Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a fun and safe holiday and that Santa was good to all of your loved ones! The final two weeks of each year, we take a break at TRO to rejuvenate and refresh. It is a much-needed respite from the weekly deadlines. But, once that is over, it is back to the grind. I was thinking about topics for the first column of 2020 and was struggling when my girlfriend handed it to me on a silver platter—is 2020 the year of the travel agent?
Perhaps. And here’s why. President Trump. OK, well not really President Trump, but the status of the economy during his administration and a shift in consumerism that is starting to come full circle.
First off, the economy. It’s booming. If your 401K has not appreciated since Trump took office, you need to ask some questions of the person managing the account. The DJIA is poised to break 29,000 and most financial planners are not worried about a recession just yet. With that increased wealth, comes increased spending. While taking vacations does not necessarily dip in a recession (quantity), the type of vacations are definitely downgraded. The avid cruiser will still cruise during a recession, but may opt for a lower fare cabin than normal. They may put off that European 14-night cruise and do an Eastern Caribbean during the summer instead. Absent a recession, the purse strings are loosening up and complex FITs are becoming more frequent as are the higher-end, luxury travel. All of which lead to more revenue for an agency in terms of fees and commissions. Never be afraid to present a more extravagant option to a client. In my 20-plus years in the industry, I find that more often than not, when a client is presented with a different option, it is attractive to them AND they admit that they did not realize it was an option or possible. Want to skip the line at the Vatican? Can I arrange a Rolls Royce to pick you up when you arrive in Singapore? Did you realize that some of these suites come with a private butler? You get the idea!
The second reason why this might be the year of the travel agent is that our society has undergone a shift in consumer behavior. Way back when, we had the expertise that the clients needed to arrange their travel. Life was good. And then the big, bad Internet came along and life became more challenging for the travel professional because the client could do it themselves. Since that time, social media has taken hold and consumers’ attention spans have dwindled to next to nothing. We get our news in Twitter bites. We read headlines and not articles. We no longer can take the time to go to McDonalds (why people would in the first place is a discussion for later) and now have it delivered by DoorDash. Uber and Lyft have redefined and decimated the taxicab industry. And (here’s the important part) people do not want to waste their time on tasks that can be delegated.
I have someone cut my lawn and tend to my landscaping. I have someone come to my house every other week and clean it. I am taking my car in for an oil change and new tires tomorrow. I can do all of those things on my own—but I don’t want to. I’d rather be spending my free time with people I love seeing a show, attending an art gallery opening, or road tripping to check out a new restaurant.
Travel is no different. Anyone CAN do their own travel. But not many today are WANTING to do it. Especially when having someone else do it comes at little to no additional cost.
THIS needs to be our focus in 2020. We can do it better and often times cheaper than the consumer. We can provide options that the consumer never realized existed. And we can make more time for the consumer to do the things that they love to do.
And for those that love planning travel—I say go for it! This is a big pie and 2020 is set to allow each of us a pretty large slice!