We have all heard it…travel agents are like dinosaurs. People have looked at us quizzically asking how we were still in business. Even the President of the United States offered up that we were doomed for extinction. But alas, we remain. While I have heard that sentiment (and others like that) for nearly 20 years; just last week, I think I discovered exactly why we are still hanging in there.
The bad ones are gone. They are the dinosaurs. They are the ones who people don’t use any longer. They are the ones out of business. But the good ones remain.
Socially, I am very good friends with some people in newspaper publishing and radio and drew some parallels last week over a beer or two.
Who reads the newspaper anymore? With the Internet and all the news online, why would anyone want to read a hard copy of the newspaper?
Radio? Hasn’t XM/Sirius put terrestrial radio under? Even if they didn’t, Pandora and Spotify surely have.
But for my travel practice, my local newspaper and my local radio station we are all seeing strong years and a steady (and sometimes increasing) demand for our service. Why? Because we are good!
The local paper was going the way of the dinosaur until a new editor arrived. Now, they realize they cannot compete with online giants and have re-focused on what the local market is seeking. They have local news featuring local people with local stories. Sure they carry the national stuff that all newspapers have, but they have realized the desires of their audience and adjusted accordingly.
Our local radio station is not top-40, oldies, indie, or any other genre. It is a mix of soon to be discovered music, local commentary, old favorite rock and roll music (I guess for the old folks like me), and sponsorship of local events. Not an event goes by without the local station as a sponsor. In addition, they organize their own events—private, invitation-only, concerts happen monthly. During the nicer weather, they partner with a local company to do rock and roll 2-hour cruises.
And because they both are so ingrained in the local community, we all listen to and read the advertisements—they beat the extinction race!
So what about the travel agents? Well, if you are reading this, you probably have beat it as well. Like the newspaper and radio, we have looked at and listened to our audiences and changed accordingly. People prefer (for the most part) to buy their airline tickets online—so we (for the most part) are OK with not selling them. People are no longer looking for destinations—they want experiences. So we have become single parent travel experts and wine travel experts. People have become tired of the faceless (and help-less) Internet and have turned to caring people that can make things happen! We have discovered that audience and have changed our own business models to accommodate them. No dinosaur could do that!
Granted, there are people that enjoy country and western music, have no interest in local news, and enjoy the thrill of booking their vacation online. But that’s OK too! We can survive. We are good!