A Growing List of New Talent

Every year we’ve run our 30 Under 30 feature, the nomination process starts out so slowly; it’s frightening. In the initial few weeks, we get just a handful of applications, and I always start to wonder if perhaps we’ve exhausted our supply of young travel agents and that we’ll have to change the name of the feature to 11 Under 30.

Then, with a little push from us and some help from the national travel agent consortia, we finally end up with a tall stack of nominee forms from young advisors who tell us how they got into the travel business, how much they love it and what they’re doing for their clients. I breathe a sigh of relief, but then the angst returns. How can you, after all, decide one agent is more deserving than the another? We often edit the list by simply excluding those who don’t fill out the application properly. Sometimes, we have some nominees who clearly don’t fit the age bracket. But then it gets down to some painstaking decisions.

This year, for the first time, we decided to break out of the smooth-sounding 30 Under 30 brand we’ve developed over the past three years and launch 35 Under 30, because the number of qualified nominees this year was extremely high. That’s a result, I believe, of efforts such as ours to herald new talent in the industry by running the 30 Under 30 feature. Our editorial product last year was complemented for the first time ever with a Young Leaders Conference, held in Las Vegas in conjunction with our Luxury Travel Expo. We also debuted a new Rising Star designation through our sister publication, Luxury Travel Advisor.

There are, of course, other extremely concerted efforts going on in the industry to encourage and train new blood: ASTA’s Young Professionals Society and Virtuoso’s NextGen group come to mind, but other consortia are also doing their part to bring up the next generation of travel advisors. Let’s hope that these efforts continue to reap results and that next year we’ll be suffering over whether to change the name of the feature to 40 Under 30. That has a nice ring to it!

Training New Agents

Managers and owners: If your agency has invested in new talent, be sure to deliver what you promised during the interview process. If you’ve vowed to mentor them, be sure to do so, even though your days are harried and chaotic. If you cannot do it, assign someone else to teach them the ropes.

Case in point: Years ago, I was a new agent at a travel agency. This was a career shift; I had a good education and strong work experience and I wanted to learn about the world of travel. My agency had promised to put me on a fast-track program but that never happened. From day one, I sold airline tickets or just priced them out for people who fancied going to Paris and wanted to know how much it cost. (Yes, this was pre-Internet). My very-busy manager never made an effort to train me to do anything else.

I decided that this experiment wasn’t working and I leaped at a job that was more to my liking. I’ve always regretted that the manager had invested a fair amount of money just to train me on Sabre. But I couldn’t stay. Life was waiting to happen and it wasn’t happening there.

Having said that, let’s thank those owners and managers who are investing in new agents, who, frankly, probably don’t know much about selling travel at all. They’ve got the zeal, the love of travel and the desire to serve. But there’s still an awful lot to teach someone when it comes to constructing dream trips. It takes patience and hard work.

Without these leaders in the industry, the list you see [HERE] wouldn’t exist, and we’d all be wondering if the role of the travel agent had a future. Luckily, it does, and the future can be found in this year’s 35 Under 30 listing.