John Frenaye’s column this week hits hard not at his favorite target, MLMs in travel, but at something much closer to home: the traditional travel agent. If I understand John correctly, he is saying that travel professionals are not sufficiently disciplined and not nearly as sophisticated as they need to be to retain their market share against upstart challengers for supplier distribution. As a result, there is a real and continuing danger that market share will continue to be lost to alternative distribution channels. If suppliers lose confidence in the travel professional industry as a whole, your stellar performance last year, this year or next is likely to have little meaning as supplier distribution shifts.
Unless you do something about it.
TRO’s mission is to enhance the lives of travel professionals. But in providing a mirror in which travel agents can see themselves, it is sometimes necessary to reveal warts and all. There are a few important lessons travel professionals as a whole have yet to learn. TRO would be remiss in its mission if it provided less of an honest and clear reflection of the state of affairs.
There is a great deal that each of us can do to contribute to the enhancement, growth and vitality of the travel professional industry. Firstly, get involved with your industry at a political level. Intelligently engage local chapters of industry associations whether you agree with their positions or not. Engagement means your voice will be heard, that you can assist with the shaping of policy and perception. Engage local politicians in the effort to raise public awareness of the importance of the travel industry. Take on the challenge of joining others at a grassroots level to educate the public on the role of the travel professional. Don’t go quietly about your business, or you may find yourself someday without relevance.
Secondly, learn to market yourself like a business person. Training in marketing and sales is equally as important as product knowledge, perhaps more so. You can give a good marketer any product and they can build an entire story around it within minutes. A good sales person knows first they have to sell themselves. These qualities are vital components to success, yet are not in wide practice in our industry.
Finally, and this underlies Frenaye’s thesis, encourage the growth of the industry by truly supporting the supplier network. Be the good partner that you want others to be for you. Form relationships with key suppliers and develop an understanding of their business, their products and their needs. Conform your business practices and conduct in a manner than will serve to enhance professionalism and best address the desires of the traveling public.
Good media acts as a mirror for its readers. TRO believes in the value of the traditional travel agent. We want you to believe in yourself as much as we believe in you. Get to work.