A lack of staff may be something that’s impacting the larger travel industry, but host agencies and travel franchises don’t seem to be having a problem. If anything, the level of new entrants has far exceeded expectations, according to host agency and franchise executives Travel Market Report spoke to.
(In our last installment of this series, we talked to the executives about how the first half of the year went overall.)
What Great Resignation?
“The Great Resignation has been very positive for us,” said Jeff Anderson, co-CEO of Certares. The host agency has picked up “a ton” of new talent, both for its back-office support staff and with independent contractors.
“We’re way below the national average in terms of turnover,” he said referring to Certares' back-office employee rate, adding they’ve seen a “significant surge in the number of qualified candidates and in the number of new hires that we’ve done.”
But it’s not just the back-office that’s benefiting.
“We’re also seeing extremely similar patterns that are happening on the network growth side,” he said.
Certares is not alone.
“We’ve had an increase in the number of advisors coming on board,” said Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group. “The month of May was one of our best months in terms of new people coming in.”
NEST has seen the same thing, NEST president Kathryn Mazza-Burney told TMR, adding they don’t anticipate a slow down any time soon.
“We have seen new blood come into the industry… Did I anticipate it at the growth we’re seeing? I did not. What do I attribute it to? It’s an amazing industry. People have been sitting home, planning their dream trips and they start to think, why not get into it?”
Combine that love of travel with the Great Resignation and a greater awareness of the travel agency community overall, and you’ve got a winning combo.
“Folks that were working in corporate America, working as employees with regular jobs throughout the pandemic now like the idea of flexibility” and starting their own business, Friedman said.
Some of that growth is also coming from advisors who were storefront employees before the pandemic, whose agency went out of business or who decided it was time to branch out on their own.
“I think many people that worked in agencies that may not have survived saw this as an attractive alternative, starting their own business,” Friedman said.
But much of it is new talent.
“The bigger pickup we’re seeing is brand new to the industry,” Anderson said. “June’s number was just shy of 2019 in terms of the number of new agencies joining our network,” as was every month since March, he added.
“Overall awareness of travel advisors has never been higher in recent years,” Friedman added. “A lot of consumers really needed help navigating the complexities. And as consumer became more and more aware of travel advisors, we’ve seen a correlation, some of them may be interested in getting into the industry.”
“There aren’t so many opportunities that give them the opportunity to travel, to see the world, to tick off some of those bucket list items,” Mazza-Burney added.
Debbie Fiorino, COO of World Travel Holdings (Dream Vacations, CruiseOne) said they’re parlaying some of that rising interest into a new Advisory Program, which matches people who want to become independent travel advisors with existing franchise owners.
Education Is Top of Mind
With so many new travel advisors entering the industry, education has been top of mind for host agencies and franchise executives. And it’s not only new advisors seeking out new learning opportunities.
“We launched a new coaching program late last year called Business Success Journeys. Advisors really wanted to start focusing on their business,” Friedman told TMR.
Nexion also launched a program called Immersive Journeys, in which they take small groups of advisors on a trip and focus on one key business development skill. On an AmaWaterways sailing, they focused on digital marketing. On a Princess sailing, they dug into business development.
Dream Vacations and CruiseOne held their first ever marketing summit to help level up their franchise owners marketing skills.
On the new advisor side of things, NEST (and sister company TRAVELSAVERS) launched KORE, a new-to-the-industry travel industry training program open to all new advisors.
“We have seen a huge growth in education. The launch of KORE could not have come at a better time… we have even seen some owners come into the program as they felt they need a refresher,” Mazza-Burney said.