Fights, brawls, spirited discussions. Call them what you like, but this week there have been countless of them on many forums, in comments in response to columns, and even in person.
With most fights, someone will intervene and separate the warring individuals and put them in the corner for a time out; but this time I think we need to step back and let the fighting continue! People fight because they are passionate. And right now, we need some passion in this industry.
One of the most volatile arguments has been on the industry’s business model. Some professionals are extolling the virtues of commissions and preferred supplier relationships, others are fee maniacs and will add a fee to any transactions, and others are squawking that their retainer only model is the way to go. While none of them are the answer for the industry in general, the fervor with which everyone is defending their particular model is extreme. To me, this just goes to show that our current model, while maybe not completely broken, is certainly in need of a tune up.
The other brouhaha involved a well known (and some may say not well liked) consumer Ombudsman who uncovered what appears to be a shady travel agent. Many travel professionals were livid that the lead in to the article said that the consumer’s first mistake was consulting a travel agent. As was expected, the travel professionals flipped out and countered that this particular ombudsman has a “thing” for agents and does a disservice. Maybe. Maybe not. When it comes down to it, it is his opinion and he is entitled to it. But regardless, it poked a hornet’s nest and the passion of the industry overflowed.
We are not passionate about this industry because we hate it. We are passionate (in part) because we fear it may be hurt. Let me pose a question. No answers…just think about it for a bit. If your business was booming and cash was flowing and there wasn’t a care in the world, would you have jumped into either of these issues? For me the answer is a resounding “no”. These issues are so volatile right now, because business is not right. Business is challenging. Business is downright scary. The NCFs have whittled our cruise commissions away, United wants us to pay for the credit card fees, suppliers and trade publications are going out of business and consumers are much more conscious of their expendable income. It’s not a fun time and good times do not seem to be on the near horizon. So, how does one get through all this? Sure the easy way is to hang it up—and that may be the best solution for some; and there is nothing wrong with that. As Kenny Rogers said, sometimes you have to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Or you can stick it out.
But if you choose to stick it out, does it make any sense to continue to along the same path? Are you able to affect change with the NCFs? Can you do anything about Happy Vacations or any other supplier that cannot manage their own business? We operate in a very unique industry where our total compensation can be controlled by someone else. Barack Obama campaigned on Change for America and I think it might be appropriate here. As it is, what we have is in disrepair. Take a look at what you have and figure out how to fix it up to insure your success. If it is too far gone, change it out. As I said earlier, I don’t know which business model is the right one; but one thing is for sure that if you are not at least open to the suggestion, you will be forever stuck with the broken one. Embrace the industry. Let the passion show. And fight fair!