*Trigger Warning* Yes, yet another article that champions women, but celebrates the travel advisor community**
Working as a travel advisor hasn’t always been so rosy. I’ve had an array of jobs over the years and this by far is one of the most difficult. Mostly because I spend half of my day justifying my profession. “Who needs travel agents when you have the internet” Or “Oh, I don’t want to pay fees, I book everything online.” And my favourite, “travel agents are more expensive.” You may be one of those folks that books all of their own trips, or maybe you’ve used a travel advisor in the past and didn’t really see the benefit, or maybe you just don’t see the point in using a travel advisor, and that’s okay. But perhaps I can sway you a bit.
Travellers like yourself who book online are independent minded. You like to do your own thing. You think outside the box. You might really enjoy the research process. You probably have your go-to travel websites. And at the end of the day, you want the most bang for your buck. But if entrusting your travel plans to a travel advisor meant you could have everything you wanted for your trip, and made a direct, and meaningful impact on someone’s life, would you do it?
There are hundreds of articles out there explaining why you should book with a travel advisor. Heck, I even wrote one of my own this year. And thankfully, the message has resonated. My profession has made a healthy comeback this year. Travellers of the Millennial and Gen X generation are finally realizing the host of benefits travel advisors offer. Exclusive perks, unparalleled expertise, a strong voice of advocacy when things go wrong, and access to an infinite array of products, just to name a few. The sky is the limit if you’re willing to work with a travel advisor. But what these articles don’t discuss is how booking with a travel advisor directly impacts an essential part of the tourism industry: Small business owners. Entrepreneurs. Women.
According to Skift.com, women make up just over 70% of the travel consulting positions across America. However, only 33% are actually leading travel organizations. Which means, despite their abundance of experience, women continue to be overlooked for senior positions. But the tide is turning and women are finding new ways to create opportunities. We are drawing attention to new travel niches including ethnic-focused and underrepresented groups, we are founding unique travel brands, and for independent agents like myself, we’ve left the traditional brick and mortar agencies behind to break free of the old model to promote travel our way.
In addition to female travel advisors comprising of the majority of the workforce, many of us make partnering with grassroots, female-run organizations in local communities a priority, especially in developing nations. As an adventure travel specialist, I often choose travel companies such as G Adventures and Intrepid, that focus on the empowerment of women through locally run collectives to lift women and their community out of poverty through partnerships, rather than the ineffective international aid model.
I am proud to belong to a number of female travel advisor groups, of all varieties, specializing in various niches, destinations, and travel styles. These environments are professional, full of mentorship, innovative ideas, encouragement, an infinite amount of knowledge for every possible scenario, representing over 120 countries around the world, and boasting travel experiences from 195 nations (yes, EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY). Most of us have never met, yet we’re a close-knit community who share one important thing in common: The desire to show our clients the world their way.
So how can booking with a travel advisor, make a positive impact?
Booking with a travel advisor is more than a credit card transaction and the hope that you get a great holiday out of it. In most cases, you are supporting small business, and supporting innovation. It means you’re helping a mom, like myself, support her family and put money away for my son’s college fund. It means you could be helping a retired Air Force veteran like my friend *Katlyn stoke her passion to share the world with her clients, from outside the confines of her uniform. Your trip to the Napa Valley or family vacation to Croatia could be helping my colleague *Nicole keep amazing mom *Janine, a retired history professor with early Alzheimer’s, out of a seniors home and living independently with around-the-clock-care, so she can spend the rest of her days, sipping Earl Grey in her beloved library. There is a mosaic of stories behind our little army of human search engines.
We don’t work in gargantuan call centres, in teeny cubicles, with a binder full of aggressive sales protocol staring us in the face. Some of us work in co-operative work spaces (that we pay for ourselves as part of our overhead). Some of us work out of our home offices. And some of us work from the road because we mobile consult with clients. We’re invested. Dedicated. For us, your holiday is personal.
Now, after I’ve said all of that, I certainly don’t want to discredit all of the incredible male travel advisors who work tirelessly to provide incredible travel experiences for their clients. I am proud to call each and everyone of them a colleague. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you book with, you’re still supporting small business over large scale online giants that see you as little more than a confirmation number, and that’s a good thing. I merely wanted to give you some food for thought if you’ve ever wondered how booking with a female travel advisor can often make a difference. Women still face challenges that men do not in the workplace, especially when they choose to have a family. Women are still getting paid less than men in many organizations. Owning their own travel business means they can provide for themselves, and/or take care of their families on their terms, without “losing their place” in the work force and without salary bias.
*Names have been altered to respect privacy