Don't Freak Out, Agents: CNN reports Travel Agents are Dying.
No, seriously, you guys. Don't freak out.
This is not another Woman's Day article. That said, it's not a pro-travel agent fluff piece either. It's a fair piece that hasn't discounted us entirely, but... well, let's say they probably wouldn't choose us to be on their kickball team. Let's change that.
Read this Carefully
Spoiler Alert: You probably won't like the headline they chose. And when they repeat it at the end of the article, your heart will hate it just as much:
The truth is, the reporter is not the only one that thinks we're dying. A lot of people do. We've got a serious image problem and that needs to change if we want to have a prosperous future. As an industry, we need a marketing campaign to turn around the public's perception of agents. We just don't have the funds for it to do it traditionally.
I'm writing this post and directing agents here before I link to the article because I want the travel agent community to think before issuing an outcry. I don't want the comments to be filled with agents screaming at a journalist that—quite honestly, reported nothing I'd (strongly) disagree with—and telling her travel agents are valuable and not dying; how dare she say otherwise?!
That's counter-productive to what we need and want. We need to be taken seriously. We need to be seen as people who are in touch with reality and understand what role we play in the world of travel. The truth is we don't play the role we used to and we never will. We are aware there are more players in the game and that's fine. Just don't count us out.
When you read the article, you'll be agitated but please, take a step back. For agents, the headline isn't the most flattering but when it comes down to it, the author got most of her facts right and it's a balanced piece of journalism.
Best part: She ends it by asking who people prefer to book with—an agent or online—and why. She's throwing a weather vane up and seeing which way the wind is blowing.
Travel Agents Go Guerrilla
Remember how I said we couldn't afford a traditional marketing campaign? We need to go guerrilla-style, people. We need to mobilize again and take advantage of the free press CNN just offered us. We need to turn the conversation into a positive one.
Please, please, please... don't respond with defensive comments that make us sound bitter and out of touch. The Woman's Day deserved their public chastisement. It was an absurd article. This one isn't. We need to shift gears and tailor our message to our audience and this time around, we're working with a much higher caliber of journalism.
The CNN reporter wrote intelligently and did their research and I can certainly appreciate that... even if the headline sucks. So, let's engage in a positive conversation.
As travel agents, we can talk about our value in the comment section until we're blue in the face, but to someone that doesn't believe in travel agents, it's white noise. We just come across as an industry that has their heads in the clouds and insists we're useful and valuable. I, personally, wouldn't miss the irony if we were the only ones tooting our horn in the comments. I'm sure non-believers wouldn't miss the irony either.
BUT...what if every agent asked one or two of their top clients to comment on the article and share their experience of using a travel agent? Hmm?
My entire business model is based on the fact that people don't want a hard sell from companies, they want to hear about other people's experiences in a genuine way. It works. Asking your clients to comment on the article about their experiences using a travel agent is the most effective thing we can do.
As of now, there are only 5 comments on the article—four of which say how much they love their travel agent.
The comments show, the readers of this article are not hostile towards travel agents. They're already there going to bat for us, we just need to get them saying it in larger numbers. And that's where you come in.
Avoid the temptation to write about our value in the comments. Reach out to your clients instead and let them speak for you. Send an email to a few of your favorite clients and ask them if they'd mind sharing why they use you over booking online. Or have them recall a time when you saved them money or helped iron out some problems.
Let's not tell them our value. Let's have our clients show them by sharing their experiences.
Drum Roll, Please... The Article
And now that you've read all this and had a chance to think about how this can be an opportunity for our industry, here's the article.
Go get 'em, tigers.
Wrapping it Up
Share this article with your agent friends, reach out to your clients, and let's start changing the conversation about our industry. And of course, I thoroughly expect hear your thoughts on the article and this approach—the good and the bad—in the comments below. :) If you like what you read, join 15,560 agents and sign up for our monthly newsletter for more helpful articles and drop by our home based travel agent resources page.