Crossing the Digital Divide

This issue’s cover story, "The Conversation Era", covers the basics of the online social-networking phenomenon.

By: By Kenneth Shapiro

Kenneth ShapiroThis issue’s cover story, "The Conversation Era", covers the basics of the online social-networking phenomenon. If you are at all hazy about Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or Twitter, this is definitely a must-read.

How big is social networking, and more importantly, how big will it be in the future? When the Republican Party held a recent caucus to determine who would be the party’s next chairperson, some of the first questions potential leaders were asked included "Do you Twitter?" and "How many Facebook friends do you have?"

If you can’t answer either of these questions yourself, don’t panic, it’s not too late — as long as you commit to educating yourself today.

It’s frustrating to me that travel agents continue to be saddled with the out-of-date notion that they are technologically challenged. I’m sure you know an agent that still thinks e-mail is just a fad, but I’m willing to bet that you know far fewer of those agents than you used to for the simple reason that anyone who can’t adapt to technology is no longer in business. In fact, most of the agents that I meet these days are true experts in online marketing, database management, social networking and more. They have built successful businesses — electronic and real-world — despite predictions they are as doomed as the buggy whip. Today’s successful agents not only Twitter, they Flickr (and if you think I’m describing a nervous disorder, head straight for the cover story immediately).

In an effort to help get the word out about today’s super-agents, TravelAge West sponsors the Trendsetters Awards each year. These awards are open to agents in 14 Western states and include five categories: Best Group Booking Sales Effort, Best Agency Advertising Campaign, Best One-Times Sales Event, Best Employee Recruitment/Education Program and Best Community Service Effort. Every year, we get to reward outstanding agents with travel prizes provided by the award’s sponsors. Best of all, we have decided to extend the deadline this year, and will be accepting entries until March 15.

So please join us in dispelling the notion that travel agents are nothing more than outdated order-takers, and together we can show the world that agents are a vital part of the digital age.