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  • Celeste Auger Munshi

Travel Advisors ARE still alive!

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

We have all seen the headlines and read about the demise of the entire tourism industry. It has had the wind knocked out of its sails. Current travel industry unemployment is 51%. For comparison, the total peak during the Great Depression was 25.5%! For myself and many of my travel advisor colleagues, this is a pause for us. A time to work "on" our businesses instead of "in" our businesses.

While we don't know when we will get back to traveling, we do see some bookings for later 2021 and 2022/2023 ramping up. Have you been wondering that if the airline industry hadn't killed off Travel Agents, COVID-19 surely will? Even President Obama proclaimed us “extinct” at one point a few years ago. Online booking agencies like TripAdvisor and Expedia, which allow you to book directly online with suppliers, ads everywhere you look, means being marketed big time, all appear to have replaced the need for the travel advisor. But was this death notice posted prematurely?

And maybe...just maybe…is the career choice of a travel advisor one of today's best kept secrets? The birth of the internet caused upheavals in many professions, but none so drastically as the world of travel. No longer did a travel advisor's knowledge of online booking systems offer job security. Back in the day, the only ways to book a plane ticket was to either call the airline directly or stop into your local brick & mortar travel agency on Main Street. Is the Travel Advisor adapting to this new landscape? The generalist will not thrive - long live the travel specialist! I don't foresee anyone asking a friend for a recommendation of a great travel generalist or searching online for “travel generalist”. Not going to happen. The career path of the travel specialist however is bright and may be the best job in the world, as long as it's approached with a new mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit at that. One of the lessons of this pandemic has displayed for the world to see is how valuable a knowledgeable travel advisor is. You've heard the horror stories in the news. College kids stuck in Italy, a couple stuck on a cruise ship needs to get home from a different port, flights cancelled, on hold for hours with Expedia and can't get a refund, no travel insurance! So many stories with extra pain and suffering.

For those with the foresight to use an advisor, they were the lucky ones even if there was an issue. For many people, the decision to spend their valuable leisure time and money traveling is one of the most costly investments made each year. So how do you know what to believe? Those in-the-know have found travel advisors that they value as much as, if not more, than their financial advisor and many do want to keep us a secret. And God forbid anything goes wrong on your trip!

Expedia has proven they won't answer the phone and help you out. An industry study found that 72 percent of travel agent customers said they use a travel adviser because it just makes things easier. And, they plan to hire them again.

Today's advisors cover the spectrum in age, education and past experience. We all share a passion for exploration and adventure. The best in the field spend weeks or months traveling each year to stay up-to-date and most importantly are REAL specialists not generalists. Our passion for a particular destination (such as Hawaii) or type of travel (such as European River Cruising) or a niche market (like special-needs families) enables us to really focus on learning the suppliers and destinations so that we can be better equipped to find the best match for each client. Each trip is highly customized.

The amazing specialists I have met in my years in travel are very busy traveling the world (outside of pandemics), setting up business and marketing systems, and serve their clients 24/7. Some, like me, are sharing their expertise with the worldwide public on social media. I belong to a host agency, the Gifted Travel Network, made up of a group of dedicated niche agents who refer leads and clients between each other so the traveler is being served by someone who truly KNOWS and LOVES the destination they are interested in traveling to. Our affiliation with Virtuoso, the leading luxury travel consortia in the world, provides the very best in amenities and options I am able to offer to my clients. Yes, we are still alive and after this pause, we are more than ready to serve the many folks that want their precious vacations to be sprinkled with special travel fairy dust! Being a travel advisor is the best job in the world!

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