Shooting yourself in the foot | TravelResearchOnline


Shooting yourself in the foot

I spend a lot of time in airports.  Today at Vancouver International I decided to conduct an experiment.  I wanted to compile some data… on you!

As in most airports, you can buy newspapers from almost every major city.  I grabbed one for all the North American major markets including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and a few more.

I was on a mission to find a reason to use a travel agent.  My source?  You!

Actually I was looking at the ads travel agencies had placed in the papers.  I was not disappointed in the volume; there were plenty of them.  But, my quest to find a reason to use a travel agent was completely unfulfilled.  Let me explain. 

Every ad followed a pattern that existed even back in the dark ages when I was a front line agent.  They promoted destinations, hotels, resorts, cruises, prices and just about every supplier name you can imagine.  I studied over three hundred ads in all.

How many do you think printed a single sentence about why I should use a travel agency – even their own?  Zero.  I’m sure there are exceptions out there, but not in the papers I bought.

They did a great job of promoting their supplier partners’ brands and products, which you absolutely must do sometimes!  However, other than an agency logo in the corner and an occasional slogan, there was nothing to give anyone a reason (other than a price) to use the agency placing the ad.  NOTHING!

Not one used that precious space to tell the world about their skills, knowledge, experience, consulting, advice, support, supplier connections and all the other things that make them truly valuable.

Instead, they perpetuated the very things agents complain about in almost every course I teach:  people calling asking for deals, bargains, and beating cheap Internet promos.

Everything I saw advertised is available from an infinite number of sources.  The one thing not available elsewhere was relegated to a tiny logo or slogan.

Stop shooting yourself in the foot.  Start telling the world just how valuable you really are.  A cheap price?  That doesn’t even come close.

Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

  6 thoughts on “Shooting yourself in the foot

  1. Nadia says:

    Please don’t blame agents! Blame OTAs for creating the culture of ‘cheap vacation’ and deals. OTAs teach the general public that vacation is cheap, you simply have to have hunting skills to find the best. Look at promos on mass media. Who dominates the market? OTAs! We can’t compete with them. What they told public? Price! Cheap price! Cheapest price! So, when we talk public doesn’t understand what we a talking about – service? I can find my best deal by myself! To change the momentum we need ASTA to promote service. We will follow.

  2. Nolan Burris says:

    Thanks for the comments Nadia! I’m definitely not “blaming” agents at all. But, I know LOTS of them who are competing very well with the OTA’s -not by doing what they do, but by doing what they cannot and don’t even want to do: high level service, for a fee. The best way to beat the net is to play a completely different game. My primary point is this: even though I know lots of agencies doing an amazing job of beating the net and making money, we aren’t doing a great job of telling people about it. The destinations and deals sell themselves. But we need to sell the value of using a travel agency – that’s up to us. ASTA does it, but they can’t be in every newspaper everywhere. Keep doing what you do so well Nadia! You are a priceless asset.

  3. Rochelle says:

    A great article to remind us, travel consultants, that we must place the emphasis on our knowledge, expertise, value, service, and never to be left out, human contact. Our small brick and mortar agency just purchased permanent ad space at our local airport focusing on just that. Our slogan: WE KNOW. Not everyone has to follow the herd.

  4. Scott Barker says:

    Thats why I started a new campaign for all travel agents to promote why “Travel Agents Matter. Go to and list the reasons why you metter and download the logo for free. On Dec 1 we will launch to the consumers and they will see all the reasons. promote the logo and lets educate the consumer together as one industry.

  5. J Blackman CTC says:

    Nolan, regarding ad content – Don’t forget that much of the time advertising is co-oped with suppliers, meaning that they have expectations as to what appears in the ads. This doesn’t always leave much space, if any, to sell clients on the value of the agency.

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