During the roundtable discussion that is featured as the cover story in this issue of Travel Agent, Doug Shifflet of tourism and travel consultants DK Shifflet made a great point. He said his research showed there is a tremendous need for travel agents because the younger generation needs direction. Travel agents “[are] critical to a couple of different groups. A lot of younger people are using travel agents because they don’t know where to go, how it all works, how to get a good deal,” he said.
I agree and would further argue that the world for younger people is much larger than it was, say, when many of us were just starting out. It’s possible to get on a plane and fly virtually anywhere. There is so much information available, and that isn’t just because we now have the Internet; it’s because we have a new iteration of the Internet and that is social networking. I won’t go into that now because you’ve already heard me on the topic, and besides, our august panel executes a fascinating discussion on the subject on pages 8-11. But it’s now easy to go online and speak to people from all over the world using Twitter and other avenues and to hear firsthand what’s happening in a particular country. That’s a huge movement that’s occurred just in months; it’s certainly more than just surfing the web, it’s about living and breathing other cultures whenever you choose.
So, with all of this knowledge of other parts of the world, how does a rookie traveler know where to start their journey? There are even more reasons for them to be confused; there are so many deals out there today, consumers can take that trip of a lifetime now, at a ripe young age, thanks to the fact that Europe packages are hugely discounted, not to mention the Caribbean and Mexico. They can trade up into resorts that are discounting dramatically right now; these are the same properties one could have only aspired to in the past, waiting years and years to earn the dollars to sit by the pool at a AAA four- or five-diamond hotel.
And so they need you. I was recently interviewed by CNN.com for an article that focused on summer travel discounts. I told the reporter that the consumer now needs someone to edit out all of the information that is flowing their way. They need some good old-fashioned advice from an expert who says, “No, don’t go there, you won’t enjoy it. You must, however, go to this hotel, because based on your past travel and the preferences you’ve indicated to me, you will love it.”
How you reach these young folks is up to you, but I think the first step is to remove the barrier you may have in your minds that they don’t want to hear from you. What you need to do is push your information to them. Visit the various travel blogs that are out there and position yourself as an expert. Let your voice be heard. Social networking is the wild, wild West right now. Some will profit and some will lose. It’s fair game to everyone, so you may as well position yourself to win.
By the way, there was much more to our discussion than what you’ll see in this issue. We videotaped the entire panel event so you can experience it virtually, from the comfort of your offices. Visit TravelAgentCentral.com and click on Executive Interviews, then sit back and listen to these experts take on the travel industry.