YTP: Attract Prospects by Changing the Conversation
by Daniel McCarthy /

To attract newcomers to the industry—in particular prospects just out of school—travel business owners shouldn’t shy away from emphasizing the benefits, in particular the opportunity to make a healthy living, said a co-founder of the Young Travel Professional (YTP) networking group.

“Agents in general have gotten a bad rep and it’s because of the marketing. It’s not a low paying job, you can be massively successful, makes lots of money and travel the world,” said Karen Magee, one of YTP’s co-founders.

The YTP is a networking group aimed at building a community around young travel professionals. It was started by six young professionals in November 2011 and has grown to include chapters in 16 cities across the world.

“It just started out with a lot of the younger generation seeing each other at events. It felt that young people were very much outnumbered,” said Magee.

The travel industry has long been considered an aging industry, with demographics today skewed towards the 55-years-old and over agent.

But YTP’s mission is to not only bring young professionals into the industry together, but to provide prospects entering the industry with proof that it’s a lucrative business and that other young people are working in it.

Earnings potential
“I think the reason people don’t initially go into travel is because it hasn’t been known as a lucrative industry—it’s not finance, it’s not law,” said Magee.

The median salary for agents as of last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $37,200, but the potential to earn more should entice young people to come aboard, according to Magee.

“People don’t want to be paid off of commission coming right out of college,” she said. “I think a lot of people are scared away from it because it seems like sales. But some people are getting paid really, really well.

“You see agents now that went from commission to making a half a million dollars because they’re so successful,” she added.

In addition to that—and despite reports of the death of travel agencies—the average salary of an agent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen from $31,870 in 2010 to $37,000 last year, a 17% increase in just four years and a definite sign that earning potential is growing.

Lack of awareness
The travel industry now employs a record 8.1 million people (the figure for this year) this year, evidence of the industry’s strength.

Yet prospects don’t even consider travel as a career option, according to Magee.

“There is a misconception about the industry; a lack of awareness about the different types of opportunities out there,” she said.
Because most college kids probably don’t use a travel agent—the same might also apply to their parents—it’s difficult for people entering career-age to consider it as a career, said Magee.

“More awareness programs in high schools and colleges [are needed] so people know travel is an option,” Magee said.

“There are some very, very smart people who would be good in this industry but that’s not something they’re thinking about.”  
Agencies need to start promoting themselves and their earning potential, Magee said.

“The key is stressing quality of life,” she said, “we’re a relationship business, we get to work with our friends and we get to go to different places. The industry won’t be as strong as it is now if we don’t promote it.”

We’re a relationship business, we get to work with our friends and we get to go to different places. The industry won’t be as strong as it is now if we don’t promote it.

Karen Magee, Young Travel Professionals