For years, the travel industry has been plagued with a negative connotation. The average traveler is not enthralled by the lengthy lines, poor customer service and high costs of many traditional tour operators. But that might be changing as more people choose to book their vacations through third party platforms like Airbnb who are looking for content-rich experiences in addition to cost savings instead of major tours or hotels.
The “evolution of the travel industry” is something that veterans in the field have been thinking about for a while. Veteran Travel Advisors reflect on how their industry has changed over time. Read more in detail here: evolution travel.
A group of seasoned Travel Experts’ travel advisers commented on the past and present to provide fresher travel advisors in the field some perspective.
While there was nostalgia for the past, the group anticipated that the travel industry will continue to grow over the next 30 years, making today and tomorrow even brighter.
“There are certain things that the experienced advisers miss from the past, such as airline commissions, but generally, most of our long-time travel experts believe that the changes have made their life simpler and, in some circumstances, more profitable,” said Sharon Fake, Travel Experts’ director of operations. “Some acknowledged they would not have been able to survive as independent consultants without some of the developments in our field.”
Over the previous 25 to 30 years, the industry has seen significant changes.
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Holly Lombardo of Atlanta, Georgia, stated, “I’ve been arranging vacation for 33 years.” “Because there was no internet back then, handwritten flight tickets and faxed confirmations of overseas hotels were the norm. One of the most significant distinctions is that I now devote more time to building stronger connections with both my clients and travel providers.”
Eileen Anderson of Raleigh, North Carolina, began her career with Travel Experts as a staff member and now owns and operates her own agency.
“I had to take on any client or trip as a staffer or paid employee, regardless of how tough or lucrative it was,” she said. “Now that I’m a fee-based independent with my own company, I build trusting connections with each customer, beginning with a consultation to discuss trip planning and my travel services to see if we’re a good fit.”
Trish Gastineau, of Fort Myers, Florida, is a fan of the digital age.
“We were shackled to the workplace and to our desks when I first started in the industry in 1993,” Gastineau said. “Now that I have a mobile phone and access to the internet, I can work from anywhere in the globe without sacrificing customer service.”
One of the major game-changers, according to Linda de Sosa of Houston, Texas, is technology.
“The ability to readily contact anybody in the globe through the internet and email is by far the greatest game-changer,” she added. “I can just email my request to a provider I may or may not have seen in person and have complex requirements fulfilled. Other technological advancements included not having to retrieve paper tickets from the safe, having the system calculate commissions and enter the correct codes for air tickets, and being able to book online rather than calling, which, given today’s hold times, would have driven me out of the industry screaming.”
Some developments, however, have not always made it simpler to promote travel.
Saint Charles, Minnesota resident Kim Schott Steiger pointed out that “The loss of airline commissions was significant, and now we have low-cost airlines with costs for checked bags and seat assignments. I never imagined I’d live to see that day.”
PHOTO: A jet from Delta Air Lines. (Image courtesy of Delta Air Lines Media)
The problems of adopting to social media were also mentioned by Schott Steiger.
“Having to utilize social media as a marketing tool might be tough for my generation,” she added, “since we are not as comfortable with social media and its numerous intricacies.”
“Covid has taken a fun business and turned it into a logistical nightmare,” De Sosa said, “particularly with telephone wait times (I believe I hold the record since my brakes were changed while I was on hold).”
Agents discussed the development of business travel, which some agents see more favorably than others.
Traveling for business with a view. (image courtesy of DaniloAndjus / iStock / Getty Images Plus) )
Anderson said, ” “Professional recognition as an independent with worldwide travel partners is more feasible now than it was decades ago, particularly when linked with a reputable host agency like Travel Experts. Having access to TE’s wide variety of support services is critical to my company’s success.”
Lombardo, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic.
“The connection between travel agencies and airlines has deteriorated significantly over time. You don’t make much money selling and supporting the airlines. Not only do I put in the most effort on the flight portion of a trip, but it also carries the most financial risk for the travel consultant. This is why most agents who began within the previous 10-15 years are unfamiliar with airline systems and don’t bother selling air.”
Schott Steiger sees all sides of the argument.
“Because of technological advancements and increased rivalry within the market, the business has gotten more sophisticated,” she added. Now we have to compete with OTAs, social media influencers, and industry businesses that promote how to become a travel agent without a degree.”
On the other hand, she said that “since the cost of flying has grown more affordable, more customers are traveling, enabling more people to see the globe.”
Relationships with suppliers are still vital.
“With suppliers, it’s all about relationships and trust,” Lombardo added. “We’ve evolved into a lot more collaborative relationship. I also like selling cruises. It’s one of the simplest to sell in the shortest period of time. The customer then returns to book another cruise.”
Anderson believes that some of the supplier ties aren’t as strong as they once were.
“I like the ‘portability’ of my job thanks to technological improvements, but I believe many professional ties, such as those with airlines, have been diluted in recent years. Obtaining waivers and favors is very difficult unless you work for a high-volume agency.”
Schott Steiger put up some of the benefits from the past and today.
“I regret the days when travel agents were highly recognized in the profession,” she remarked. “I miss collecting airline commissions and earning free flight tickets, and I miss customers valuing our expertise and worth.” But now she’s content with “more supplier options for ever-changing consumer demands, more consumers traveling due to a variety of product offerings ranging from affordable to luxury, and greater opportunities for in-home travel enterprises, allowing for a better work/life balance.”
For decades, the veteran travel industry has been a staple of American tourism. However, in recent years, the industry has faced some significant changes that have led to more competition and change. Forbes spoke with veterans who are now working in the industry to get their perspective on how things have changed over time. Reference: forbes.
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