I’ve been very fortunate to have met and worked with many inspiring young or new-to-the-industry travel professionals. Yes, contrary to what some may think, people are still entering the travel industry. Without the burden of “how it used to be,” many have rocketed to success.
I noticed four very clear patterns that seem to define the rising stars of travel. Within them, I believe we also see the future of our beloved industry.
A Reversal of Purpose
I’ve often quoted my first travel agency director who, forty years ago, said to me: “reservations are the result of what you do, not the purpose. Don’t ever get it backwards or you’ll fail.”
The leaders of tomorrow personify that idea. They entered the industry when bookings were already the easiest part of the travel equation. As a result, they immediately recognised that they had to demonstrate value in ways no smartphone app ever could.
A Consultant’s Mindset
Travel pros of my era often cited convenience and time-savings as primary benefits of using an agent. Today, travel consumers actually enjoy the process of tablet-surfing and product comparison.
Many no longer see it as ‘time wasted’, but an integral part of the holiday itself. The industry newcomers are keenly aware of the service gap this phenomenon creates: advice. So, they invest in learning the fine art of consulting, in addition to product knowledge.
A Focus on Humanity
Younger travellers have grown up in a self-service world. Older ones bemoan the software-driven loss of personal assistance. The leaders of tomorrow see this as a golden opportunity to capitalise on the pent-up demand for human attention. That means shifting the way they market themselves, adjusting their approach to the business, and repurposing agent/supplier relationships.
A Broad View of Revenue
Since 1931, commission has ruled the revenue stream for travel agents. (Note: prior to that time our industry was entirely fee-based). Professional fees for professional services are increasingly top of mind for the new industry stars. With a clear move toward customer-centric business models, with boutique service and professional consultancy offerings, fees are the logical option.
While fees do not yet dominate agent financial statements in South Africa or Africa, forward-thinking travel professional are paying attention to places where they do. Not all global trends make their way to Africa, but as we well know, some take hold and flourish like nowhere else.
Obviously, there are other traits seen in those moving up the ranks in travel today. Among nearly all of them however, one common thread seems to connect them. Rather than clinging to the past, they are looking to the future in ways some of us cannot even imagine.