By Emily Peters
In 2009, MTravel held its first Annual Educational Conference. Our purpose was to bring together all the members of the MTravel family to help independent travel professionals become stronger, more profitable business owners.
Now in our ninth year of the event, and we’ve added countless webinars, regional events, even a new bootcamp-style in-house training to support our agents’ growth. And as we’ve watched that growth, we’ve realized: Professional development is what separates good travel professionals from great ones.
It isn’t optional.
That conviction is a personal one. In challenging times when other travel agencies were disappearing, the Montrose Travel family had to discern what technology, tactics and relationships were necessary to compete with the big guys. Professional development gave us the competitive edge we needed to find success the last 60 years. It wasn’t optional for us—and it’s not optional for any serious travel professional.
The competitive key.
So what exactly is professional development? It’s ongoing education; the choice to invest your time, money and effort in mastering new skills even after you’ve entered into your desired profession.
This choice can take shape in conferences, seminars, webinars, certifications, specialist programs, online courses, networking events or even classes at your local community college. New skills can range from becoming a river cruise expert to leveraging Google analytics to improve your marketing. With each mastered skill, you rise another notch above the competition.
The facts don’t lie.
Over time, we’ve measured the success of independent travel agents who’ve invested in professional development. Among conference attendees, for example, their preferred supplier sales jumped by 200% versus those who didn’t attend. That’s a pretty chunk of change.
“Independent travel professionals who invest in their career development are consistently ahead of the pack,” said MTravel president Andi Mysza. “They consistently out-sell those who neglect that development and are often those winning our top preferred supplier sales and achievement awards.”
Financial stability is likewise impacted by the choice to make professional development a priority. “These agents are more likely to become fully self-employed as a travel professional in a shorter amount of time than agents who don’t engage in training or networking events,” Mysza noted. “Simply put, their success is not accidental—it’s a deliberate pursuit of knowledge that consistently pays off.”
Consider the risks.
There are plenty of reasons to avoid professional development: the expense, the time involved, the commitment. Yet the price to pay for clinging to these excuses is steep.
The number of travel agencies in the US has fallen by more than half in the last 20+ years, but the travel sector itself continues to grow. Travelers are still hungry for new destinations, and are swamped with more options than ever to get there.
Refusing to make time for your career as a travel professional essentially hands your clients to your competitors. It precludes you from speaking authoritatively on the best practices and travel trends that your clients are hungry for. “Sticking with what you know” effectively functions as an expiration date for your travel business—because if you won’t learn the skills, someone else will.
Give yourself the greatest shot at success.
Though there are fewer travel agencies now than 20 years ago, a phenomenon has occurred: the rise of the independent and home based travel professional. These scrappy individuals have redefined the profession, boldly competing with mega agencies with deep industry know-how and an intimate attention to their customers’ needs.
You’re a part of that brave new world. So register for a conference. Attend a webinar. Push yourself to stay relevant. Your clients and your bottom line will thank you for it.
Are you ready to start your independent travel business with MTravel? We are here to help! Contact us here or call us at 800-870-5799. Be sure to check out our website at www.MTravel.com and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.