As a relative newcomer to this industry, I keep running into the same issue—and it surprises me. It isn’t just me, either; many of the newer agents I know see it every day. Compared to most travel professionals, I’m a baby – I have less than three years in the industry. Although I have earned my CTA, two LS designations, and am working on my ACC, I have not completed a formal schooling program in travel or tourism. I’ve never been to Mexico. Never spent a weekend in Las Vegas. I’m still a couple years away from an Alaska cruise. However, I research the heck out of these destinations, and I rely on the advice and insight provided by clients who travel there as well as my fellow travel professionals here at TRO and other places where I can network. My small but growing base of clients is a testament to my ability to help them feel confident in their selection of a travel counselor even though I am still low on “real world” experience.
For some industry veterans, my lack of this experience means I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to marketing, or to the direction my agency should take. Sometimes I feel like I am dining at the “kid’s table” at Thanksgiving. I’m a fairly young guy (I’m not quite 30 yet) and many younger travelers think the same way I do when it comes to buying habits. I can give examples of how people my age look at companies like travel agencies, and how these travel agencies fail to appeal to them. When I make a suggestion, I immediately encounter a wall of “we’ve always done it this way” or “I’ve been in travel for 23 years and I’ve never heard of that.” Some people refer to this as firehosing–just spraying out water no matter what the fire may be.
Times change, methods evolve, and your marketing and your appeal must keep up. In order to attract new, younger clients or employees, you need to appeal to them—it’s really that simple. You have to be willing to embrace their methods. For example, having a quality website that explains who you are and what you do is important – many younger people research companies or people on the Internet before they do business with them.
Recently, I had a meeting with a business owner in town – I went to his website and was able to find out who he was, the history of his company, and learn more about the products and services he offered. That was invaluable to me in our meeting. How much do you want to bet your future clients, and even future employees, are doing the same thing? For those who have retail locations, if your office has outdated decor, you’ll have outdated clients. These are just a couple of the many ways agencies and their professionals fail to attract the younger set that is so vital to longevity.
Listen to your younger agents. They are the future of this industry. Do not be afraid to give their ideas a try – they may not be as inexperienced as you think. Do you have any suggestions for marketing to the younger generation? Comment here!
Steve Cousino, CTA is a two year industry veteran with Grand Crowne Travel in Branson, MO. He holds Lifestyle Specialist designations in Luxury Travel and Gay/Lesbian Travel, and is known for specializing in cruises, Western European tours, group travel, and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.