In this open letter to the travel industry, Diane Petras, CTIE and President of The Travel Institute, shares her views on how critical it is for all industry leaders to think beyond organizational success and support industry success.
Every day, I see industry leaders making critical decisions for their organization’s success. Less evident at times is how their decisions may also affect our industry’s collective success.
Organization and industry success are not mutually exclusive: in fact, they are often aligned.
And so, as we look to grow and shape our organizations and our industry beyond the pandemic, I believe every leader has a very specific challenge and opportunity in considering how to impact success for both.
The challenge is that despite tremendous, pent-up desire to travel, consumers are apprehensive.
As the world takes two steps forward, new variants, changing government restrictions and other concerns take travellers three steps back: leaving them reluctant to embrace the new normal in unpredictable travel.
The opportunity is that travel agents can help guide concerned travellers to decisions that enable safe and comfortable travel.
Indeed, I cannot remember a time, or opportunity, since the advent of self-booking and internet research, that consumers wanted or needed our professional support more.
Certainly, there are many critical travel roles that contribute to organization and industry success but travel advisors alone make the first impression for the travellers we serve.
Agents are currently in the spotlight as mainstream media acknowledge their value and as some agencies experience as much as a 50 per cent increase in consumer interest.
If we can support travellers during this challenging time, we will change public perception of travel agent value for the better for decades to come.
But if we don’t step up, we lose the opportunity to earn the loyalty of these travellers, also for decades to come. Indeed, the opportunity for advisors to shine in today’s spotlight is a finite one.
So how do we best set up all agents and organizations, our industry and travellers for success? It’s simple: education!
And it is more than learning products and processes. I’m talking about foundational and advanced training to further build agent capabilities and create true travel advisors who elevate consumer conversations and ensure high-end customer service.
The Travel Institute is the product of industry collaboration by a group of leaders much like yourselves, who recognized the need for professional standards and travel agent education more than five decades ago.
Our mission ongoing is to ensure all agents understand the industry, learn how to best service travellers, and refresh their knowledge and know-how throughout their career.
We’re tackling today’s challenge and opportunity by continuously revising and developing new curriculum based on market niche, destination trends and other evolving agent and consumer needs.
We’ve also started a campaign to educate consumers about the value of working with educated agents and to help find them through our certified travel agent directory.
It’s imperative we make travellers’ experiences with agents positive so that they keep coming back. We owe these efforts to the industry’s true professionals and to the travellers we want and need to serve.
How are you, as an industry leader, contributing to industry success? Are you ensuring your agents have the foundational knowledge and advanced best practices they need to represent the travel profession?
I welcome the opportunity to collaborate and to create customized curriculum when necessary to ensure you are equipped to do exactly that. The challenge is clear and the opportunity is now. Let’s get started!
Stay safe and keep learning.
Diane Petras, CTIE, is president of The Travel Institute.