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.