How quickly the tides turn. In years past, the negative press outweighed the positive media coverage on the effectiveness and longevity of you, the travel agent. Today, you have Wall Street investing money in your distribution channel. You have suppliers courting you and valuing your business like never before.
The buzzword used to be “consumer direct” and it still is a focus. However, these days I am hearing “travel agent direct” as a preferred way to communicate and transact. Suppliers want individual, direct relationships with you.
Many of you have become harder to find as technology continues to enable you to be mobile and in-market more and more. Your longevity is coming from providing superior service and travel recommendations that aren’t limited to a single destination or type of travel or affiliation. You are becoming the true consultants representing your clients’ travel preferences. That gives you more power than you have ever had, while the order takers and single-focused agents who failed to make the adjustment to today’s market realities are disappearing.
In 2014, my crystal ball sees more consolidation with consortia, wholesalers and agencies. Hotels are being bought, sold and reflagged as fast as you can blink an eye. As these tides shift, you — the travel agent — are bulletproof because you have taken control of a more tandem approach, consulting with the consumer instead of selling to them. You have many options to partner to grow bookings, and travel suppliers and facilitators know that. Stay in control, listen, be informative, and stay true to your customers, and they will to you.
So I am officially proclaiming 2014 as your year — The Year of the Travel Agent. Double-digit growth is in your future and, most importantly, so is respect. Don’t let anyone ever take it away from you again.