So, you’re a travel agent, huh?
Today, it seems that there are far too many people running around claiming to be a travel agent. Just the other day, I ran across a sign nailed to a telephone pole near my local mall telling me I could be a travel agent. I know a lot of travel agents (or as I like to refer to them—travel professionals), but I cannot recall one that received their calling from a telephone pole advertisement.
While I am not a lifer in this industry, I do have almost 15 years under my belt and have had the pleasure of meeting thousands of travel professionals and the opportunity to learn something from each one. While there is not one common denominator, I have been able to identify three types of travel professionals who operate in this industry that we all love.
The Lifers. This group is the folks who were born in the travel business. Passion for travel is what drives them. Perhaps Mom and Dad owned an agency way back when and their childhood was spent stamping brochures or filling out the 4 part tickets. Maybe it was a long time employee that had the opportunity to buy a long standing agency. When you run into a Lifer, it pays to listen. There are no bounds to a Lifer’s knowledge or experience. Yes, things have changed, but we kids can learn a lot from the old folks. The Lifer remembers how this industry started. The Lifer knows the definition of the word “service”. And as much as I hate to admit it, I truly think that the service levels of today (across all industries) could learn a lesson from these Lifers. But we cannot count on them for too much longer. They are getting ready to ride off into the sunset with many fond memories of people and places across the globe. Tap the resource while it is still here.
The Whippersnappers. This group was most certainly not born into travel. These are the believers. The Whippersnappers are in the industry to make a buck—and don’t forget that. Many have entered the industry after 911 and most have never seen the words “airline”, “commission”, and “partner” in the same sentence. Look to the Whippersnappers for the fancy websites, the blogs, the forums, and all the latest technological toys to keep them connected to their ever changing base of customers. While their customer base will change, the base will continue to grow. They are mavericks and not afraid to take risks—as long as there is a reasonable expectation of financial return. Whippersnappers are the future leaders of our industry and are willing to look at conventional wisdom and head the opposite direction. The Whippersnappers have a passion for travel and all it offers, but they are also fiercely loyal to their bank accounts.
The Downsizers. This by far is the largest group of travel professionals. Once again, passion for travel and money drives this group, but I think money may be more secondary. That is not to say they are willing to lose money, but a reasonable income and a break even P&L is not that bad! This group probably was laid off after 911 from another travel entity—airline, tour operator, cruise line, or travel agency. Perhaps they were laid off from another industry or just had a mid life career change. This group embraces all of the tools perfected by the Whippersnappers and possesses a lot of the service attributes of the Lifers. They likely have a moderate sized loyal following and operate out of their homes or the local Starbucks. Their websites are adequate, their marketing is adequate, and their results are adequate. And there is nothing wrong with that.
So, what are you?
P.S. If you have a comment, please register and let your voice be heard. And if you want to interact with other Lifers, Whippersnappers or Downsizers, why not click here and register at the TRO Community forums?