The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) kicked off its third annual Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. talking about the growth of the travel advisor community, and why now, more than ever, being a travel advisor is a viable career path with unlimited potential.
"Travel advisors are the very picture of the 21st century workforce," said Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA. "We are entrepreneurs and job creators who are meeting the enormous and growing public demand for travel experiences."
"We're here in D.C. and here in large numbers because, despite the development of fake human algorithm chat bot solutions our profession is growing. Real people, spending real money value empathy, discernment, and product expertise. Those have always been and will always be the tools of our trade," Kerby added.
The data, Kerby said, backs him up. Despite years of media predictions that travel advisors were a dying breed, travel advisor business has never been better.
Kerby cited statistics from the United States Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve stating that in the 10 years prior to COVID, travel agency revenue tripled from $10 billion a year to $30 billion. And, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, for the first time in several years, is projecting a 27% growth in the travel advisor industry.
The federal government isn't the only entity citing rosy numbers. According to an ASTA survey, 27% of advisors said that half of their clients are using an advisor for the very first time.
"When we leave here today, we're going to head to Capitol Hill to spread this message to House members and members of the Senate from all 50 states. We'll tell them that we are the job and travel demand creators that fuel the American economy. Our presence here demonstrates we are a resilient, evolving, and dynamic industry of thriving small business and that we aren't going anywhere," Kerby said.
The More We Meet Demand, the More Demand Grows
During his notes to attendees and members of the press, Kerby also spoke about ASTA's ongoing efforts to recruit more travel advisors into the community.
"The more people that join our industry to meet that demand, the more the demand seems to grow," he said. "Workers toiling in other industries should and are giving a career in travel a new look."
To help meet both the continuing need for more advisors and the growing interest in a career as a travel advisor, ASTA – with help from Norwegian Cruise Line – has made its travel advisor professional overview available for free and revamped its introductory "Becoming a Travel Advisor" training course.
"Every industry, at the end of the day, is driven by the workforce that they have," said John Chernesky, senior vice president for North American sales at Norwegian Cruise Line. "We need travel advisors to do all the great work that is needed to keep us going."
In past years, Kerby said, the Association sold a few dozen of the overviews a year. Since making it available for free, thousands of people have downloaded the overview. Hundreds have taken the revamped "Becoming a Travel Advisor" course.
Unlimited Potential, Flexibility, Freedom
To help ASTA members participating in Legislative Day become part of the recruitment movement, a panel of four powerhouse women discussed the myriad reasons for joining the travel advisor industry.
"There are so many opportunities as far as whether you're a leader or whether you're a travel planner or whether you're someone who really enjoys administrative work or marketing or influencing, there are just so many opportunities in our industry right now," said Tiffany Hines, president and CEO of Global Escapes.
Melinda Fortunato, president of Best Travel and the ASTA Chapter president for the Central Atlantic chapter agreed. "Thinking about a work/life balance, you can find the right business model that is perfect for you, whether you want to be an employee, whether you want to be an independent contractor, whether you want to be an entrepreneur and create your own brand. There's so many different ways to do it."
The flexibility to be able to do things your way, in a way that fits your lifestyle, is something Hines said people are looking for.
"We've heard so much over the last couple of years about people quietly quitting," she said. "Flexibility is the biggest thing, being able to grow and learn in an industry where you can start out as a leisure advisor, you can move over to a corporate advisor, you can work from home, you can work from the sand in Mykonos if you want to as long as you have an internet connection."
She added, "For women, in particular, who want to have a family and have also a career… our industry really lends itself well to that aspect of having a family and flexibility."
That desire for flexibility is something Keisha Adriano, CEO & president at Travelwise International, said she can relate to.
"I want to be present in my children's lives. This industry is giving me the opportunity to create my own schedule, to take off when I need to."
According to Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group and chair of the ASTA Board of Directors, when Nexion asks new advisors why they chose being a travel advisor as a career, they cited two main reasons.
"Number one is a fundamental love of travel," she said. "Number two, it's a great opportunity to pair something – a passion, an interest, or a hobby – with a business opportunity. We're seeing a lot of people do that where they're really specializing and finding a niche. It's the foundation of a great business."
Additionally, for those midway through life, Friedman said an inherent unhappiness with corporate America led them to seek something different.
"This gives people the opportunity to work in an industry making people happy."
All the panel members, as well as other speakers during the morning's event emphasized being a travel advisor is a career path available to all people, regardless of where they are in life.
"It's a great opportunity whether it's something you're starting straight out of college, whether it's something that may be an encore career… it's also great as a retirement career, folks who retire and they're not ready to do nothing," Friedman said.
"If you are thinking of a career change, you've got to know how to do it," added panel moderator, Denise Jackson, president and CEO of Balboa Travel. "If you didn't hear it earlier, ASTA is a good place to start."