Travel agents for some reason have never really understood or grasped the power they have in the local market place or the global world economy. The recent Woman’s Day article and the hiring firm’s profiling of a travel agency job and the return to promoting travel agents in their ads by Carnival. What’s new with all this? Nothing. It’s been tried and done before – and still travel agents are back in their seats come Monday morning whereas many suppliers are out of business and as for Woman’s Day magazine their YOY 2012 – 2013 readership is down 4%. Hello! This information is easy to find online and before reacting to these jabs and this type of misinformation, due diligence should be done.
Own Your Own News
As I have always suggested, each and every travel agent must own their own news. For too long now, the trade has sat back feebly and waited for their trade associations to hammer the offending media and news feed. Although they speak on your behalf associations do not feel the pain as you do. It’s on the shoulders of every travel agent to defend their business and to do it by first understanding their power and then offering a well thought out, well written and business-like rebuff and not some of the playground commentary we’ve seen and read. Work with and support your trade association then focus on owning your own news. It should start at home in each local community. You should be prepared as and when something hits the fan in an attempt to hurt the industry and damage your business.
It’s Not Personal
First things first. Many of the comments posted by travel agents to the various affronts are obviously delivered from the heart. Fact is, this is not emotional, not personal – it’s all business. Travel agents, even in their heyday of 25 – 30,000 bricks and mortar agencies in North America could never sell all the seats, berths, cabins, rooms, cruises, tours, hikes or adventures. The inventory is and always has been beyond the selling capability of the retail trade. This in turn forces the suppliers to sell direct or make certain adjustments as to how they do business, to stay in business. There is no room for one business such as a travel agent, calling down another business such as a supplier who decides to change their business format. If you have a problem with that, then start your own airline or cruise line. The supplier – retailer relationship runs the same way no matter the industry.
The Power of Travel Agents
When the airlines reduced and removed travel agency commissions back in the 90’s I was one working on plans to counter their move by directing business away from the offending airline. At that time it was simply a matter of choking off the supply of bookings. Had thousands of travel agents and especially the chain agencies understood this rebuttal and in their own way moved on it, even for a three month period to prove a point, the collective trade could have reduced any airline to one begging for mercy.
There were a few suppliers who jumped on the no-commission bandwagon – one specific cruise line even placed ads encouraging consumers not to book with travel agents. The outcome was simple. Travel agents dumped and shipped back all the cruise line brochures, choked off the bookings and the end result was that the CEO and his team were fired, the cruise line begged to be returned to the brochure rack, invested over a million dollars to get back into favour through a variety of travel agent engagement programs. A similar event took place when a travel
insurance company in Australia decided to thrash travel agents in print. The insurance company recalled the ads but not without a last word.
Onwards and Upwards
The retail travel agent as we know them today have been in business since the mid to late 1800s. Naturally as in any business and industry things change and as we are all well aware, technology has changed and will continue to change how travel agents and suppliers sell and travelling consumers buy. The job and role of the travel agent will never disappear just as
airlines will never disappear. Will they change format and design? Of course. Will business methodology change? Of course. Will the travelling consumer be able to purchase more travel online and direct? Of course. Are there any opportunities left for travel agents? You bet.
Plugging Into Your Power
Although it may seem trite, it pays to know your roots and in doing so it grounds you to what selling travel is all about and the knowledge also wakes you up as to the commitment made by the men and women who built the trade some 130+ years ago til now and continue to do so.
Further study will inform you that you are part of the world economy as the consumers you attract, sell and close spend their money globally and help build local economies. You are involved in world tourism 100%. The end result of your day-to-day work is employment for hundreds of thousands of people around the world as they service your clients. If you are receiving the message, your role in the world is huge.
You have enormous power if you choose to accept it.