This article is in honor of Travel Agent Appreciation Day, May 4th. Currently, nearly 80 travel advisors are counted among the ATTA’s registered members and there will be a record 30 agents attending the 2016 Adventure Travel World Summit in Alaska in September.
While spotting a brick-and-mortar travel agency on a street corner in this day and age may seem to be the equivalent of a rare bird sighting, this by no means signifies their extinction. On the contrary, behind every internet browser and through the dozens of pages sporting the names of online travel conglomerates, lies a licensed travel agency with experienced industry advisors on staff who are ready to assist at a moment’s notice. Some savvy adventure travelers might color themselves shocked at this realization, but should we truly be surprised? The list of triumphs in the game of relevancy that travel advisors have accomplished over the years is quite astounding, after all. Not only have they survived the dot com boom, a phenomenon that was predicted to be their sole and inevitable downfall, but they have continued to prove their worth to the do-it-yourselfers of the world while simultaneously adapting to the newest generation of consumers who demand and expect instant gratification. Their key to success? Specialization.
Though adventure travel was once considered an untapped niche by the agency community, interest in selling adventure has since seen a positive shift. In the past, the majority of industry leaders blamed adventure travelers’ young and independent demographic, assuming that those who opt for adventure are daredevils and thrill seekers who wouldn’t dream of using a service to plan their spontaneity. ATTA research shows that in reality, the most risk-taking group of adventure travelers — designated “enthusiasts” in our Adventure Pulse report — are actually the most likely to use a travel agent or a tour operator: nearly 50% are using the adventure industry’s services. Enthusiasts value the knowledge and expertise of travel advisors and tour operators because they are experts in their niche and seek expert advice. Furthermore, our research shows that the younger the enthusiast, the more likely he or she is to book multiple, if not all, aspects of a trip through a travel agent or advisor.
Travel advisors are frequently selling adventure travel, which can easily be explained by simply broadening the definition of “adventure.” ATTA’s own definition of adventure travel is, of course, any trip that includes at least two of the following characteristics: physical activity, a connection to nature and the environment, and an immersive cultural experience. By such definition, the adventure travel community can be opened to a more diverse population that includes both soft adventures (bird watching, canoeing, fishing) as well as hard adventures (caving, climbing, and trekking).
Because of its diverse demographic, more and more adventure tour operators are beginning to work alongside travel advisors in order to enhance the inclusion of adventure travel in future itineraries. ATTA member, G Adventures’ Affiliate Program is just one of the many strategies that are being utilized today.
In 2015, the ATTA and Travel Leaders signed an exclusive, three-year agreement to create and execute a specialization training program for agents to become Active & Adventure Travel Specialists. Qualifying participants include both those Travel Leaders who already possess a level of expertise in this vital industry segment and those who wish to become more proficient at selling active and adventure travel. In its first year over 70 Travel Leaders have signed up for the Active & Adventure Specialist training program.
The ATTA wants to continue to help bridge the gap among thriving travel agents and their adventure tour operator counterparts, which is why we are offering a Travel Agent Workshop at our upcoming AdventureELEVATE event in Saguenay, Quebec. Led by training specialist Liz Cherne of Travel Leaders, this interactive roundtable session will encourage dialog and allow travel advisors and tour operators face-to-face opportunities to discuss the importance of sustainable/adventure travel and how to improve and increase awareness. Travel advisors will also share insight into their successful sales relationships, covering essential partnership expectations as well as how suppliers and operators can best prepare agents to match travelers with their ideal experiences.
Adventure travel and travel agents are two industry components that defy expectations, both not only transcending obstacles from all corners of the trade but also continuing to grow in success and popularity along the way. Let us help you connect and grow together at this year’s AventureELEVATE. Join us and fellow adventure-minded travel agents June 6 – 7, 2016, in Saguenay, Quebec, for one of the most anticipated industry events of the year.