a mission, so I definitely want to keep up with you guys and see what’s in store for the future. As an inspiring figure in the world of travel, what advice would you offer to any aspiring travel advisors and entrepreneurs looking to get into this? Maybe as a newbie?

Henley Vasquez: Just do it. There’s no better way to start anything if you’re starting a business, I think and entrepreneurs know this. It’s so hard at times to put yourself out there and say, this is what I’m doing now. It can be very scary because you’re scared of failure and you’re scared of exposing your hopes and dreams to the world, but you will never be successful without just one foot in front of the other. So the best thing to do is to just join up, become an advisor, and talk to your friends and family. Say, this is serious. I’m starting my own business because we say all the time you build the business you want. If you want to build big, we’ll be there to support you. But you’re going to have to want this, it really is. You’re an owner of this business. So yeah, get started. Sooner better than later and louder more than quiet. Put yourself out there.

Megha McSwain: Henley, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, and I would love to honestly catch up in the future because it sounds like you guys are taking strides and it sounds like a lot is happening. Let our listeners know where they can learn more about forward travel and where they can connect with you.

Henley Vasquez: Sure, so you can learn more at There’s lots of information on there about how to join as well. As you can see, our advisors and a lot of the content that they’re publishing now and all of our preferred partners, our favorite suppliers that we’re working with. One thing to note is there is a very long wait list right now to join as an advisor. When you fill out the application, which is linked right there, you’ll have a question that says, do you have a secret code? And because you listen to this podcast, you do. So add an entrepreneur, which is tricky because you have to be able to spell it to get it right.

Megha McSwain: That’s, yeah. That’s right.

Henley Vasquez: There you go. It’s like, that’s your IQ test right away.

Megha McSwain: Yeah. Right there.

Henley Vasquez: As your secret word and that’s going to help our team find you and pull you up to the top of the list so that your application will get reviewed more quickly.

Megha McSwain: Excellent. What a bonus of listening to today’s episode.

Henley Vasquez: Well, thank you. 

Megha McSwain: Not only for our listeners, Well, thank you so much, Henley, for joining us. I appreciate you sharing so much and being so, so personal with your journey and being so honest with our listeners. To everyone listening now, please follow and subscribe for future episodes and leave us reviews. That really helps a lot. Thank you so much, Henley. Have a nice day.

Henley Vasquez: Thank you for having me.

Megha McSwain: You’ve been listening to Travel Preneur by, make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast listening platform so you never miss a new episode, and we’ll see you again soon on Travel Preneur.