What if 100,000 butterflies flapped their wings?
Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. once said that all politics are local. The aphorism is particularly true in the travel industry since our localities are worldwide. A fluctuation in a European currency or a bomb in Mumbai can affect travelers and business prospects for months on end. There is little that happens in the world that does not directly impact the travel industry like some strange corollary to “the butterfly effect” – a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan and three hurricanes hit the Caribbean in a row.
Making one’s living in such a vitally active industry is not always easy. Forces well beyond the control of any individual travel agent seem to be in charge of our destiny. All of which is a very good reason not to always act just as an individual. Now more than ever, it is important for the agency community to speak with an intelligent, but magnified, voice.
Active involvement and participation in the trade media, in your associations and consortia is a vehicle to ensuring that your voice will be heard and that events will not run their course without your input. The last election cycle was a great example of the power of solid organization and grassroots involvement to effect change at a national level. Can the same lessons be applied by travel professionals to impact the national scope of their profession? I think they can.
Now is the time to involve yourself in your industry. See something you don’t like? Help change it.
You can commit to actively participate in shaping the course of your profession. Never have organizations like ASTA been so responsive to the input of their membership. Write letters to the editors of trade periodicals. Attend trade shows and participate actively in online forums and discussions. By best estimates, there are over 100,000 travel agent professionals in the United States and Canada. The more unity that we can generate, the more collective power we will wield at a local, state and national level. The newly passed Travel Promotion Act will highlight the role of travel in the United States more than in any previous time. This is the smallest large industry in the world and any one of you can assist in shaping it.
Here are a few items to consider for your action plan:
- Join a local chapter of ASTA, NACTA, OSSN or some other professional organization. Participate fully by attending meetings and letting your voice be heard.
- Follow your state’s efforts to regulate the travel industry. Get to know your local and state representatives by writing letters to local politicians as a professional business person and involved citizen.
- Write at least one letter to an editor this year to a trade magazine or online resource. Voice your opinion about an issue important to you. Don’t let industry publications, including TRO, go unchallenged if they fail to support you as a professional.
- Get to know some local media types and work with other travel agents in your area to campaign on behalf of the industry and to educate the public on the value of a travel agent. Quit waiting on someone to start this campaign for you. Put some action behind the rhetoric. The TIA provides a really good resource for getting to know your local media.
- Participate in a professional forum like TRO’s Community. Find out where other professionals stand on issues that are important to the industry.
Demand better of the leadership in the industry. Hold your associations, media and consortia accountable for the positions they take on issues important to you as a travel professional.
All politics are indeed local – they hit you where you live and make a living. Get involved. Who knows what kind of storm all those wings might generate?