This is the sixth edition of TMR’s Ask an Advisor series, a regular column where a team of travel advisors tackles questions from others in the industry. All questions from this series have been submitted by TMR readers and vetted by the TMR editorial team. The sixth question, and the last for 2023, comes from an advisor wondering what their role is in the future of the profession.
Dear Ask-an-Advisor Panel,
I’ve been really enjoying this series and, while I don’t know any of you, I wanted to ask something that has been bugging me recently, mostly because of stuff I see on Facebook or hear from other advisors at events, some of which, I think, aren’t necessarily qualified or the best representation for the profession.
What kind of responsibility do you think we, as sellers of travel and agency owners, have to the other members of the industry? More specifically, what responsibility do I have to bring other people along in their careers?
I’m in the sunset era of my career and there’s just so many different advisors, a lot of them brand new, that I think really need the guidance in their career, but I don’t know if it’s ever my place or my responsibility to butt in. I do think that we need our industry, and the advisors in it, to be at a certain level because that’s the only way we’re going to keep growing our share of the market. But I also was always told to mind my own business!
What’s your take on if we should be taking a more active role in growing our community and furthering the profession? And how could I take a more active role?
Thanks and appreciate the insight,
Annie Jones, Owner & Luxury Travel Advisor, Telos Travel
We work in such a collaborative industry that I think it’s pretty normal to feel some pressure to share advice, expertise, and tips with our fellow advisors. This is a really grey area and something that each advisor needs to assess on their own, based on the amount of time they have and how much passion they have to share their knowledge. There should not be an expectation that you share your wisdom if you need to spend time focusing on your client’s needs, growing your business, or otherwise.
As someone that is relatively new to the industry, my feeling is that the more I give, the more I get in return from my peers. I have plenty of advice I can share on using technology to help make your business more efficient and in turn, my colleagues with more destination experience are glad to answer questions when I come across a location I have not personally been to, or if I’m seeking supplier recommendations. While I don’t think there should be an obligation to share knowledge, I certainly know that myself, and my peers, have been more successful because our host agency has fostered an environment where we are encouraged to collaborate and assist one another.
If you’re questioning if you should step in and offer your advice, and you’re already asking how you could take a more active role, it sounds to me like you should take the leap and get more involved! Since COVID, there has been a huge resurgence of younger travel advisors. While that generation was brave enough to take the leap, they can have a difficult time asking for advice or assistance from those with more experience. It can really feel intimidating, but no blog on the internet or YouTube video is going to replace advice from a seasoned, experienced advisor. Knowing that someone like you is available and open to sharing their wisdom could really help guide someone in the right direction.
If you’re not sure how to make yourself known, or you are unsure where to start, reach out to your host agency to see how you could take a more active role. Is there a topic that you’re passionate about that you could run a short webinar on? Could you start your own Q&A column on the monthly newsletter? Ask your host who the newer team members are and send them a note! You never know who might take you up on an offer to chat.
Annie Jones created Telos Travel in 2021 to share her deep passion for sustainable luxury adventure travel with clients. Telos is an affiliate of Avenue Two Travel, is based in the Greater Philadelphia Area and works with clients and partners all over the world.
Kyle Stewart, Director, Scott & Thomas Travel Personalized
First of all, congratulations on your long career in this industry. It’s hard to build a business, it’s hard to stay for as long as you have in this career. You should feel proud you have been able to be successful.
It’s always been my position, whatever the industry, that if you have something to offer, if you can help, it’s the right thing to do. I come from outside of the industry and built my agency over the last few years. This business can be confusing and difficult to learn with so many rules, norms, and practices that are unlike other business. I struggled to find the mentorship that I needed along the way, but I try to help where I can.
Over the last few months, I’ve found many new-to-industry folks on Reddit asking genuine questions and getting bad advice back. I try to take a little time each day to look over threads and see if there’s something I can answer. I don’t have any ulterior motives, I just want to help.
You asked whether you have a responsibility and this is a place where I struggle. I don’t think that you have an obligation to help others starting out, if you want to help you should, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with serving your customers and soon enjoying retirement.
However, it seems you have already identified that you have something to offer. Why not share it? Save people from the pitfalls that you spent years learning. Isn’t that the greatest gift? To bring others up and share your knowledge sets the next generation up for success.
You asked about how you might get involved. While online forums are full of those who are just starting out and looking for help, answering questions on social media isn’t a fit for everyone. I’d love to see a mentorship program (I could probably learn a lot from you.) Trade groups like ASTA will have opportunities to share your knowledge, but so will peer agencies and your consortium. Maybe start there, find one person that wants to learn from you and see how it goes. If just one agent is able to benefit from your experience, that’s better than letting your knowledge retire along with you.
Kyle Stewart holds several roles within the travel, miles, and points world. He is a Partnership Manager for BoardingArea.com (and the Freddie Awards), a writer at LiveAndLetsFly.com, and a freelance writer for several publications. He is also the Director of Scott & Thomas Travel Personalized.
Richard “Rick" Carlson, Cruise Planners
Your question made me reflect on my own career and my own personal thoughts. Before I answer your question please let me reflect on my own career.
When I started my career in travel 24 years ago I was dependent on the leadership of our company to provide support and show me the ropes so to speak, so that I would be successful. Did I make some mistakes, yes, but it helped me grow. Being part of Cruise Planners a wealth of training opportunities are open to me. In addition there is an excellent coaching program in place to help not only the veteran agents but new agents as well. Even to this day, I benefit from the knowledge of other agents, their experiences and thoughts. And I also continue with professional development so that I continue to grow.
I ask you to think back on your career. Did you benefit from the sage wisdom of a fellow agent or an agency owner? I have to think the answer is yes and you remember those that have impacted your career and how. Where would you be if these individuals did not take an interest in you?
Personally, I have tried to live by the basic philosophy that you give but little when you give of your possessions it is when you give of yourself that you truly give. You are a wealth of knowledge that your fellow agents can and will benefit from. I have to be honest, I mentor new agents all the time and currently work with 5 agents in particular. I would like to think Ashley, Michael, Tom, Ted and Kristine are benefiting from my experience. There is something very special to see an agent grow and their business grow and celebrating success with them.
So in answer to your thought provoking question there is no responsibility to bring other people along in their careers. If you answered yes to the question I asked you, “did someone help you?”. Pay tribute to these individuals and help others. Maybe you know a new agent in your organization that you could ask if they would like someone to mentor them and help them grow. Or ask if your local ASTA group, knows of an agent that could use some support. ASTA is one organization I encourage everyone new to the industry or veteran to join.
In closing, every travel agent is a reflection of our profession and me as an agent. The more we support one another the better we all are and the more travelers will want to use the professional services of an agent. So as you enter the sunset of your career look back at all the sunsets you have helped people experience and look forward to how you can help others create those dream sunset opportunities for others. Congratulations on your career, and my best wishes for many more sunsets in your traveling.
A proud agent of Cruise Planners now for 23 years. Member of the Millionaires Club and recipient of numerous awards for sales achievement, Richard "Rick" Carlson always has believed in helping others and offering insight and suggestions for improvement so others can build their business.