Charlie Funk
Charlie Funk

I confess that years ago the travel agency industry was far more complex than I believed. I clearly recall a corporate agent recounting to me all the things she had to do before she could leave at the end of the day. I was in awe of how she could remember to do all those things and why she had to do them.

When I came into our agency full-time some 26 years ago, I quickly came to know the "why" and almost as quickly concluded I needed to figure out the "how." Manual record keeping and tracking were never going to work, even when we were quite a small agency. We had to spend money to remedy that situation.

Travel professionals have always known that this thing we chose to do sometimes requires sacrifice and is always a complex business requiring discipline and attention to detail in dozens of areas. When I joined our agency and it became our sole source of income, things got real in a hurry.

I must say, though, that travel professionals seem to have made it look extremely easy; otherwise, how could one explain the explosion in new entries to the agency industry.

It is true that far too many of those venturing in have been lured by promises of free travel and untold riches to become part of a multilevel marketing pyramid scheme. Still others believed that all that was necessary was to have a website, and people would flock to it, and the money would roll in.

Too many more thought it was all about someone telling them where they wanted to go, and all they had to do was book it and process a credit card. Many aren't truly committed -- witness the frequent posts on social media sites looking for cheap/free tools of the trade.

I know of no other profession with an entry threshold as low as that of the travel industry. And, despite critics of the following opinion, I will forever maintain that we are indeed professionals. Some suggest I have far too high an opinion of what we do. I contend that anyone taking actions that impact another person's single most valuable, irreplaceable resource -- their leisure time -- must be held to a higher standard of conduct.

What I do and how I do it when helping plan travel that regenerates and revitalizes is as important as a diagnosis by a physician or a legal opinion by an attorney. Continuing the analogy, just because I can process a credit card at patient checkout doesn't make me a doctor.

I likely am preaching to the choir, and some are thinking, "Why should I care about this" and are about to move on to the next article.

Here's why you should care: Those instantly minted "travel agents" who are here today and gone tomorrow because they found out this thing was work, or who don't/won't provide the professional services necessary, sully the reputations of those of us who do.

It's like this: The next time someone posts how useless and worthless travel agents are, use the anger and frustration to become part of a movement to require substantial, enforceable licensure and certification before calling oneself a travel advisor.


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