It has been a good run. I entered the travel industry back in 1997 with bright ideas for the future of a “new to me” industry despite the advice of my financial adviser and attorney. I knew about the recent reduction in airline commissions; but I also knew there was so much more. I longed to travel the world and meet new people. I just knew that buying that first agency was the perfect move for me. Right? Well maybe not. Is it time to throw in the towel and move on?
Well, we all know the story, airline commissions were cut, cut, cut again and finally eliminated. More than any other industry, we are subject to those conditions that are “beyond our control.” We have seen diseases such as Sudden Acute Respiratory Symptoms (SARS) and the Norwalk Like Virus. We have been subject to wars and the whims of the State Department. We have been hammered by storms named Dean, Katrina, Gustav, and most recently a little punk named Tomas. We have seen the Internet develop from a novel idea to a behemoth of a competitor. We have seen vendors disappear overnight. We have seen MLM Scams and shady host agencies. We have seen vendors shift from being partners to being competitors. And let’s not forget 911 and the respondent 84% drop in business we saw the following year. Toss in a few beheadings in Mexico and a ship on fire off the coast of Ensenda and it makes for a very challenging industry!
And travel itself is no longer fun which leads to more customers looking to us for help with their perceived wrongs. We have heard it all—the seats on the plane are too narrow, the ship is too large, the ports are too crowded, the hotel room is too cold, the hotel room is too hot, the people in Mexico don’t speak English, the cab driver charged me too much, there was a palm tree blocking my view, I didn’t like the bedspread. How much more can we take?
Honestly, when you look at those two paragraphs, can you blame anyone for throwing in the towel? I can’t. But as I type this, I am also staring at a small pile of commission checks on my desk that needs to go to the bank. It is not a huge deposit, but it is a very clear signal to me that despite the above two paragraphs, I am still here, alive and kicking.
Despite commission cuts, commission eliminations, strained vendor relations, 911, SARS, Norwalk, and a volcano in Iceland that I still can’t pronounce much less spell—I am here. I am profitable. And, I just answered a call from a client I actually like!
My client list has matured over the past seven years. I am no longer looking for a warm body that is willing to buy travel. For the most part, I am dealing with a much smaller client base—but one that wants to do business with me and one that I enjoy doing business with.
I look back on the past and see that I am still standing in spite of what was thrown my way. If nothing else, this industry is resilient. We have shown time and time again that we can take anything that is thrown at our blind sides and can still come out swinging. Oh hell, I’m not quitting at all. Who am I kidding? All of these challenges are what keeps me on my toes. The challenges present another chance to learn and excel. The challenges give me another chance to say “I told you so” to the naysayers who thought my industry went the way of the dinosaur.
If the last 14 years are an indication of what is to come, I can only say bring it on! Who is up for the ride with me?