I’m a home-based travel consultant, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
The funny thing is, it’s not my clients (or even prospective clients) who question the fact that I conduct business by appointment instead of having a retail storefront.
No, it’s the brick-and-mortar travel agents who give me a hard time!
I realize that there aren’t that many home-based agents here in Rhode Island (unlike Florida or California), and I expect to have to explain the idea to some of the older, more traditional brick-and-mortar agents, but I really don’t understand the hostility that I get in return.
It’s one thing to look down on the card-mill MLM agents who think that paying $500 makes them a travel professional (I think we all resent that), but I am a college graduate with more than fifteen years of experience in the corporate world who made a conscious decision to leave that behind and build my own travel business. I am driven and entrepreneurial, and I did not take any shortcuts.
I went through the exact same training and licensing requirements that the storefront agents did, including college-level courses, an apprenticeship, and more. And, I would venture to guess, I probably spend more time and effort on continuing education (conferences, seminars, specialist courses, etc.) than some of these long-time agents – many of whom seem to feel that they already know it all.
So why does it bother them that I have a different business model?
I actually had a local agency owner tell me the other night, at a networking event we were both attending, that I should not try and join the group because it would not be fair to her. After all, she has rent to pay, employees to support, and lots more overhead than me.
Is that my problem?
If it sounds like I’m complaining, well maybe I am – a little. We’re in an aging industry, and the experts are always saying that we need to find ways to bring in new blood. So why would an older more experienced agent be resentful of an enthusiastic newcomer? And why is it wrong for me to embrace new ways of doing things?
To me, it would be better if we all helped one another, the way we do here on TRO, and shared our skills and experience. I’m sure I could learn a lot about the industry from someone who has been around the block a few times, but maybe – just maybe – they could also learn something from me about how to adapt and thrive in a changing world!
Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups. www.AnniesEscapes.com