Citing Canada’s strong economy and Canadian consumers’ perception that travel is a right, Canada’s travel counselors are optimistic about business in 2012.
Canadian travel agents see key opportunities this year in Europe, specifically the London Olympics and Europe river cruises, as well as in ocean cruising, FITs and groups, the baby boomer market and the luxury market.
Recruiting young people to careers as travel counselors is considered a top challenge by Canadian agents, along with competition from online marketers and the resulting pressure on prices and profits.
This is the consensus drawn from about 50 Canadian CTCs, representing almost every province and territory, who were asked by Steve Gillick, president of the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors (CITC), to share their 2012 business outlook with Travel Market Report.
Varied outlook for business
The optimists among the Canadian CTCs reported their outlook as “very positive,” “looking at a 10% to20% increase in business” and a “great year ahead.”
“The money is there if you work for it,” noted one, especially with baby boomers retiring and traveling more. But another agent anticipated that they will be forced to book “quantity” to make up for lower revenue.
The less optimistic agents said their outlook is “not great because baby boomers and seniors are banking their savings, as opposed to using it as disposable travel funds.”
Impact of global unrest, economy
The mixed economy and political unrest will be among the major issues Canadian travel agents face in 2012, according to the CITC agents.
Political unrest and global economic concerns probably will mean more “staycations” in 2012, one agent said.
The Canadian CTCs also cited such major issues as: competition from Internet marketers, suppliers going directly to consumers via the Web, and traveler safety issues, especially given media coverage when something happens to a traveler.
Following are key opportunities and challenges cited by Canadian agents as they look to the year ahead.
Opportunities: luxury, European pricing, groups, niches
• The luxury travel market is an opportunity, since these consumers almost always access the expertise of a trained travel professional.
• European pricing, together with the strong Canadian economy, will generate bookings, especially for European river cruises and ocean cruises.
• Specialization in niche markets will be a major growth trend.
• Growing interest in FIT travel will mean more customers needing the assistance of a trained travel professional; the same is true for groups, another growth market.
• Group travel will be popular because of the security and safety when traveling in numbers.
• Technology, specifically Web 2.0, will provide new ways to communicate and opportunities for travel agents to be instantly in touch with clients (and vice versa).
Challenges: recruitment, economy, safety, time management
• The dearth of young people entering the industry creates a challenge for succession planning and for meeting increasing demand from consumers who shun online bookings.
• Hyped-up media coverage every time something happens involving a traveler heightens consumer worries about traveler safety.
• Concerns about the U.S. economy and the presidential election will have an impact, since the economies of both nations are intertwined and because travel by Americans affects Canada.
• Keeping up with social media on a daily and/or weekly basis will be a challenge, especially for small agencies or home based agents.
• Demonstrating relevance to consumers will be necessary, especially for certified travel counselors who must explain to the customer why that certification is important.
• Explaining the ever-increasing cost of taxes and airline surcharges to clients is yet another time-consuming task for agents that does not produce revenue.