|Peter Sheahan, keynote speaker|
While the necessity of the travel agent has been established, the question of longevity keeps popping up. That is, how does the industry attract fresh talent? Ensemble Travel Group tackled this issue at their 2011 International Conference in Las Vegas with Young Minds in Travel, a member-based panel moderated by Generation Y experts.
"You're not the only industry suffering from the challenge of attracting and retaining a younger workforce," said the panel's moderator, Peter Sheahan, the keynote speaker for the conference and best-selling author. "Retailers, minors, and service businesses alike have all been through it and have deployed a solid course of successful solutions. Not only can Ensemble members learn from their industry peers during our panel discussion and beyond, but also business legends can provide a valuable external perspective on this pressing issue."
The panel members included Jason C. Colemen, CTC, ECCS, CLS, LCS, DS, president and chief visionary, Jason Coleman, Inc., Los Angeles; Erin Kemp, travel agent, Kemp Travel Group, Oshawa, ON; Ryan McGredy, owner and president, Moraga Travel, Moraga, CA; Ryan Ranahan, webmaster, director of marketing and IT, Crown Cruise Vacations, Princeton, NJ; and James Shearer, vice president business development, TravelMasters, Vancouver, BC.
One of the major topics discussed at the session involved moving young agents along a career path so that they can grow and flourish in the industry.
"It's easy to do that," says McGrady. "Our career bath is about a business line. Destination weddings and honeymoons is great for Generation Y, but then the question becomes how do you transition that into family travel, hobby travel and so on? Encourage your young agents to do the travel. The best education is to go out and travel to the places you will sell. The most successful sell is the last place you got back from."
What about for the entrepreneurial agents starting their own companies? What sort of vertical movement exists for a one-person operation? According to Coleman, "I had to look outside my agency for other opportunities because I'm a single person. I got involved with ASTA, by getting involved in chapter meetings. Now I'm on the board of directors and that has been my outlet for developing myself in the career. It has raised my profile in the industry."
As managers of travel agencies, there are several things that you can be aware of when managing a young staff. The first rule is to stop thinking about your employees' ages and give them a chance. Give them a chance to prove themselves, and don't pigeon-hole them into the technology role just because they are under 30. "There is a lot of wasted talent out there. Stop using these young agents as your personal help desk," says Coleman.
McGredy wrapped up with, "As a manager you should get rid of that urge to give your young agents a lot of big tasks. This knocks down who they are goign to be in the business. The most important tool is to bring them to conventions like this one. That's what got me into the business - coming to Ensemble's conference."