Every industry has ebbs and flows, peaks, and valleys – and the travel industry is no different. Right now there are a lot of travel advisors (and travel providers for that matter) who are deciding whether or not they want to move forward with their business. In last week’s article I talked about making that decision.

The toughest part is that only you know the right answer. No one can decide for you. You are your best counsel and guide. Trust your instinct.

For those of you who are moving forward, now is the time to make critical decisions about what that future looks like. Is your business working for you? Or do you dream of making a change to who you work with and the type of travel you plan? Now is the time!

Today, I am going to look into the future and make some bold predictions about what I think the near future holds for our industry, and what it will take to be successful in it. Why am I doing this? No, I am not a psychic or clairvoyant. But I have been around for a while and I hope that some of this will encourage you to look into the future and try to see two things:

1. What do you think the travel industry will look like in the next 18 to 36 months?

2. What do you want to be doing in that future?

So, here are my 3 predictions about what the next 18-36 months will look like:

    1. Americans will still want to travel and the pent-up demand is going to be huge
    2. Demand for Travel Advisors will continue to increase
    3. Travel Advisors who charge fees will be more in demand than those who work for free

Let’s Go On Vacation!

All of this cocooning is going to have a huge rebound effect – people want to go somewhere. Anywhere. Everywhere. They want to travel. For some people that will mean a road trip, but for luxury travelers it will be that and more.

I think avid travelers – and luxury travelers in particular – will once again realize that they only have so much time to see the world. And there is a lot of world to see. There will be a big focus on bucket trips again. Families who might have been hesitant to take kids out of school to travel will realize that it isn’t such a bad thing. I think there will be a lot more strategy and thought put into where they go now and where they go in the next 2, 3, 4, 5 years.

But not everyone is in that same spot. While avid travelers are ready and raring to go, there is a group of people who are going to be less likely to travel. I am going to call them “timid” travelers. I don’t mean that to be derogatory, but these are the people who don’t have a passport and whose international travel is limited to cruises they can take with a birth certificate. They like cruising because they can see new and “exotic” places while still having the comfort of the ship to return to for food and entertainment. I think these travelers are going to opt for beach vacations and other types of travel that travel agents will have a hard time making money on.

If I am right about this, this is going to be a challenge for the mass-market cruise lines and especially those serving the short-cruise market from Florida. That’s not to say everyone who cruises from Florida is a timid traveler. I would go on a cruise next week if I could. Seriously, without one moment of doubt.

What this means for travel advisors serving these clients is probably a harder time to get them to commit to a trip. Many of the people who opt for these cruises are going to have a harder time rebounding from this economic downturn and it may be a year or two before they travel again. If this is your market, time to pivot and do it NOW.

Demand for Travel Advisors Will Continue to Increase 

Travel advisors – not just travel agents – have been in demand for the past few years and that is only going to increase. People have learned how important it is to have someone who can assist and advocate for you. What they don’t need is a booking agent. They need a full-service expert who assists, guides, curates, counsels, and problem-solves. If that hasn’t been the focus of your business, it’s time to reconsider what you do.

 The wonderful thing about being a travel advisor vs a travel agent is you make more money. A lot more money. Not only because your clients are booking higher-ticket travel, but you charge fees. That diversity of income is critical to your cash flow. If you don’t charge fees right now, think about how much work you did for free over the past year because all those bookings canceled. Full-service travel advisors shouldn’t work for free. Period.

Travel Advisors Who Charge Fees Will Continue to Be More Successful

Think about this from a client’s perspective. If you want a custom created trip for your family’s annual vacation and you are spending $20,000 to $50,000, would you trust that to someone who works for “free”? Luxury travelers aren’t going to. So, it’s not just that you make less if you don’t charge fees, it’s that you aren’t as valued. You will lose clients because you don’t charge a fee – or enough of a fee.

Evaluate your fee structure right now. If you are charging $50 that feels more like a penalty than compensation for professional service. Base your fee on the value you offer – not on the commission you stand to make (or not make).

Speaking of commission, there are a lot of people in the industry who think commission cuts are coming and some companies will eliminate them completely. I am not sure about that but imagine it did happen. Could you keep your business going? If you are solely relying on commission, that’s a dangerous way to run a business.

 

So, that’s it. Those are 3 things I see when I look into the future of our industry. An industry I love so very much! Every industry goes through changes and we are not immune. We have to be agile to survive and thrive. Now is the time to lean into your community and talk about what’s working and what’s not. What do you want your future to look like? It’s not something that just happens to your business – it is something you create. So, get started making it what you want it to be!