How we see ourselves and the profession of travel counseling has
much to do with sales psychology. For travel agents the problem is twofold: the
1st concerns societal perception of the travel profession in
general. The 2nd deals with the individual travel consultant’s personal
self-image. Being consciously aware of the influence of these aspects of one’s
personality and working to place self-image in its appropriate context is a
worthwhile exercise in becoming a better travel professional.
For more than 16 years, the
demise of the travel professional has been a part of our collective
culture. In typical zero-sum game mentality, the rise of other distribution
channels meant to many the inevitable fall of the travel agent. While the
reality of the situation was that the surviving travel professionals became
smarter, more focused, and niched, a widely held social perception was that the
travel agent had been replaced. Indeed, the ranks of the profession were
severely diminished and the evidence of the turmoil in the
industry apparent as travel professionals made necessary adjustments to a
new economic reality.
So it goes.
The most devastating
aspect of these developments, however, may have been the toll taken on the
profession’s collective self-image. Many travel agents carry with them secret
doubt of their own value to the buying process. In the face of online
discounters and technology resources of the likes ofTravelocity,many travel agents have difficulty
understanding their competitive advantage. Haunted by the ghost of a lower
price “out there, somewhere”, many travel agents approach their presentations
in fear and trembling. The lack of confidence shows.
aspect of self-image is more personal – how do you view your own capabilities?
Do you perceive yourself as good at the profession of travel consulting? Are
you experienced enough? Do you have sufficient background, product knowledge
and expertise? Are you up to the challenge of handling something as important
as your client’s travel dollars?
If you are harbouring
secret doubts about the travel profession or about your value to your clients,
it’s time to pause and take stock. I have spoken at length on the necessity of
travel agents to value themselves, to properly understand their role as
consultants. True travel professionals see themselves as fully in charge of
their destiny and have little doubt of their value to the buying process.
Quietly confident, top travel consultants are highly ethical and project their
Each of us creates our
own self-image. If you have a weak self-image, your business will suffer.
(Likewise if your self-image is too inflated – but that’s another column). When
a travel consultant feels on top of their game, they actually draw people and
opportunities to them. Perhaps it’s time to work on your own self-image.
Want a worthwhile
exercise? Spend some time next weekend writing a short essay on the
inherent value of a travel consultant. Meet any objections head on and deal
with both the strengths and the weaknesses of other channels of distribution.
Get a real grip on the role your profession plays in helping millions of people
to achieve their travel ambitions. Then, spend some time analyzing your own
strengths and weaknesses. Determine where you need to improve your skill set,
and set out a plan to do so. Visualize the kind of travel professional you want
to be a year from now and set yourself firmly on the road to achieving your
It all begins with a
willingness to improve. You can do that, or you wouldn’t be a travel
Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel
industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel