Why I remain in the “dying” travel industry

Posted on by in Editorial Musings

My agency has evolved over the years. I entered the world of travel (as a profession) in 1996 when I purchased a single location agency. We grew it to five locations, weathered all sorts of issues including 9-11 and I sold the retail aspects in 2005. I continues on with a niche agency I had developed selling group travel to single parents and their kids. And I continue that to this day.

All too frequently, I get the ignorant comments such as “why are you still in a dying industry?” and “how can you make any money doing that?” And make no mistakes, those are ignorant. Am I rolling in the dough to the tune of mid-six figures? Not even close. But so far, I have been able to survive, have a good time, and put my three kids through college while working in a dying industry.  Of course there is more than the dollars. I gave that some thought and here’s my reasons why I am sticking with this “dying” industry.

  1. We are a happy business. Imagine being a mechanic having to tell people the repair will cost them $1000. How about a hospice nurse or an oncologist who typically delivers bad news. No! We are a happy industry. People look to travel for enjoyment and we facilitate that. Sure there is a price, but in the end, people come to us because they want to come to us and they are in a good mood. The recent exception would be the Customer Service Teams at United and American Airlines!
  2. We are a collaborative industry. My colleagues are great!  Every one of you.  I have never seen an industry where competitors (and yes, we are competitors) will go out of their way to help each other. Sabotage is the norm in most. Somehow this industry escaped that. If I am not familiar with a destination, how to do something in TRAMS or ClientBase, or how to handle a particular problem…I know I can call on my colleagues who will help me out.
  3. Resources and tools are plentiful. As a whole, the industry wants us all to succeed. It is the circle of life, We sell, the suppliers make more money..they make more money, we can earn more money. As such, suppliers, consortia, trade associations, and private companies like TRO make training and marketing aides readily (and plentifully) available to everyone. Take TRO for example–the TRO Community, Destination Guides, E-Postcards, website and newsletter content via Where2TravelNext and Voyager Websites. Mostly all for FREE.  If this comes as a surprise to you–please go explore the menu bar at TRO.
  4. Incentives and perks are great. OK, so they are not what they used to be. But can you blame the destinations and suppliers? Was it really a good business model to allow the agent who might sell a trip to Mexico in a few years to attend a FAM for $99 for a week?  No!  They put their money where their mouth is and very handsomely reward the agents that produce. It’s really simple. And somewhat related, this is a great reason to define yourself as a niche (not an in-person version of Expedia or Travelocity) agency and own it! And yes, there are still some of those “y’all come” FAMS for $99; but then again for the producers there are the all-expenses paid FAMS that truly immerse you in the destination and the product. You win, the supplier wins, and ultimately your client wins.
  5. The vendors rock. OK, let’s take the airlines out of this for a moment; but for the most part, the major travel vendors understand that for this travel thing to work, they need agents and agencies helping them. And they need to pay us fairly. Sure they take direct bookings, but we can all understand why. Sure they have cut commissions, but by now, we all should understand the needs of a profitable business. Overall, the vendors realize how valuable we are to putting food on their table. I have sat on countless earnings calls from Carnival where Mickey Arison or Arnold Donald  rebuked the financial “experts” who say to eliminate commissions. They know that a cruise is not like a plane and  that following the airline’s lead would be a folly!

I probably could go on, but I will spare you! Let it suffice to say that we all love this industry. I suspect some of my reasons are some of yours as well. Maybe you have some others as well?  Leave a comment—share them with us. After all we are a collaborative industry!

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