When you look at your life and your career, the place you are at now and where you will be in the future are the result of choices. Sure there are circumstances beyond our control that we have to deal with but how we deal with them still comes down to choices. And there are lots and lots of choices to make! There is so much information available and information creates knowledge and with knowledge comes, you guessed it, choices! Therefore, one of the first choices we have to make is which information to focus on. In the travel business you simply cannot know everything about everything although I continue to see agents try. One of the most valuable choices you have is the choice to simply say no, but in our business it is not used enough.
Many years ago when I first entered the retail travel business, I owned a cruise only travel agency. While somewhat common now it was quite radical at the time. This was primarily evident when all of the sales managers for tour operators and resorts would come to my office to sell their wares (remember in the old days all agencies were on Main Street and drop ins were common). When I said “I am sorry I do not sell your product” jaws hit the floor and I was stared at incredulously. I think I was tactful so it was not the way I stopped them that shocked them but the fact that they had never heard that before. Unfortunately I think it is somewhat the same even today. Agents will take brochures from everyone, attend classes on everything and listen to anyone. To the unenlightened this seems like the right thing to do. Just keep choosing to gather more information and hoping that someday you may actually use it. So let me empower you to say no! By making the choice to limit the information you try to absorb and thereby the products you sell, you will actually find greater success in this business. Surprisingly, even the suppliers understand this now. By telling them they are not the right product for your clients’ right up front you save them time too. Remember, if you try to be everything to everyone, you will be nothing to no one!
While saying no is the first step, knowing what to say yes to is the second. Let me start by saying that if you are serious about your career in travel you should without question be a part of at least one association, if not two or three. Now you might think that is contrary to making choices and saying no. However, Associations are different in that they are where you will be given the choices to make. In other words before you can make the choice as to what information and education you spend your time on, you need to choose where to get your menu. Without a central and impartial (very important) resource that consolidates your options you will be bombarded by various entities all pulling for your time. NACTA, for example, will provide you with training on how to improve your business as well as programs from most all of the best suppliers. NACTA does not sell one particular product so we can offer education that has no other motive than to help you become more successful in this business. NACTA also is a one stop shop for supplier training so you can choose what to focus on and, you got it, what to say no to. The other reason to belong to an association is the networking available among your peers. While many agents think this is fulfilled through their consortium, franchise or host, it is important to mix with agents who work with other entities and with different business models. No agent or group can provide the diverse perspective that you get through an association membership and that alone is priceless.
As to why you should join NACTA now, the retail travel agent is facing more challenges than ever and those challenges are changing daily. For years I have been reading about what “they” are doing to hurt travel agents. Who are “they”? It really doesn’t matter – insert customers for learning how to use the plethora of information to shop you, or insert suppliers for going direct or reducing commissions through NCF’s. I am not saying you have to support these actions but the choice is to focus on why “they” are ruining your business or how you will prosper in spite of what ‘they“ do. While NACTA will represent your interests in this industry our primary focus is helping you succeed now! In your personal life you cannot choose your family but in your professional life you can. So become part of the NACTA family that supports each other and not only gives you the opportunity to say no but the gift of saying yes to what will help you grow your business!
Scott Koepf, CTC, MCC is President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA). NACTA is the travel industry’s leading national trade association representing independent, entrepreneurial and home based travel professionals and traditional travel agencies that provide services and support to such professionals. Established in 1986, NACTA’s mission is to represent the interests of independent travel entrepreneurs and to promote professionalism through training, networking and support services. NACTA is an affiliate of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents, the world’s largest travel trade association. Please visit www.nacta.com or call 1-877-226-2282 for more information.