In honor of Travel Agent magazine’s 80th anniversary, I started doing a little research to see what other institutions came into existence in 1930 and have managed to resonate still, 80 years later (see the list in the sidebar to the right) If you just think back to 80 years ago, or 50, or even as few as 20 years to how different travel was, you’ll realize how much the industry continues to change in our lifetimes.In 1930, when Travel Agent was launched, travel was still very much a pursuit of the leisure class and luxury liners were the preferred mode of transport. So while travel options were much more narrow than they are today, the agent’s job was no easier. Imagine if I walked in to your office demanding a round-the-world cruise and you have no Internet, no e-mail, no direct-dial long distance, no computer taking down all the details, no fax—just a big black rotary phone, a fountain pen, a globe and a desk. How far would you get?
From the Past to the Future
Travel Agent just released this year’s “30 Under 30” and this group of bright, eager young things is already shaking up the industry. They were born and raised in a world that is completely wired (or, now, wireless). The Information Superhighway has always been at their fingertips and now a Social Revolution, which they are very much part of, is dominating business models.
This is the third year we’ve done this, and I was thinking how cool it would have been if Travel Agent had always run this list. I’d love to look back at an issue from, say, 1937 and find out what a fresh young agent might be wistfully thinking his or her career could be. Hopefully we’ll keep tabs on the group we’ve assembled over the past three years and check in with them periodically to see what changes they’re seeing in the industry. Twenty years from now, we’ll ask them to look back at these profiles, and they’ll be amazed at how much has changed.
... And Back to the Past
I don’t think I’m that old, but my own memories sound like something from a black-and-white kinescopic world when you think about how it compares to life today. As a kid in the late 1970s, I lived right outside John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, NY. I remember the big Boeing 747s slowly rising over the marshy wetland that separated our neat rows of homes from the airport, the thunderous boom of the engine and the gleaming white nose heading upward. We could identify the different sounds of different models, predict which way they’d turn upon ascent, try to guess which airline without looking (Pan Am? TWA? Eastern?). I remember the protests against the Concorde flying into JFK, and people I knew on "Eyewitness News" showing off broken china from their cabinets and the nails in walls where pictures had hung. Each year there was a school trip over to the airport and we would actually get to step inside an airplane. At that time, most kids hadn’t flown yet. I was 13 or 14 when I went on my first flight, and I just remember wondering where the spiral staircase and upstairs lounge was. (Didn’t I see that in almost every 1970s movie with a plane? I think I even remember a piano player! In the 30-odd years since then, I still haven’t found that plane.)