Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Travel Agent or DIY


I spent more than forty years as a Baptist preacher/pastor and loved every minute of it. In fact it wasn’t until a major heart issue sidetracked me that I even consider doing something else. I was told by my cardiac team that while I was going to survive and could continue to preach I was going to have to leave off the stress side of being the spiritual advisor to a large congregation.

Unfortunately for me the nearly two year recovery took me out of the ministry network and the restrictions on the stress issue eliminated once more assuming the role of full-time Senior pastor. Little did I know the direction God would take me.  I soon turned to evaluating the things I enjoyed; things in which I had some level of proficiency; and something from which I could generate some income. 

That’s when it hit me. I had started working with our State Missions Commission in the Texas/New South Wales Partnership in 1985. By the time I had ended that partnership I was working with Don Sewell coordinating our efforts in New South Wales training the teams that would be going on these projects and working with Terry Denton and Beverly Berens of Main Street Travel in Ft. Worth to get the teams to their assignments.

So I entered the Travel Industry. How I moved from Pastor to Travel agents and how I integrated ministry into the travel industry is a story for another time. Suffice it I made the transition. So from 2005 to the present I have participated in that industry as a Traveler, Travel Agent, OSSN Chapter Director and Regional Director as well as a Regional Manager for CCRA. I have participated in trade shows as a attendee and as a panelist. Over these 15 years I have learned a few things.

One of the first things I learned was, the travel is a large and complex industry that gives a living to 10 percent of the jobs in the world. That makes it a large part of every country’s economic well-being. In fact, in some places accounting for the largest single segment of their economy. This industry creates wealth at a number of levels and in a number of directions. In the USA the travel/tourism industry accounts for more than 15 million jobs and equals 2.8% of our National GDP. 

Having has the privilege of working with both the Agent and Supplier side of the business it was easy to see how my adopted industry was a major job creator. Like every major industry it had tentacles that spread through a variety of other industries. The cruise side of the business alone is a multi-billion dollars economy providing hundreds of thousands of jobs in hundreds of trades and suppliers that on the surface would appear unrelated. 

However, today I want to zero in on the role of the Travel Agent. There is a common misconception out there that Travel Agents spend all their time traveling and seeing the world. While there is a way for the enterprising travel agent to do just that I’d suggest to you that for 98% of travel agents it is more like flying a desk. I suspect I speak for most Travel Agents when I tell you that I spend hours, weeks, sometimes months working on a single trips to make sure every detail is thought out and planned. A handful of highly productive agents may actually earn familiarization trips (usually at a discounted price) to learn about a particular suppliers products or new offerings. 

Truth is, most of our time is spent researching and planning itineraries for folks who want the vacation of a lifetime every time they travel. Most travel agents are independent contractors who work on a commission (usually an 80:20 split or less) that they split with an agency owner. With the exception of some cruise lines those commissions are not paid until after you, their client, actually travel. 

So, if you book a vacation to Cabo San Lucas for August 30, 2021 there is a better than even chance your travel agent will not get paid their commission until sometime in September 2021. Sadly, a booking today does not equal getting paid today or even in a few weeks.  Add to this the fact that these agents, because of the Covid-19 Pandemic ban on travel have not had an income for more than 10 months and have had painfully few sales.  In fact, they have spent a great deal of time canceling trips and negotiating refunds to clients which in most instances meant lost income on previous sales. Add to this very few qualified for any of the aid offered by the federal government. 

I want to suggest that even if you are normally a “DIY” traveler tat you book your future travel know and use a travel agent. I know I could use your business. It will cost you nothing and may actually save you money. It will certainly help your neighbor who, like yourself, spends most of their money in the local community. 

Besides all this you need to understand that most travel suppliers like cruise lines, tour companies, hotels . . . . well just about every supplier of travel except airlines have a commission built into their pricing and they are not going to remove it just because you do your own booking. In a sense when you self-book you are paying the supplier for a service you don’t get from them, namely the expertise of a good Travel Agent. Why pay for something you don’t get. Take advantage of that built-in allowance and use a Travel Agent.