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The Travel Column 2003-2-27

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We are pleased to bring you The Travel Column, written fortnightly for "The Trinidad Guardian"


On Saturday 15th February the writer had the opportunity to attend a travel agency seminar organized by the Travel Agents Association of Trinidad & Tobago (TAATT) The seminar was conducted by Dr. Robert W. Joselyn, CTC, President and CEO of Joselyn, Tepper & Associates Inc, a travel and tourism industry marketing and management consulting and service firm. Having conducted over 2,000 management and training presentations to virtually every highly regarded organization in the global travel industry – a list that is a veritable who’s who of the global travel industry - it is no secret that Dr. Joselyn is considered to be the authority’ on travel and travel agency issues. The seminar was entitled: Market Shift ... Mind Shift.

The seminar attracted 32 representatives from 15 Trinidad agencies and 32 representatives from 22 agencies from the wider Southern and Eastern Caribbean: Antigua, Dominica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, Aruba and Curacao. The attendees were addressed by the Honorable Minister of Culture and Tourism, Pennelope Beckles, the President of TAATT, Deo Maharaj and the Manager Caribbean Area of Amadeus Global Travel Distribution, LLC, Ricky Jagessar.. Each address was a fit and apt lead-in to the seminar with common threads being change, diversity, competition, technology, and professionalism.

In previous columns we have addressed the issue of travel agency survival – are they obsolete or essential? We have presented perspectives on the future and how to choose a professional travel consultant. It was therefore very comforting to spend the day in the presence of such an esteemed individual as he spoke of the same issues while exploring the paradigm shifts: the Mind Shifts that travel agencies must make to cope with the new business environment they face; and to modify and improve on a business model that has, at its core, remained fundamentally the same for the last fifty years or more.

Dr. Joselyn spoke of the Markets Shifts in the travel industry: changes in technology, changes in competition, changes in the consumer, and changes in distribution relationships … all at an accelerating rate. According to Dr. Joselyn, it should be clear to all who stop to think that the path to prosperity in a changing business ecosystem is to change those things within our control and to adapt to those that are not, while preserving that which is the foundation of the value we bring to the process. He had several recommendations for those agents present:

Recommendation: #1 It’s time to start thinking about a new industry model!"

In the old (current) travel agency business model, our price was the supplier price, the supplier provided our compensation, and we thought this was something we could count on. We never asked the customer for money … our services were free. We, the travel agent, undersold our value … actually we never sold our value!

In two proposed business models Dr. Joselyn looked at (1) the travel agency as a travel retailer … instead of merchandising commodities we merchandise travel products, and (2) an alternative where the travel agency as a travel consultant offers consultancy services, where the agency gets paid for what it does, where the agency has control, where the agency positions its value, where the agency is ‘customer-centric’ and works for and in the interest of the customer.

Market Shifts have mandated that Mind Shifts must occur: Not only will it be necessary for the travel agent to think differently, our customers will have to think differently as well. Which leads us to Dr. Joselyn’s second recommendation

Recommendation: #2: Be Realistic!.

If there is a service involved, Someone has to pay. Dr. Joselyn advised: If there are those who don’t value what we can do enough to pay for it, we should try to educate them. But in the absence of being able to do so we must accept that they are not our market. In essence, we as travel agents, MUST be willing to walk away from ‘public service’ and toward the service business. The travel agency business is a service business. The onus is on the travel agent to educate the customer about the services they provide and the value of these services. Education is the key to effecting Mind Shift.

Dr. Joselyn spoke of The Mind Shifts necessary to achieve Recommendation #2.

Mind Shift #1: The Shift away from thinking of ourselves as primarily being commissioned salespeople for other people’s products to primarily being professional facilitators of customer travel needs.

Mind Shift #2: The Shift away from asking yourself "how much can I afford to give away the commissions we receive" to "what is the customer willing to pay for".

Recommendation: #3 Reinvent Your Value Proposition

If we are in the service business we must meet the customers needs. However it’s time to realize that what got us to the dance may not be what keeps us dancing. As travel agents we must enhance the value we have always provided while at the same time embracing our customers needs with new and innovative value.

The new reality of today is that the primary competition for those most likely to use an agency is no longer the agency down the block but whether to use an agency at all. The consumer views travel as a high risk purchase … intangible promises of future benefits to be delivered by people and organizations half way around the world. To reduce this risk the consumer will seek out personal reassurance from an expert … the professional travel agent.

Ricky Jagessar of Amadeus said: "the future looks bright for professional and competent travel agencies". The use of professional service providers such as doctors, lawyers, accountants isn’t questioned. Similarly if one is going to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars, as well as a good chunk of valuable leisure or business time, it makes absolute sense to use a professional. All professionals charge fees for their services. Fees vary from one company to another, from one individual to another. The question is what service and value do you get relative to the fee that is charged.

In today’s business environment, a professional travel consultant's time and opinion are valuable, so be prepared to pay a fee for their services. Today’s professional travel agencies, with trained, professional travel consultants, should and do, charge fees for their services, which should be viewed no differently to those of other service professionals.

Catherine de Gannes-Martin, Managing Director
February 27, 2003


Previous Travel Columns

bulletThe Travel Column 2003-2-13
bulletThe Travel Column 2003-1-30
bulletThe Travel Column 2003-1-16
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-11-28
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-11-14
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-31
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-17
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-10-3
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-19
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-5
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-22
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-8
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-25
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-11
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-6-27

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