What travel professional doesn’t love travel? A hallmark of practically for everyone in this industry is their passion for travel, and it shows. Is it possible, though, that our love of travel gets in the way of our travel business?
Many, if not most, travel professionals back into their careers. Most business people choose their area of expertise, train for the necessary skill sets, and then launch out into the field of their choosing. The path from neophyte to professional is logical and surrounded by training and support mechanisms.
In travel, the process is often reversed. First, we love travel and we get into the travel business. Instantly, because there are no barriers to entry, we are travel professionals. Only then do we begin our on-the-job training, typically first learning about industry product and only much later about fundamental business principles. As a result, the travel industry has a fairly high turn-over as new travel professionals suddenly learn the perils of jumping into the business world with little training or background in marketing fundamentals.
Getting into the travel business that way is easy. Staying in business that way is a bit harder. Many travel professionals are still convinced they are selling travel and competing with Travelocity, Costco, and CheapCaribbean.com. These travel professionals move from transaction to transaction like a goldfish jumping from one bowl to the next. It takes a lot of effort, and every leap is a risky venture forth.
Marketing, sales, and customer service are the three disciplines most often neglected, orphaned by travel professionals focused on product knowledge. But the secret to moving into the top tier of the industry is in the mastery of these business principles.
Think right now of the most successful travel professionals you know. I’m willing to bet they are masters of travel product, without a doubt. But I’m also willing to bet on their mastery of client relationships. They know where to focus their efforts, fully engaged in the understanding and satisfaction of their clients’ needs. They understand the psychological nature of sales, and intuitively grasp the problems, desires, and motives of their clients. They don’t swim frantically from one transaction to the next. Instead, they exist in a world of relationships and creative thinking. Their business is more steady, their plans are laid out in advance and, as a result, they are prepared to take advantage of opportunities. Those qualities keep them in the top 20% of all travel professionals.
Here’s the good news – the only thing defining your place in the 80/20 rule is you. Only slight shifts in perspective are necessary to begin your climb toward a more satisfying travel practice.