After years of seeing travel agents leave the industry and a shortage of new entrants, the travel industry is having a moment, according to Rhonda Stanley, who heads up the New Agent program at The Travel Agent Next Door. She is seeing a huge growth in interest in becoming a travel agent since the pandemic.
How has the landscape changed since the pandemic? How many people are applying, etc.
Stanley: The interest for ‘new to travel’ has more than tripled from pre-pandemic. Prior to COVID, we were busy, dealing with 200 – 300 leads at a time –post pandemic we are between 800 to 900 leads. It has not fallen lower than 800 at any time. My weekly webinars, registration and attendance is far greater than pre-pandemic
We have seen a trend of people coming into the travel industry after many years of the opposite, why is this?
Stanley: The pandemic has shown us, do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today. There were mass layoffs, employees were furloughed, it provided a time of self reflection. What makes me happiest? People realized, regardless of their tenure with companies, they were dispensable. Those with entrepreneurial spirit recognized that this was a fabulous time to follow their passion and start their own business and one that you can do from home. There are no inventory requirements, other than a home office, computer and printer. Combine that with the fact that during the pandemic, consumers realized that online travel sites DO NOT provide the service a travel professional does.
The Travel Agent Next Door offers a program for training new travel agents, how long has it been operating?
Stanley: TTAND’s first ever training was held May 2015. We offer 3 course options—Online, Silver and Gold — with different inclusions and investments. The right program depends on the individual, what are they looking to invest professionally and financially.
The learning includes professional textbooks, designed for agents ‘new to travel’.
Online – self paced, self directed, interactive learning. 3 modules, quizzes at the end of each module, this takes approximately 30 hours to complete.
Silver/Gold program includes an intensive 40 hours of live instructor led virtual training. During the training, they meet 5 supplier partners, marketing will work with them on branding and prospecting, Flemming will address them during the week. They meet the support team on Day 1 of the training and on Day 5.
TTAND provides all new agents with Preferred and Approved supplier credentials. We get their usernames and passwords created for them. They will also take possession of their personal, customizable, bookable consumer websites during the training.
How much money can a good new travel agent expect to make and how soon?
Stanley: New Travel Agents must be prepared that it can take months and even years before they can make a reasonable income. We encourage our new agents to NOT give up any other source of income until their income is steady enough to afford their cost of living.
Travel Agents do not get paid until just before or just after their client’s travel. Their first few years are spent building their business and database of prospective clients. A ‘good’ new travel agent can earn $30-50K between year 2-3. By year 4 and 5, they can earn $70 to over $100K — and from there the possibilities are endless. There is no cap on the earning, the more they sell, the more they earn. Their earnings also depend on the type of travel they sell such as higher revenue product, etc.
What are the keys to being successful as a new travel agent?
Stanley: This is a sales role–you have to be consistent and patient. There are no overnight sensations in travel, I have been doing this for 45 years and I have worked with some of Canada’s best. You have to be technology proficient, organized, well travelled, prepared for continuous learning (it never ends) and able to multi task.
What sort of professional backgrounds do your recruits have?
Stanley: The majority of people coming into the travel industry vary from career professionals such as nurses, firefighters, police offices, paramedics — to stay at home moms. This is the perfect succession plan — kids are grown and now it’s mom’s turn to do something for her —or the consummate career professional that is preparing for retirement and travel is a perfect option. They are free to work from anywhere in the world, their office is completely mobile. All they need is an internet connection.