A group of veteran travel consultants from Travel Experts reflected on the past and present to provide perspective for the many new travel consultants in the industry.
While there was nostalgia for the past, the group predicted even brighter prospects for today and tomorrow as the travel industry has continued to evolve over the past 30 years.
“There were some things in the past, such as airline commissions, that veteran advisors missed, but overall most of our long-time travel professionals find the changes have made their lives easier. and, in some cases, more successful,” Sharon said. Fake, director of operations at Travel Experts. “Some have said they might have struggled to survive as independent advisers without some of the changes that have taken place in our industry.”
The company has definitely transformed over the past 25 to 30 years.
“I’ve been planning trips for 33 years,” said Holly Lombardo of Atlanta, Georgia. “It was the time of handwritten plane tickets and faxes to confirm international hotels because there was no internet. One of the biggest differences is that I now spend more time cultivating closer relationships with my customers and travel suppliers.”
Eileen Anderson of Travel Experts in Raleigh, NC started as an employee and now runs her own agency.
“As a staff member or paid employee, I had to take any client or trip, no matter how difficult or profitable it was,” she said. “Now, as a paying freelancer with my own business, I build trusting relationships with every client, starting with a consultation to discuss trip planning with my travel services to determine if we’re a good match. .”
Trish Gastineau of Fort Myers, Florida appreciates the digital age.
“When I joined the company in 1993, we were attached to the office and our offices,” Gastineau said. “Now, with a mobile phone and an internet connection, I can work from anywhere in the world without compromising customer service.”
Linda de Sosa of Houston, Texas said technology was one of the biggest game changers.
“Having the internet and email so you can easily contact anyone in the world is by far the biggest game-changer,” she said. “I can simply email my request to a supplier that I may or may not have met in person and organize complex requests. Other technology changes, such as not having to retrieve paper tickets from the safe, letting the system calculate commissions and put in the correct codes for airline tickets and the ability to book online instead of making phone calls, which with today’s wait times today would have made me run and scream from the industry.”
However, certain developments have not always facilitated the sale of travel.
Kim Schott Steiger of Saint Charles, Minnesota noted that “the loss of airline commission was huge, and now we have the no-frills carriers and fees associated with checked bags and seat assignments. I never would have thought that I would see that day.”
Schott Steiger also highlighted the difficulties of adapting to social media.
“Having to use social media as a marketing platform can be difficult for my generation because we’re not as familiar with social media and its many nuances,” she said.
De Sosa, added: “Covid has taken a fun industry and made it a logistical nightmare, especially with phone wait times (I think I hold the record because I had my brakes replaced while waiting ).”
Agents reflected on the evolution of business travel, which some view more positively than others.
Anderson said: “Achieving professional recognition as a freelancer with global travel partners is certainly more achievable today than it was decades ago, especially when paired with a premier hospitality agency. plan such as Travel Experts. Having the range of support services provided by TE is crucial to my business success.”
Lombardo was less positive.
“Over the years, the relationship between travel agents and airlines has really deteriorated. Most of the time, you don’t earn anything from selling and supporting airlines. Not only do I work the most on the component airline part of a trip, but it’s also the biggest financial responsibility to the travel advisor, which is why most agents who started in the last 10-15 years don’t know the airline systems or don’t bother to sell flights.”
Schott Steiger sees both sides.
“Business has become more complicated between technological advances and increased competition within the industry,” she said. Now we’re competing with OTAs, social media influencers and industry companies promoting how to become a travel agent without the proper training.”
On the other hand, she noted that “more consumers are traveling because the cost of airfare has become more reasonable, allowing more people to experience the world.”
When it comes to supplier relationships, these are always important.
“It’s all about supplier relationships and trust,” Lombardo said. “We’re much more of a partnership now. And I love selling cruises. It’s about the easiest to sell with the least amount of time. Then the customer comes back and books another cruise.”
Anderson thinks some of the vendor relationships aren’t as strong as they once were.
“I like the ‘portability’ of my career with advances in technology, but I feel like many professional relationships, such as with airlines, are watered down from previous years. It’s now hard to get waivers and favors unless associated with a high volume agency.”
Schott Steiger summarized some of the past and present benefits.
“I miss travel agents being highly respected in the travel industry,” she said. “I miss consumers who respect our knowledge and value, and I miss receiving airline commissions and earning free plane tickets. But now she’s pleased with “increasing supplier offerings for ever-changing consumer needs, more consumers traveling as there are diverse product offerings from budget to luxury, and more opportunities for home travel businesses, allowing for a better work/home balance.”