Leading the Pack

This year's Trendsetters proved to have the skills necessary to thrive in an unpredictable environment

By: By Kenneth Shapiro

Kenneth Shapiro
In this issue, we celebrate our annual Trendsetter Awards (page 18), recognizing top travel agents in the West. This year, we selected a winner and runner-up in four different categories: Best Recession Survival Story or Strategy; Best Community Service Effort; Travel Agent Sales Superstar; and Best Group Booking Effort.

In what was a very tough year, the creative thinking and perseverance of the agents we selected should serve as an inspiration to all of us. As Joshua Poole, account director for global retail leisure and luxury sales at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, a sponsor of the awards, said: “We all learn by example. And in today’s ever-changing travel environment, learning from peers and adapting new ideas is essential for survival. We truly hope that the efforts of the Trendsetter winners will offer ideas and inspiration to fellow travel professional colleagues that can only elevate the business level of the entire profession.”

With all of the challenges that we are facing these days, it’s important to remain flexible and ready to adjust to changes in consumers’ attitudes. For instance, in the Portrait of American Travelers, a study by Ypartnership/Harrison Group released this month, consumers across the board said they are definitely interested in traveling more in the coming year; however, they’re also going to look for creative ways to find value. In fact, 79 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement, “I have become a much smarter shopper thanks to today’s economic situation.”

This attitude means that agents are going to have to work that much harder to reach customers. Travel agents will need to showcase the many ways they can help their clients be “smarter shoppers,” from helping them find better deals to providing them with a valuable partner when things go wrong on a trip.

The agents that we picked as our 2010 Trendsetters have the skills it takes to thrive in this unpredictable new environment. Do you?

>