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Calling All Travel AgentsFebruary 1, 2010 By: John McMahon Travel Agent
Which is the only profession where if you work from home you are called something different than if you worked in an office? You got it! Home-based agents.
I always wondered why the travel industry put a fence around these people. Are their needs any different than those of a storefront travel agent? Besides picking a host agency to work with, are they any different from other travel agents?
My neighbor is a lawyer and he works out of his home. I have another who is a real estate agent. She, too, works from home. They don’t read home-based publications or attend events specifically for professionals working from home.
I recently had a conversation with a travel agent about her business. Afterward, we started talking about family and I asked her how she juggles work and kids. Only then did she reveal that she operates her business from home. I said, “Oh, you’re a home-based agent.” Well, she almost took my head off. “I am a travel agent,” she retorted.
It was then that I started sharing my above views. She stressed she didn’t like the label because she felt she was being treated like a second-class citizen. I couldn’t disagree with her but vowed, from that point on, I would address these people as “travel agents who work from home.”
Pictured below is Howard Tanenbaum, vice president of sales at Club Med USA, who has always been adamant that there’s no need to differentiate between home-based and brick-and-mortar travel agents. As he says, “Aren’t they all just travel agents?”
Howard Tanenbaum, VP, sales, Club Med USA, with Altour’s Jeanne Piro and Matilde Broder of Power Travel International
Looking at the Numbers
Research from PhoCusWright estimates that the share of packaged tours and FITs for these travel agents is about 30 percent, cruises is 43 percent and air, car rentals and hotels is 19 percent. Research has shown the power of this distribution channel, which accounts for about $9.7 billion in annual sales.
These figures have encouraged leading industry suppliers to pay attention to the sales potential of travel agents who work from home and to develop marketing programs focused on them. And there is more coming as these travel agents diversify and move beyond cruise sales to tours.
Travel Agent magazine recognizes these professionals as a growing segment. And we reach more of them than any other media. Our websites and events welcome these travel agents. We choose not to treat them differently. No segregation, no more fences or descriptions without the word “travel” in them. We will educate them on their needs just as we do with all travel agents. So, I am officially de-labeling you all.