Travel Sellers Say Mentoring Encourages New Entrants
Travel Sellers Say Mentoring Encourages New Entrants

Travel Sellers Say Mentoring Encourages New Entrants

Attend any travel industry event, or speak to any industry executive, both on the retail and supply side, and the issue of the long-term survival of the travel agency industry eventually surfaces. Questions of how to attract new blood to the industry and, more importantly, how to keep people in the industry are issues at the front of many people’s minds.

Among the many solutions often discussed is mentoring.

Travel sellers that Travel Market Report spoke with all agreed that agents who are mentored are more likely to stay in the industry than those who are left to figure it out on their own.

“Agents that get trained and thrown out [into work place] and really don’t have a way to build a safety net of people, I think give up,” said Kate Bernier, manager of the Honeymoon and Leisure Division at Montrose Travel. “A lot of this business is fun…. If everything is a struggle and you feel like you’re out on your own on an island, it’s not going to be fun and you’re going to quit.”

In fact, when asked, most long-term, successful travel sellers, both on the retail agency and supplier sides, will say they had someone they viewed as a mentor when they started out in the industry.

Both Bernier and Connie Risse, owner of Ships and Trips, told TMR they were both mentored as new entrants in the industry.

“The first lady I ever went on a FAM with, I definitely looked at her as my mentor. That was 20 years ago and we’re still in touch,” Risse said. “She gave me so many great ideas and she really inspired me, built my confidence and made me think I could do this.”

Bernier also has been in the industry for 20 years. She joined Montrose Travel fresh out of travel school and said she still has the same mentors today that she had when she first began. 

Susan Tanzman, president of Martin’s Travel and Tours, also agreed that agents who have been mentored are more likely to stick with the industry. Additionally, she told TMR, mentoring is the only way to make good travel agents.

“This is the only way we operate. The only way you truly learn so much of this stuff – and you don’t make mistakes – is by listening to somebody who knows what they’re doing. That’s why it’s so important.”

Safety & Confidence

Like Bernier, Tanzman said mentoring offers new travel sellers a safety net.

“It gives them a security blanket,” she said. Her mentorees know they have somebody to turn to for answers, somebody they can learn from. Furthermore, they know upfront what her expectations of them are, so they’re not overwhelmed thinking they need to be experts right away.

And when an agent feels safe, confidence grows.

In fact, Blaine Lambert, chief operating officer of CruiseExperts Travel, said this may be the single most important element of mentoring. Mentors give their mentorees “encouragement by believing in their ability to practice the same skills and experience the same success,” he said.

Risse agreed. Mentoring, she said, gives new travel sellers confidence and enthusiasm. “Because they feel like ‘I can’t do this.’ And I say, ‘yes, you can. If I can learn it, you can learn it.’”

Next Week: How to create a successful mentoring relationship.

To Post a Comment about this story, click here

Randi    September 14, 2010    9:37 AM
My name is Randi and I am in the process of trying to begin my new career in the travel industry. I absolutely love this article on "mentoring"! I have so many questions on where and how to begin my new career, and would welcome the advise and guidance of a mentor. My question is, how do I find one? I would be willing to intern or assist an established agent (without a salary) just to gain some experience and knowledge. I live in Livingston, NJ, and I welcome any advise or suggestions!! Thanks very much!

Robert    August 31, 2010    10:41 AM
John and Wendy, you are so right. Part of the problem is that existing agents are extremely negative about the travel industry ... for good reason. As agents, we have to fight for commissions and fees, and justify our expertise constantly. That needs to get fixed. That issue aside, industry executives that run the travel-related companies right now have never worked in this industry, and therefore, are clueless to the needs of what earns the industry its money: Agents. Mentoring is only a small part of rebuilding the agent and rep side of the travel business. Travel education for agents and reps, as well as consumer advocacy are more important right now. More importantly, we need to get great travel agents and reps to take over the lead executive positions within the supplier industry. Like many other industries in this economy, the travel industry needs to shed the fat.

John    August 28, 2010    9:27 AM
Mentoring will only be successful if the old-timers quit whining about the reasons NOT to be in the business. This is definately a business where we need to find opportunities and chase them (they are out there); not blame reps, the industry or other issues on failure. It's really important to be proactive and leave the office sometimes. Also, if The Travel Institute would work with community colleges, it would give them an opportunity to teach what this industry is really all about...then, we'll see the youth come back.

WENDY    August 27, 2010    12:06 PM
Amazes me what industry executives come up with. Try respect,pay,learning opportunites, admitting you need us Acknowledging your clients need valuble knowledge & service. Been here 28 years, seen fam prices: free/small fee. Now??? Income dwindle-zero on some bookings. Airlines announce "book direct" save yourself those HUGE travel agent fees. The internet will replace us ? Will young tec savey with no customer service skills, will young people stay after hours, work for free, increase your bottom line. Cutting dollars to increase your profit is it working ? People always need people. You are loosing the best of the best, you are going to be in trouble. What can you do, support the agents now they will encourage our youth and train them. Executives alway look for new ways to improve their bottom line. Look after what you have WELL. WIN WIN situation and no sweat or your end!!!!

Robert    August 27, 2010    11:11 AM
As the older agents’ clientele is dying off, it makes it less likely for them to embrace the wide variety of booking and sales technology that exists in order to keep a new people interested in the travel industry. Most new people to the industry see travel agents and reps as less relevant to the marketplace and have trouble seeing the value that they play with end users. It is hard to sell someone on a building a business with dwindling commissions, declining earnings, undercutting and cheating suppliers that don’t pay their commissions, cheap clients that want everything for nothing and no travel and health benefits...toss in debt memo’s, ancillary fees and the airlines force feeding share-of-market to your agency that one coveted sales support number and you have the perfect storm...until the business model is changed...mentoring is just another idea ‘travel executives’ dreamt up.

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