Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
Navigating a new universe of travel gurus
Today’s world of instant gratification, quick-fixes, shortcuts, and secret solutions to all you desire provides fertile ground for hyping everything. From electronically operated beds that will make your spouse stop snoring to skin cream that immediately will erase all evidence of the years, all it takes to saturate the market with the next best thing is a little electronic media savvy, pocket change, and, maybe, a publicist with mediocre skills.
Along the same lines, it seems to me that today’s children also are being programmed for fast fixes—so much so that they can be cheated out of such things as wishing and hoping for something they’ve wanted, pined for, and dreamed of. Often, kids get and get and get—even before they’ve ever felt a sense of desire! Sometimes I worry about the next generation and what adult life will be like for those who grow up without ever experiencing anticipation or going through the process of looking forward to or, heaven forbid, working toward something that wasn’t immediately within their grasp! Is there even such a thing as a piggy bank, anymore?
If you kindly will forgive and perhaps even indulge my somewhat cynical stream of consciousness, as you usually do, I’ll move on and get to my point! Are you ready? Okay, here’s the deal:
In the real world, there’s no such thing as a quick-fix answer to everything we need, want, or must confront—not in our personal lives, and not in the workplace! That’s a fact—plain and simple. And for us who make our living in the travel industry, it’s a waste of time, energy, and money to jump on the bandwagon to follow the next best thing that comes down the pike!
So, why are so many self-proclaimed travel gurus out there these days, promising to deliver the world in an all-inclusive suitcase? Like popcorn, they are popping up every other day with new claims and promises of having the proverbial magic bullet to travel business success. The truth is, there is no magic bullet. You know this already. Your inner child—the source of your emotions and the part of you that many gurus target—still wants to indulge in make-believe! Although excellent products and tools—based on in-depth experience, proven strategies, and well thought-out practices—do exist, a word of warning is in order. While we all can dream about our fondest fantasies coming true, I don’t want you to feel cheated when you realize that—instead of meaty tools and real solutions—the majority of what’s being hyped out there involves smoke and mirrors.
The big question is: How does a discerning travel advisor go about separating the good, valid, and helpful (the wheat) from the bad, flimsy, and useless (the chaff)? We do that all the time for our agents at OutsideAgents.com. My goal here, though, is to give you the nitty gritty on how to differentiate shinny-but-shallow offerings from trustworthy guidance and proven reliable products and processes that build lasting value.
Let’s begin by addressing the question I posed earlier and where all these popcorn gurus came from, anyway. Think about it... Clearly, our entire industry underwent its greatest downturn in history when news of COVID-19 crushed travel in 2020. While countless agencies closed shop for good during the global spread of the virus, others lingered precariously close to the edge. Accompanying the devastating challenges the industry faced was an unprecedented opportunity for so-called travel gurus to rush in with ready remedies to assuage the fears of advisors and agencies everywhere! So there you have it: The proliferation of gurus came along with the pandemic, and the operative word in understanding this perfect storm is fear!
Let me point out that we must take into account the impact fear has on judgment! Those who might readily spot hyperbole for what it is when times are stable might be powerless to discern and resist outlandish and unrealistic claims when their vulnerability is at an all time high. As a result of fear and the need to believe in something, many travel professionals, who unfortunately have bought into the promise, hype, and instant gratification of that magic bullet, have wasted money and been left feeling let down and disappointed. Often, they’ve discovered the expert to whom they’ve hooked their wagon really knows little more than they, themselves, do.
Other reports reveal that the popcorn gurus might:
- Actually have little or no practical experience in the industry.
- Over promote exclusivity, scarcity, or effectiveness.
- Offer pie-in-the-sky answers that completely miss the mark.
- Have no analytics or other data that verify value and validate effectiveness.
- Not base their flashy recommendations on personal success or factual data.
- Push products that mismatch the agency’s model.
- Never have tested or measured the outcomes they promise.
- Not truly listen to and understand the individual needs of clients.
- Sell a bill of goods, leaving advisors even more frustrated than before.
- Deliver tools that don’t specifically apply to the real needs.
- Make erroneous or even illegal claims about products.
- Simply gather, lift, and regurgitate information from the internet
Please don’t misconstrue the intent of my message! Again, I am very aware that fine products, services, and guidance exist in today’s marketplace. In fact, at OutsideAgents.com, I preach and promote quality and effectiveness more than anything else! I just want to wave a red flag, indicating that, while there is gold in “them thar hills,” all that glitters is not the real thing! So how can you uncover the authentic nougats of gold in today’s marketplace?
Do what you did way back in kindergarten—ask questions! Before becoming a guru groupie, find out whether the so-called expert is for real by asking the right questions. And if the answers do not clearly demonstrate the “Hallmarks of Travel Industry Expertise” presented here, don’t simply walk away, RUN in the other direction!
HALLMARKS OF TRAVEL INDUSTRY EXPERTISE
- Don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.
- Will tell you the “why” behind “what” they offer.
- Have an in-depth understanding of how to run all aspects of a business—from qualifying clients to conducting strategic marketing to understanding and citing stats and analytics.
- Only promote answers, tools, and solutions that come with empirical proof of validity and efficacy.
- Have been through the ranks and have a true sense of travel advisors’ day-to-day challenges, issues, and needs.
- Know what they know from hard knocks, trial and error, and years of personal experience. They’re cool people in dirty boots…they’ve been there and done that.
- Are able to address the nuances of various business models, niches, and services.
- Provide helpful, practical, and credible guidance based on both personal experience and the knowledge and expertise of their strong network of industry leaders.
- Recognize the value of perseverance, strategic thinking, and real solutions.
- Maintain a panoramic view of travel as a business.
- Appreciate and promote the concept of adding value.
- Like scientists, are willing for their theories to be tested by peers. They also freely share testing results that demonstrate both strengths and weaknesses!
- Understand everything about legally protecting you and your business.
- Have extensive knowledge about relationship-building strategies.
- Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of all aspects of marketing.
- Speak off the top of the head about challenges and real and sustainable solutions to recurring travel issues.
- Understand the big picture of industry-wide needs and challenges, not just a single aspect their particular product might address.
- Present an exemplary model of an entrepreneurial spirit and a non-dualistic thinker.