Fear, ignorance and inertia – these 3 keep a lot of people from travelling. We are all easy victims for a news media that plays to worst case scenarios. It is little wonder that people are often afraid to travel when the news is filled with stories of airline safety, drug violence, riots and terrorism. The fact of the matter is, however, that most travellers will never encounter anything more troublesome than an airport delay or a stolen purse abroad. The day-to-day crime in most foreign destinations to which the majority of North Americans travel is less prolific and violent than that found within a 10 mile radius of those same travellers’ front door.
But it is also the more mundane issues that keep people from travelling. When people know very little about travel’s logistics, fearing what they do not know, they fail to act. Inertia takes over and a potential traveller stays at home rather than risking a vacation abroad.
Who better to help change this situation than a travel professional? As a travel counsellor, you encounter the drag on clients’ motivations continually. Yet, if the mission of a travel planner is to assist people with achieving their travel ambitions, you have to develop the capacity for recognizing and removing the barriers to travel.
The travel industry is failing to properly educate the public on the “how” of travel. For good historical reasons, the travel profession styled its business model in the fashion of a retail store. While that made good sense 40 years ago, that model is antiquated beyond viability today. People can buy travel anywhere: there is no need to go to a travel agent for the purchase of travel. There is good reason to do so and the tide is turning in favour of the use of a travel professional. But where do people go to learn about travel? Certainly I can research, Google and Twitter all day long, but at the end of the day with the vast amounts of information out there, isn’t there a better way to learn about travel? What if there were professionals in my neighbourhood who taught courses on how to travel well? What if there were counsellors who, trained in the logistics of travel, made it their business to provide information to their clients?
I understand not everyone will agree with me. I have only recently spoken with travel professionals who questioned the wisdom of allowing the public to know more than they already know about the industry and how to research travel. However, today’s consumer wants to feel educated and empowered. You can do that for your clients and they will thank you.
Here’s my premise: Demystify travel and more people will travel. If fear and ignorance are preventing people from travelling, help to change the status quo in your community. Provide courses on “How to Travel Well” or “How to Travel for a Lifetime”. If travel agents would shift their business model away from one of retail to one of community service and education, the public relations benefit would be tremendous.
By and large, the public does not understand what travel agents do. The confusion originates with travel agents. As an industry, travel professionals are responsible for making themselves understood and valuable. Act like a retail store and you will be shopped. Act like a resource and you will be utilized. Develop a public relations campaign in your local community to demystify travel for the general public and watch the results.
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.