The travel industry is undergoing constant change. For travel agents, it has become increasingly important to continue to innovate and move forward. However, Mrs Dieye Diaminatou, Director of Saloum Voyages in Dakar, warns that it is also important not to lose your passion and love for the travel industry.
Mrs Dieye only got bitten by the travel bug once she started working in the industry. “During my studies at the tourism and hotel school, I wasn’t very interested in travel or tourism,” she remembers. “My passion for the travel industry only came once I started working in the industry.”
As all beginnings, the creation of Saloum Voyages in 1995 was ‘a bit difficult’ Mrs Dieye tells us. “But, we were very motivated. We came from nothing, and then one day, we managed to open a travel agency. It wasn’t easy, but on the other hand, the times were much more interesting than what we see today.”
Mrs Dieye tells us that at that time, travel agents worked directly with the airlines. “We had very open and cordial relationships with the different airlines, and they helped us a lot. Sometimes, when clients decided to go to the airline directly for their bookings, the airlines would phone us to still give us our commission. It was a very different time.”
For Mrs Dieye, the changes and developments in the industry are exciting and important. She witnessed the introduction of electronic ticketing, as well as the rise of the GDS in the market. “There have been a lot of improvements when it comes to work techniques,” she says, adding that one day she would like to establish an online presence for her agency. “It’s important to continue to innovate.”
However, despite the improvements in the industry, Mrs Dieye says she can’t see the same energy in the travel industry anymore. “It’s not the same career today than it was 20 years ago. We used to become travel agents for the joy of selling travel. We would give all our energy; we were passionate, and we loved our jobs. Today, youngsters aren’t interested in the profession of travel agent, they are only interested in how to earn a lot of money.”
How does Mrs Dieye see the future? “I believe being a travel agent is a career that will continue to thrive in the future. Despite the rise of online bookings, clients still look for personal attention. They love the fact that even if they are at 1000 km from Dakar, they can phone their travel agent if something goes wrong.”
However, for travel agents to survive into the future, it’s important that they keep their passion and the love for their work, says Mrs Dieye. “If today’s workforce is no longer motivated to be good salespeople, the travel agent will disappear. Don’t only focus on money: have a friendly smile, create relationships with your clients and regularly pick up the phone. Sell with pleasure and show that you love what you do.”