Take a minute and think about how many brands have survived the test of time. Eighty years ago, in 1930, was when Travel Agent launched. Do you realize how long ago 80 years is? To put it in travel and tourism terms, the Empire State Building was a work in progress, Las Vegas was just a dusty desert town, and Walt Disney had yet to make a color cartoon let alone create a Magic Kingdom. People took cruises to get from one end of the ocean to the other; it was transportation not vacation.
Here is another thought: How many brands continue to exist without any evolution in their product? The one that comes to mind is Coke, and though they have attempted brand changes, none of them have ever surpassed their brand leader. My point here is that very few survive over time without a change in their business models. Most businesses fall into the trap of doing it their way.
Many of you may remember Hotel & Travel Index. I worked for the big book for 10 years. At its height, it was a $70 million directory that served you, the travel agent. Today, it still exists in an electronic format but it’s no more the brand it was once. Those agents who relied on the big book are probably not around today.
I just returned from our Luxury Travel Expo and the most talked-about topic was “brand.” How to brand yourself, or evolve your brand? What you are today is not what you want to be tomorrow. So think about evolution; if you feel yourself fighting it, don’t. Embrace it. A great example in recent years has been the Internet. I attended many sessions at the expo—and if the topic was the web, you couldn’t find a seat!
The new hot topic is social networking and this will have more impact on your business than even your website. Why? Because it is a case of one-to-one marketing and that is what drives sales more than anything else. So if you are not visiting TravelAgentCentral.com and grabbing our viral content for your tweets and Facebook postings, chances are you won’t be around in the next five years. It’s that simple.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who guided Travel Agent through the test of time. I would also like to extend my appreciation to American Express for being such a large part of this special anniversary, including its sponsorship of the issue you hold in your hands. And last, but not least, I’d like to offer a big thanks to the 3,000 industry guests who attended our party at Pure in Caesars Palace.
I am just the keeper of the brand and I, too, shall pass one day. When I pass the torch on to the next person, the mission will be the same: Educate agents on how to sell travel. That will always sustain over time…