The best thing that could have happened to our industry was the recession. Pre-recession, the press was only talking about your extinction. Why? Because many unqualified “wannabe” travel agents were in this industry and giving the rest of you a bad name.
In fact, just recently my local newspaper had an advertisement with the headline “Earn Money While You’re on Vacation” (the italics are mine). That kind of thing is a big no-no that upsets the distribution agreements and partnerships between you—the legitimate travel professionals—and your suppliers.
In this past year we have come across more positive articles on travel agents than we read over the last 10 years, because the strongest survived and provided tremendous value and service—and you all witnessed the halo effect on each other.
The goal moving forward is to keep out these Good Time Charlies, who are only looking for an easy buck or to freeload a vacation and are giving the rest of you a bad name. How do we do that?
A Modest Proposal
The answer is that as an industry we need to create some kind of standardized testing and monitoring of performance. Where does the responsibility lie? First with ASTA, which is looking for a reason to exist. Second are the consortia; if a consortium had standardized certification as requirement to join an agency in a network, that certainly would be a huge benefit to consumers and would elevate the value of that consortium.
Lastly, agency owners could make this a requirement and would help in the training and development of employees. The closest we have to this is The Travel Institute with the CTC program, but when was the last time you heard from them? Most younger agents don’t even know what a CTC is, or even care.
Now I know I may be venting a bit and probably asking for the impossible. But the charlatans are back because business is good and our industry has no barrier to entry, so we must remain vigilant.
For our part, Travel Agent magazine is not trying to reach out to every travel agent in America...just the right ones. If you are reading this, consider yourself in good company.