The rapid rise of technology has meant that the travel industry has changed dramatically since the 1990s and many people believe that the end is nigh for travel agents.
If that is the case then should we all be planning our escape now and re-train as robot mechanics or driver-less vehicle cleaners?
Well that could depend on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Do you believe that the end really is fast approaching for the travel agent or do you see more opportunities than threats?
Threats to methods of working are nothing new. Our economic history is full of examples of machines changing the world of work. Not so long ago there were rooms full of people typing letters on typewriters. Today those typists have been replaced by machines and now we have machines that can convert the spoken word into printed text.
The answer is and always has been ‘adapt or die’.
The travel industry is very good at adapting and is perhaps one of the fastest adopters of new technology. From Viewdata and teletext (remember those?) to chatbots and Virtual Reality, rather than being threats to our way of working at various times they have become essential tools.
Yes the role of the traditional High Street travel agent is changing and yes declining too but travel agents still have roles to play.
THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY STILL NEEDS PEOPLE
For example while sites like Expedia rely on technology to deliver a service to large numbers of people it still needs people, travel agents, behind the scenes to handle the enquiries and deal with the issues that the machines cannot.
Similarly for those travel agencies that still have the bricks and mortar shops, the humans are there to book the more complex enquiries. As we have considered elsewhere (Are customers going full circle from the internet back to agents?), there are many things in the industry that are not as straight forward as they first appear. And just as worrying for the travelling public is that the internet is a scammer’s hunting ground.
TRAVELLERS DON’T WANT TO BE TRAVEL AGENTS
There is a demand too for specialists. Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and founder of advisory firm Atmosphere Research Group, says “The reason we have traditional travel agents is travellers want to be travellers,” said Harteveldt. “They really don’t want to be travel agents.” Even with the advent of online services, Atmosphere’s research has found that some consumer travellers “feel they’re spending too much time planning their trips, that they have to visit too many websites to get all the information they want, that there’s an issue with trust and credibility with the information they receive.”
At Travel Uni, we believe that travel agents will continue to exist for the same reason they always have: to do the things that travellers can’t or don’t know how to do themselves.
So what does all of that mean for you and your travel industry career?
The reality is that industries change and the travel industry probably changes more than most. If you are to have a successful career in the industry you too must be prepared to change, to be flexible. If you do not you will be left behind and you will no longer be relevant (for ‘relevant’ read ‘employable’), in the industry at least.
staying relevant in a rapidly changing world
Here are some suggestions of how you can stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.
- Be curious. Keep asking questions and always have an eye out for the next opportunity.
- Keep up-to-date with travel industry news. Read the trade press, follow the industry thought-leaders.
- Keep up-to-date with travel industry technology. Follow a site like https://www.tnooz.com/
- Keep up-to-date with general news. This will help you spot trends in consumer behaviour.
- Keep up to date with FCO advice. If you are a specialist in a particular region or country you can set up alerts through the FCO website.
- Meet new people. While LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to network online, you cannot beat face-to-face interaction so attend industry events when possible. And mix with positive people: they will help you move forward. Ditch negative people, the moaners: they will hold you back and drag you down.
- Be hungry for knowledge. Listen to podcasts, join webinars, sign up for courses (on and offline).
take control of your career
If you do not take control of your career no one else will. There are plenty of people (still) who want to join our industry so whether you have been in travel for 5 months, 5 years, 15 years or more there is a future for you but you must stay relevant.
Tell us your tips for staying relevant and be sure to follow us on Facebook.