Opinion: All Good Things on the Horizon

Vice President–Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President–Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

I have promising news for you. The next four years are going to be prosperous for all of us. We’ll have an anticipated slight slowdown at the end of this year but except for that, your businesses should be growing. That’s all according to Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR Economics, speaking at the Tourism Australia conference in Los Angeles in early January.

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“The next four years will be wonderful years for you,” is what Beaulieu told the audience of tour operators, destination marketers and other suppliers.

The improving economy is on your side, he said, but so is the fact that consumers, who will also be in great economic shape, will be anxious to travel.

Why are consumers feeling confident? On paper, they’re feeling richer (finally), with their stock portfolios showing good increases and even the value of their homes inching up. Most have saved money aggressively over the past few years as well, and they’ll be treating themselves to fun perks, like big vacations.

What should one do to truly prosper in the next few years? Invest in your business, said Beaulieu. “Get aggressive with your business, and borrow to enhance it. Money is cheap right now.” He suggests purchasing real estate and he also heavily recommends driving efficiencies to improve your operations.

How does this translate for travel advisors? If the real estate you purchase is to house your agency, use your owner status to amp up the place; make it so classy it will inspire your employees when they walk in the door. Make them proud to work with you. Don’t leave clients out of the equation; your reception area should have amazing travel literature and online access where they can seek inspiration as they wait for you. Meeting rooms should be generously sized so you can lay out brochures, maps and well-prepared documentation in fine fashion. Be sure it’s a high-tech environment with a screen for presentations on the destinations and hotels you’re suggesting for them, and don’t forget to have a fridge in the room large enough for bottles of sparkling wine to pop open to celebrate with your client when they’ve made a down payment on a big trip.

There are other ways to invest in your business. What do your marketing materials look like? Are they on flimsy paper stock? Do you need to bring your website to a 3.0 level? Do you have an idea for an app you should pay a developer to create?

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Are you part of a low-level consortium that doesn’t do much for you? Maybe it’s time to invest in a membership with a more expensive agency group that delivers more to your bottom line.

Be sure your desktop and hand-held devices are the very latest so you and your team can work at optimal levels and consider bringing on talent, perhaps in marketing or operations, that can bring your business to the next level.

Along those lines, Beaulieu reports that wages will also go up and cautions that in boom times employees tend to expect raises. “If you want to keep your A and B players, you’ll have to pay them well,” he said.

“On the other hand,” said Beaulieu, “It might be a good time to poach disgruntled employees from other companies.”