Not so long ago, at an industry event where I was about to speak, I was sitting at a table full of travel agents. As often happens, the subject of “the good old days” came up. I joined in with four fellow long-timers to share almost mythical stories of happy flight attendants, tasty airline meals, free FAM trips, agent upgrades, and rock-solid commission structures. One tablemate said with a sigh “I sure miss the way things used to be.”
After about twenty minutes of listening politely, a relative newcomer to the industry had had enough. “That all sounds lovely, but I’ve also heard that you made very little money, had almost no say in how you ran your own business, and that you could get shut down for typos on carbon-paper airline tickets.” We all stared, momentarily speechless.
“Well, sort of” another agent replied. “But, the business was fun then! Suppliers didn’t compete with us, it was a more level playing field, and we didn’t have to worry about the Internet.”
The newcomer smiled. “OK, I understand now. What you are really saying is that even though you didn’t make much money, it was easy. It is different now. Thank goodness!”
Then, hardly skipping a beat, she lit up with excitement as she told us all about the new amazing and exciting travel industry that she had come to know and love. Here are the highlights as best as I can remember:
- “I can run my business almost any way I want. I can sell whatever I want and I choose the market I want to serve. I don’t want a level playing field! I’m not bound by any supplier’s idea of how much I should be paid because I set my own professional fees, not them. Commission is nice, but I never depend on it.”
- “As for fun; I wake up every day with smile on my face because I know I’m going be selling dreams all day long. I love the Internet. It’s my primary consulting and marketing tool. Sure, some people ask for the deals they see, but with my professional fees I’m happy to do it. “
- “I’m in my late forties. I remember airline food and I don’t miss it. I do wish the flight attendants were happier. Maybe some day when they get paid a decent wage again they will be. I’m more concerned with making sure my clients find a beach they’ll love than whether or not the flight attendant smiled at them.”
- “Lastly, I make great money. I didn’t quit my old job so I could take a FAM trip and call it a cheap vacation. I wanted a career where I could make other people happy, and have a nice life for myself. And guess what? That’s exactly what’s happening. That’s MY travel industry, you might want to check it out.”
Moments later, it was my turn to take the stage and speak. My first slide said “These Are The Good Old Days.” I gave the newcomer a wink as if to thank her for the perfect set-up.
Yes, I miss some things from the way back when, but I would never trade any of them for the freedom and opportunities of today. Onward and upward!
What do you think? Do you miss the old times? Do you know them? What are your successes? Please leave a comment!
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 (futureprooftravel.com) 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.