Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West
This issue’s cover story, “The Great Revival” (page 16), takes a look at the travel advisor hiring boom that is sweeping the industry. As you can read in the story, the number of travel advisors has grown substantially in just the past few years: The U.S. Census Bureau puts the recent growth at 18 percent, and some consortia have seen membership grow by more than 40 percent.
Personally, I’m not surprised by the number of new agents entering the field. Of course, it’s a great industry with a lot of terrific perks, but, even more than that, today’s agents are simply overwhelmed. For years, travel agents have told me they work around the clock, even sleeping with their phones next to the pillow because of all the calls they get in the middle of the night, from time zones around the world. Agents are being pushed to the limit of their resources and need assistance.
With so much fresh talent entering the industry, there are a few best practices to keep in mind. To begin with, you can’t rush the training of new advisors just because you’re busy. I think we all know that person who is overworked and refuses to get help because it’s “just easier to do it myself.” That’s not a good plan for the long run; adequate training is vital to success.
Educational programs from agent groups are going to be even more important going forward. Customers — as well as travel suppliers and other partners — should see these certifications as a way to have confidence in an agent’s ability. Programs such as ASTA’s new Verified Travel Advisor certification will not only provide new advisors with important information, but will also help distinguish true professionals from those only dabbling in the field.
Finally, the growth of travel agents has the potential for reinvigorating the industry with fresh ideas — but only if longtime advisors are willing to keep an open mind. Those advisors who have been in the industry for years should see this wave of new blood as an opportunity, not a threat. Fresh eyes and creative ideas can lead to great innovations for everyone. If we take our egos out of the equation, we can enjoy the ride from this new wave of talent.