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Destinations – teaching an old dog some new tricks

I recently spent a week down in Mexico with a really fun group of agents. Some were old, some new, but most were really hungry for knowledge, and excited about networking with other professionals. It was such a refreshing change from the “old guard” (of which I am one) who are so set in their ways, they would never conceive of learning something from a newbie.

To which I say, “really?” Do you really want to turn your nose up at free, tried and true ideas from someone just because it’s not the way you’ve always done it? Do you really want to scoff at someone who is 25-30 years old, and has their finger on the pulse of the demographic that could keep you in business? Part of me says go for it, because I’ll take the opportunity, and embrace every change I can get to learn from these young entrepreneurs. They may be a Millennial or a Generation XYZ’er, but they have the secret decoder ring, and I want it!

I’ve been a travel agent for 30+ years. One secret I’ll share about myself — I always want more. More clients, more knowledge, more personal experiences, and more years doing this job I love so much. It’s what separates me from the order takers; the know it all, who acts like they actually built the hotel and the destination; the “been there, done that”, who is impossible to impress because they’ve seen it all before; and the “don’t you know who I am” who believes they created the sun and moon, and you couldn’t possibly know more than them. Just ask them, they’ll tell you so. We’ve all met them, sat next to them, tolerated them, and finally changed tables because we want to be with the “fun” crowd. You know the fun crowd–that outgoing group of agents who are laughing, sharing, and exchanging information, and plan to continue to sharing ideas, and success stories, after they go home.

The latter was the group of lovely young women I spent time learning with in late May in Mexico. Almost every one of them has been in the industry less than 7 years. Some had two or three years of experience, and one is just getting her start this year. The newest one thought she would like working with brides, and booking weddings. So that is where she is focusing her efforts in her education, and marketing. All of us came together at the Hard Rock WOW specialist training. For those who are unaware, only 76 travel professionals in the USA and Canada have received this certification. It was so exciting to see these “youngsters” begin to start to connect the dots. They candidly shared their dreams and ambitions, and what they wanted to do with their knowledge. Their unbridled enthusiasm for the job, the clients, and for the travel partner hosting our training was contagious. Hats off to Danae, Laurie, Chelsea, Katherynne, and Brandy for the amazing businesswoman that each of you are and will continue to be! Your success stories inspired me!

You all have so many fun and exciting years coming in your careers. You are the future of our industry! I am hopeful that other “old dogs” like me will embrace your passion, and the wonderful skill set that you are bringing to the “new” travel business and learn some “new tricks.” You are breathing new life into an industry that desperately needs it.

To my fellow old timers, please continue to hire and encourage this newest generation of travel professionals. They might not have the years or the miles, but they bring something far more important to our profession. It’s called youth and vitality. For a few short days, I drank it all in and now my batteries are recharged.

Watch me go!

Tracee Williams is a 32 year veteran of the travel industry.  She has extensive experience with both corporate and leisure travel agencies in Northwest Arkansas.  She specializes in Honeymoons, and Luxury Travel.  She is a CTA, ACC, Platinum CSS, and a Sandals Weddingmoon Specialist.  She is currently studying to get her CTC.  She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with her husband Darrell, and their fur babies, Callie, Annie, and Peanut.

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