Reach Out to Young Travelers

If you want to know why you're having trouble bringing in a younger clientele, start at home

By: Cara McGhee

I attended the recent TravelAge West show and witnessed the travel agent attendees questioning the panel members during the workshop “The Next Generation.”

Did I walk away as frustrated as some? Did I leave with few answers? No, I just realized that this “problem” market is not a problem for me.

I’m a 33-year-old independent travel agent for TravelStore in Newport Beach, Calif., and a prospering agent for “the new generation traveler.”

I have listened to so much negative feedback from fellow agents and as they ask, “Why?” I ask, “Why not?”

With more than 75 percent of my business coming from clients who are 18 to 35 years old, I guess I never realized that other agents might need a little assistance to sell as well as I do.

First, why the younger generation does not use a travel agent: Well, the answer may come from your own children, family members or friends who are 18 to 35.

Ask them these questions, as I have done, and compare the answers I received with the ones you get:

Question: What does it take to travel abroad?

Answer: A passport. But they don’t know it must be valid for at least another six months.

And they think that needing a visa means “don’t forget your gold card.”

Question: Where is Bora Bora and would they travel there?

Answer: It’s where Osama bin Laden was supposed to be hiding. And they’d never travel to the Middle East.

After explaining that I’d never recommend Tora Bora, I got them to take that trip to Tahiti.

Question: How much would they expect me to charge in fees for adding air to a seven-day package cruise?

Answer: It must be around $45 because that’s the agent fee when they take a round-trip flight to Atlanta.

After I explained that I don’t charge fees in connection with a cruise package, they have been my clients ever since.

Overall, I can’t tell you how many times I have been told: “Thanks for those best-kept secrets about Hawaii. I never would have known that on the Net.”