We have all seen the headlines and read about the demise of the travel consultant (aka travel agent). Online booking agencies, booking online directly with suppliers and now with Google entering the market big time, all appear to have replaced the need for the travel advisor. Was this death notice posted prematurely? Or is the career choice of travel consultant one of today's best kept secrets?
The birth of the internet caused dislocations in many professions, but none so drastically as the world of travel. No longer did a travel advisor's knowledge of online booking systems (GDS) offer job security. Outsiders could "speak" expedia and the doors were open to all. Is the Travel Consultant adapting to this new landscape? Some are, some are not. The generalist will not thrive, long live the travel specialist. I don't foresee anyone asking a friend for the best generalist in travel they know or searching online for travel generalist. Not going to happen. The career path of the Luxury Travel Specialist however is bright and may be the best job in the world.
For many, the decision to spend their valuable leisure time and money traveling is one of the most costly investments made each year. Time spent researching travel online is second only to those "researching" porn. The demand is there (for the former) and the need for expert guidance to vet thousands of options grows daily. Those in the know have found travel advisors that they value equally if not over their financial advisor and many do want to keep it a secret. The large banks have private banking divisions to advise top clients on investments, including art, jewelry and even pets. I guarantee that will soon include leisure travel advice if it has not already.
So who are these leaders in the brand new world of travel and how do you find one or become one? They cover the spectrum in age, education and past experience. They all share a passion for exploration and adventure. The best in the field spend months traveling each year to stay up to date and most importantly are real specialists not generalists. Their passion for a particular destination or type of travel (such as cruising) may bias their personal preferences. But they know and have experienced a wide range of options and are not biased by anything more than finding the best match for each client. That is certainly not guaranteed when booking directly with suppliers or with online agencies with other agendas for your money.
The amazing specialists I have met in my years in travel, both at the Smithsonian and now in the retail world, are very busy traveling the world, being wined and dined by those wanting to impress them, serving their clients 24/7 and making lots of money. The bad news is many have more clients than they can handle so they do not seek to market themselves. Some are sharing their expertise with a worldwide public on social media and other media and you can find them there. If you are lucky they will have room to add you to their exclusive list of clients. If you are smart you will look into becoming a luxury travel consultant, the best job in the world.
PS. My specialty is the Middle East, North Africa and the Arabian Gulf. As I write this the Middle East is facing the most threatening challenges in years. Travel is rightly taking a back seat to politics and reality as so often happens. But as your advisor, I recommend a sit and wait posture. For now I will write about travel and how you can find the best specialists in the world to help you. Follow my travels this summer on the Waterways of Russia and beginning August 30 I will be tweeting my way around the world on a private jet expedition. Tough work, but someone has to do it.