As long as people have been traveling, someone has been organizing it. Cox & Kings, founded in 1758, is considered by many to be the original travel agency. Obviously, there has been a tremendous amount of change in how people travel and how it is organized. Much of this change was driven by the introduction of computer systems to the travel industry in the 1950s. After these systems became widespread, the only way to book a plane ticket was with someone with access to the system (and the considerable training it took to use it). That meant going to an airline desk (remember when they were in malls, hotels and other high-traffic locations?) or a travel agent. In addition to the airlines, hotels, tour companies, and cruise lines began using these systems. This made travel agents indispensable. But the internet revolutionized the booking process and travel agents were no longer necessary conduits to book travel. People were mesmerized with the ability to do it all on their own! For a while the process of actually booking travel became as much of a bragging rite as where you were going.

But one constant throughout all these changes over time was that there were travel professionals who were loved by their clients for their incredible knowledge of destinations, and their ability to craft memorable vacation plans. But there were more agents who were “order takers” whose sole role was to answer the phone, take the order and process it in the computer. They didn’t mind giving some advice, but primarily expected the client to know what they wanted when they called. Those agents soon found themselves losing their jobs to the internet. With websites and apps, people didn’t need agents to facilitate the booking process anymore. They could do it themselves – and they did in record numbers. Which led many agents to decide that the way to survive was to compete with the internet on price.

The problem with that philosophy is that clients who book solely on price aren’t loyal. They might book with you today, but cancel next week to save $20. And even if they do keep the booking, statistically they are more likely to book with another agent next time. And because many of these clients are asking you to discount the trip, they are cutting into your commission. Agency whose model is built on competing on volume and price aren’t charging fees, so losing out on commission means less income to support the business.

While those agents were competing with the internet and losing badly, there were also many smart agents who were operating their businesses on a consulting model. Because they were focused on being seen as a valuable resource and not a discount site, they weren’t counting on tremendous volume to support their business. Instead, these agents charged fees and didn’t discount their services. They didn’t take any type of booking that came along, but stayed in the area where they knew they could be of most value. They were helping their clients decide what type of vacation to take, where to go, and what to do while they were there. They had made the switch from “bookers of travel” to “vacation influencers”.

Fast-forward to today and people entering the industry (and they are doing so in record numbers) are taking the consulting route and finding great success. They have learned from those who tried to compete on price and failed. These people have researched the industry and recognize the differences in the models and see the right approach to take when getting started.

But there are many agents whose business has been operating under “I can’t turn down business and have to take whatever comes along” model. Are they successful? Everyone has a different definition of success. For some it is achieving a certain level of sales. For others it is about a way of life. For others it is a combination of the two. But no matter how you define success, competing on price or relying on a large volume of bookings is the most challenging way to operate a travel business. Does that mean you are stuck here? No. Is it a challenging reboot? Yes. But it is possible, but you need a coach to help you understand how to make the switch, but support you as you make tough decisions!

For those who are brand new to the industry or have just been in a short while and not seeing the results they want, we are very pleased to offer our Travel MBA program. And our sister company, GIFTE, offers one-on-one consulting packages for experienced travel pros who want to make significant changes in their businesses. Rather than figuring it out alone, take advantage of the guidance of experienced mentors and business coaches who will accelerate your success!

And if you want a shorter introduction to what GIFTE and Gifted Travel Network are all about, join us for the Book More Travel Workshop in February! You will leave full of knowledge and practical advice to put to work right away in your business!