Late last week travel agents faced another round of negative press when, in an interview on ABC News’ ‘This Week’ President Obama again used travel agents as an example of a profession that no longer exists, much to the outrage of our still alive and well travel agent readership. Travel agents have faced this challenge before, most recently from a misleading Woman’s Day article and from a controversial blog post by CareerCast.com, and each time major consortia and organizations have stepped in to defend travel agents after the fact.
But wouldn’t it be nice if we could stop these comments before they start? We reached out to our readers and editors, and here are five ways agents can take control of the national conversation and make sure they’re never forgotten.
Reach Out to Your Local Community
On our Facebook page Mary Stephan suggests that agents take it on themselves to spread word of their services in their local communities.
“We started a travel agency association in Columbus to promote the value of using a travel agent,” Stephan said. “We have been very successful so far. In addition, join a Chamber, networking group, speak to the Rotary, etc. on your value.”
Sharpen Your Social Media Skills
Social media can be a great way to connect with potential clients who love travel, and starting small can be a great way for a home-based agent or an agency with a small marketing budget to get results with limited resources. For tips on how to get started with social media planning, check out our recent cover story.
Leverage Supplier Relationships
Agents must be vocal about the value they bring to their suppliers, and make sure suppliers are working to tout the value of a good travel agent. Most recently, Carnival responded to agent complaints with the launch of its Carnival Conversations travel agent outreach program, and the line has added a travel agent call-to-action to its new round of national advertisements.
Contact Your Consortia
Consortia and trade organizations can have access to resources individual agents and agencies do not. The last time the President made these comments, ASTA and Travel Leaders both fired back with strong responses, but a proactive marketing push could help stop these comments before we start. Back in 2011 our Executive Vice President and Group Publisher John McMahon suggested a national travel agent marketing campaign, and since then the situation has remained similar.
Empower the Next Generation
There’s nothing like building buzz for an industry like bringing in a fresh crop of young talent. Whether it’s our own 30 Under 30 feature and Young Leaders Conference or organizations like Young Travel Professionals, new ways to identify and recruit new travel agents can help keep the industry vital.
The original video of the President’s comments appears below. The travel agent example starts at around the four-minute mark. How do you think we can help raise the profile of travel agents? Let us know on our Facebook page or in the comments below.