Agents of Change

An entrepreneurial spirit among travel agents leads to innovative business models By: Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro
Kenneth Shapiro

I’m really excited by this issue’s cover story, “Innovative Agencies.” After meeting with travel agents at the Global Travel Marketplace (GTM) West in Tucson, Ariz., in the spring, it became clear that there are many new and unique business models for travel agencies these days. That should not be surprising, given the personalities of today’s travel advisors. I often tell people that one trait nearly all modern travel agents share is an entrepreneurial spirit. After all, it takes a certain type of renegade personality to join, or continue in, a profession that nearly everyone said was obsolete just a few years ago.

Creativity in business is definitely in style right now. This summer, I read two best sellers that, though dealing with different subject matter, celebrated outside-the-box thinking. “Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain” uses case studies and great storytelling to show that sometimes the key to success lies in the way you think about a problem in the first place. The other book, “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration,” is written by Pixar Animation Studios’ cofounder Ed Catmull, and it’s an insider’s view on some of the managerial secrets behind the success of that amazing company. Both books stress the importance of approaching a problem without fear of going against established notions and using a fresh perspective to forge an original path — something that the agencies we profile in this issue do as well.

Because we find these agents’ stories so inspiring, we are launching a new online series with this issue called Better Business. On the first Monday of every month, we will profile travel agencies in the West that have implemented particularly innovative business models or practices, and we’ll share tips from business experts from a variety of fields outside the travel industry. We’re certain that Better Business will provide inspiration and advice that will help you grow your agency. And if you have suggestions for future profiles or topics, feel free to email us at Like many of you, we are always looking to be innovative and fresh in what we offer as well.