I’d like to wish all TTG readers a great start to 2020. Of course, a new year offers the chance to reflect, but more importantly, the chance to make big plans for the future.
Heading into a new decade coincided with a personal and professional milestone for me, as I celebrate 25 years at Travel Counsellors this month.
Quite naturally, such a milestone led me to think about how our fabulous industry has changed beyond recognition, and more so how travel businesses need to continue to adapt to stay relevant in an ever-evolving market.
A key example of this is the term “homeworking”. It is no longer a true description of what flexible and smarter working business models are and do.
It’s something that’s become evident in our business as we continue to enable our franchisees to build their brands in a way that suits them and their customers.
Late last year I was invited onto a panel to represent the homeworking arena alongside consortia, online and tour operating companies.
During the discussions, it became evident the perception that homeworking is for people who want to work part-time or do it as a hobby was still prevalent.
Of course the model offers flexibility and an amazing work-life balance, but caring for customers should not be a part-time job.
So if not “homeworkers”, we are travel agents who “work from home”, right? Wrong.
Our franchise business model enables at least seven operating models including working in shared offices, individually or as part of teams; hiring assistants; or turning bricks-and-mortar agencies into Travel Counsellor franchise businesses with teams of support staff.
Essentially, as customer needs and wants have evolved, so has the “homeworking” business model.
And working wherever technology allows means travel advisors can work wherever it’s secure to do so – from a local coffee shop to a sunbed in Mauritius. This isn’t homeworking, it’s smarter working.
Over the years, customers have craved more flexibility than is available in off- the-shelf packages, so those who have survived have adapted, broadening their range, how they sell travel and how they protect their customers.
With more than half of Travel Counsellors’ leisure business now packaged using our own Atol licence, does that make us a tour operator?
More than likely. Some may say to be a tour operator you need to sell through agents, but most tour operators now sell a large percentage of their business direct – so does that also make them a travel agent?
The vocabulary, once again, doesn’t seem fit for purpose.
We have Travel Counsellors across the globe running their own successful businesses who do not perceive themselves as a homeworking business owner.
This is no doubt fuelled by their variety of backgrounds: ex-high street agents, agency owners, corporate consultants, tour operators and many more.
These are well-travelled individuals who wanted their own businesses – all with decades of experience behind them and a passion for delivering customer care.
So at the beginning of a new decade, it’s time to rethink the terms we use to celebrate travel experts who run their own travel businesses wherever they are in the world, and those who are always there for their customers when they need them.