Travel agents are in the news in a positive way, and it could be an opportunity to grow your own business.
On July 5 the New York Times released a feature contrasting travel agents with “travel designers” – travel agents who manage a portfolio of affluent clients, sending them on high-end, over-the-top trips throughout the year. Through profiles of agents like Douglas Easton and John Ziegler, managing partners of West Hollywood-based Celestielle, the Times article goes to show how travel agents have come a long way from the ugly media stereotype of 1990s-era ticket takers.
Bjorn Hanson, a professor at the Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University, told the Times that these agents are “part of an emerging market where there are people who have more money than time and want expertise. A traditional travel agent wouldn’t know to ask questions like ‘what’s the smallest plane you’d be willing to fly on?’”
That kind of question might seem like basic customer service to many travel agents these days, but it goes to show that modern, customer-focused agents are getting media attention.
Agents are popping up in more general travel trend stories, too. In a recent story on “Vacations of the 1%”, USA Today polled luxury travel agents, including Travel Artistry / Virtuoso’s Bobby Zur, about the latest trends in luxury travel. Local papers, too, are giving agents the spotlight, with another piece in Mount Vernon News (subscription required) interviewing a local travel agent on how agents can help their clients if things go awry on the road.
What You Can Do
With this latest run of media attention, brushing up on your media skills could be a good opportunity to grow your business.
We’ve talked before about how becoming a media expert can raise your profile. Your consortia may have good resources for opportunities to be interviewed as an expert, as well as a specific policy for how to respond to media requests. But your own travel can also be a good opportunity to draw attention to your business, whether by sending a trip report to the local paper or publishing it on your own website or through a service like Patch.com.
Media savvy can also help navigate today’s unsettled global landscape. At the U.S. Travel Association’s Secure Tourism Summit, Ari Fleischer, who was the White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush during 9/11, shared a five-step plan for crisis communications. The plan can be good to keep in mind, either when fielding client questions after a terrorist attack or other major disaster, or if you are offered an opportunity to comment in a media story. The short version: tell the truth; do your homework; think like a reporter; define your message; and stick to that message with discipline.
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