Every year, I look forward to Travel Weekly’s Travel Industry Survey. It is a great snapshot into the industry, our competitors, and best practices to help me figure out how to best navigate this changing industry. Recently they released the report of 2017 and I was surprised. Approaching 20 years in the industry, I run the risk of sounding like one of those old and crusty travel agents of yore; but I’ll bite the bullet and let you in on the five trends that surprised me.
- River Cruising. Back in the late 90s it was not even on our radar screen. You may have been able to find a barge cruise on the Seine but we knew very little of them. Today (disclaimer, with my niche agency this is something we do no sell), the survey indicates that they are one of the top foci for agencies. And that the focus on ocean cruises has dipped by a proportionate percentage. I suspect that this is a result of the changing demographic of today’s traveler that wants an experience and not a mass-market cruise. But it makes one wonder what will happen to the mass-market cruises. Have they peaked? As I mentioned a few weeks back, Sir Richard Branson thinks there is still some life and he is looking to shake it up a bit.
- Airline Tickets. Air tickets are still tops in revenue and tied with ocean cruising. Back in the mid 90’s when commissions began to be cut and eventually eliminated, it seemed that air revenue would decline and be replaced by fee revenue. While I do not sell air, this surprises me. Of course the larger agencies will still have deals and corporate agencies will still thrive with air. But with a broad look, Travel Weekly’s survey seems to suggest that air is a good business. Who knew?
- Fees. Fees are still not catching on. This one blows my mind. Today’s consumer is expecting fees when they take out their own money from an ATM, when they make a credit card purchase from a small retailer, from a hotel’s resort fee, the port fees, the convenience fee to use your own printer and ink to print a movie ticket. So why are fees not gaining the stronghold they should in the travel industry. And the survey indicates that while smaller agencies were keeping up with the larger ones (proportionately), in the last year they have veered away. If you cannot sell your value, get out of the business. Do not rebate the fees when booked. Your time is valuable and when you work for a client that “decided to not bother you “ or “has a sister that sells travel” or “thought it was just easier to book online” you lose. You might as well have grabbed $50 or $100 and tossed it out in the parking lot.
- Mobile. And this is not surprising in and of itself; but more surprising at how fast we have moved in the past 20 years as far as technology is concerned. In 1997, we had email. In 1997 only the most progressive agencies has a website—and they were rudimentary at best. In 20 short years, flashy, comprehensive websites can be created in a few minutes, there is social media, and today’s consumer is doing a ton of commerce via a little gizmo in their pocket that is about half the size of a deck of cards. The message here is clear, mobile is here to stay and you need to be sure your clients can interact with you on all levels via their mobile device. This is an opportunity to NOT be left in the dust—don’t blow it!
- New Agencies. This is good news. And surprising. To be honest, I feared the self-fulfilling prophecy of agencies closing because everyone said we were. And we did have a lot of attrition over the past 20 years; but it seems there are more new agencies than there have been in a while and that is great news! Travel Weekly asserts that it may be due to the resurgence of people relying on trusted professionals to handle complex trips. And I agree—possibly adding that today’s traveler is looking for a lot more than the 7-night 3.5 star resort in Cancun with airport transfers included. Now, hopefully the new blood in the industry will be able to see the need and value for fees!
There wee lots of surprising anecdotes in the study. But at the end, the bottom line seems to indicate that the travel industry is not doing so bad. We may not be as healthy as we were in the 1980s but we are getting there. We are getting younger, smarter, and keeping up with trends and technology. Seems like a winning recipe to me!