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WORK IN JAPAN

Travelling Light

Planes, trains and automobiles - we all love travelling. But a lot of people work hard to get us from A to B. Daneeta Saft finds out who' turning the wheels behind the scenes when she talks to Glenn Frye, President of StarLight Travel.

Genn Frye of Starlight Travel
Glenn Frye of StarLight Travel
Photo by Mitchell Coster

How did you get started in the travel business?
It wasn't really planned. People who know exactly what they want are a mystery to me. In school, I worked part time for a Japanese-owned travel agency in Hawaii. After university, in July of '92, I came to Japan and got a position working for the head office in Roppongi. I was the foreign section. They offered me JY20,000 a month (yes, JY20,000) and a commission. By Christmas, I had sold JY300 million in tickets. I happened to be in the right place at the right time because there was no one servicing the foreign community back then. After two years, I decided to go it on my own.

What do you look for in a potential employee?
The little stuff that you can't teach someone: common sense, the ability to juggle a million things at once, flexibility, a really good memory. If someone has these traits, I can pretty much teach them whatever else they need to know to work in the industry.

Is there a lot of opportunity in the industry?
The downside is that the pay is low. You could probably make more teaching English. The upside is the experience. If you think you want to work in the service industry, work in the travel industry to gain experience. Also, if you are a foreigner setting up a small operation here, you run up against a lot of hassle. You're not allowed to go into the red because banks won't loan you money. You have to have guarantors to lease phones, faxes, even copy machines. The visa is a problem. I think what really helped me the most was my Japanese language ability and just sticking to it. If you are a Japanese-speaking foreigner with a good attitude and perseverance, you'll go a long way in this town.

What differentiates your business from other travel agencies?
The little stuff. We offer people the option to pay by credit card. A lot of companies will accept only bank transfers. We always offer options. If the client's destination is impossible, we suggest other destinations based on our knowledge of the client. That's where remembering past travel is important.

Contact StarLight Worldwide Travel at 03-3446-1775.


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