There is so much great momentum that will continue on for travel agents from 2010, but there are five new reasons 2011 will be fabulous.
New Leadership: After months of waiting to see who would get the top gigs at some of the most important associations for travel agents, we have a new roster of leaders for CLIA, ASTA and USTOA. I am looking forward to seeing how Terry Dale’s leadership and great spirit will impact the USTOA and how Tony Gonchar’s experience at Virtuoso will affect ASTA, a group that has been without a leader for quite some time. I’ve met Tony and admired his intense enthusiasm for getting things done, and I’m sure he’ll bring ASTA to the next level. Christine Duffy, CLIA’s new chief, was a travel agent before she headed Maritz Travel; she’ll work closely with CLIA’s base in Washington, D.C., where many of the group’s legislative issues are handled.
Consortia Efforts: Every year, the groups representing travel agents get smarter and stronger and I have no doubt this will continue into 2011. They’re using technology in a virtual one-to-one environment to market to consumers; they’re also forging new alliances to strengthen their product offerings. The consortia’s diligence in keeping their preferred-supplier lists populated with only the financially healthiest of vendors is another plus for agents. It’s a competitive landscape out there, especially in the luxury segment, but this competition only means travel agents have better options about where to hang their hats.
New and Improved Products: The recession hasn’t stopped everyone from creating new travel offerings: Virgin Hotels, B Hotels, and Edition and Schrager Hotels are just some of the new brands that are about to appear. Meanwhile, other companies are continually upgrading their product to appeal to the affluent market, including Club Med and Azamara Club Cruises. Along those lines, hotel owners will use the recovering economy as a reason to renovate their existing hotels, meaning your clients will have better experiences when they travel.
Consumer Habits: It might be too soon to bank on this, but statistics from the 2010 Christmas season indicate that the consumer is waiting less for sales and deep discounts before they purchase. They’re paying full price to ensure that they get what they want. This should bode well for travel pricing in 2011; perhaps your clients will be less aggressive about asking you for freebies!
Young Travelers: We’ve done a lot of hiring here at Questex Media recently and I have to say, virtually every younger candidate I’ve met with has already seen the world. They’ve either studied abroad or traveled to Europe with their families. Traveling is not a luxury to them, it’s a lifestyle. They’re not going to wait once a year to take a vacation or hang back until they’ve retired to get to Fiji, they’re going now because they want to go now. And in a few months, they’ll want to go somewhere else and they’ll make it happen, one way or another. Continue to make your services known to this set and don’t forget to keep reaching down to the next generation. This can be lucrative for you.
Let me know why you think 2011 will be a good year!