2012 Will Be a Strong One

Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

When someone asked me recently what it was like for new agents to come into the industry right now, I gave them the long version of the story. I started by looking back 20 years ago (I am sure he was thrilled; it’s like when someone asks you how you are and you start in about that pain in your left arm and that tickle in your throat). But as I brought him through the past two decades of commission cuts and the rise of the Internet and how those challenges have long been overcome, a feeling of peace came over me. I wrapped up by telling him, “This really is a great time to enter the industry. If you’re just starting out, there are so many tools available to you. You can be a travel agent on your own as an entrepreneur, or you can work in an agency because so many people are willing to mentor you if you show that you have the passion and the intelligence to sell travel. Many owners and managers are willing to sweep you off your feet and teach you the business at no charge, if they feel they can truly make something of you. If you team up with the right agency, you can actually be making six figures before too long.”

That’s what I told him and it made me really excited to be able to convey that news to him. By all accounts, this has been a great year for travel agent consortia. I visited Signature, Virtuoso, Vacation.com, Ensemble, Nexion and the Travel Leaders franchise group over the year and heard that all of their sales are zooming off the charts. They didn’t all use that word, “zooming,” but the sentiment that their business has steadily been on the increase was all very similar. Sales are increasing by double digits and for 2012, they’re all looking for their businesses to be even stronger. Luxury sales have been advancing more than mass market, but essentially, it’s all good.

As I write this, the economy is showing signs of recovery. Not those signs that look good for a week or so and then take a nosedive and make us depressed. Retail sales are up for Christmas. The national unemployment rate has finally dipped below 9 percent, which is a “good” surprise to prognosticators. Perhaps the best part of what’s happening, according to a recent article in The New York Times, is that a survey of small businesses, which employ half the workforce by the way, found hiring intentions to be at their highest level since September 2008.

I’m not saying everything is all better. I heard a woman who always sits in front of me on the train tell her friends the other day that she wouldn’t be coming back because she had just gotten laid off. No one is certain about what will happen in the eurozone and I hate to tell you this, but there’s a story today about that Iceland volcano looking to erupt again. The unknown will always be looming over us, however, one thing that is quite certain is that this is an excellent time to be a travel agent.

Here’s to a great 2012.