Evolution sometimes happens so gradually that we can forget about it until we stop, look back and see where we've been. The publication of our Travel Industry Survey with this issue provides just such an opportunity.
Since 1970, we have been regularly commissioning original research into the structure, business mix and business practices of the nation's travel agents.
In the 1984 version, precisely 25 years ago, we determined that the business was 69% domestic and the biggest-selling product was air travel, at 63%.
At the time, the travel agency business was on a growth spurt fueled by the decade's hottest new business tool, the GDS. The Internet and the airlines' successive rounds of commission-cutting were still a decade away.
In 1984, nobody was predicting that 25 years in the future, the domestic slice of the business would fall to nearly 50% and air travel would account for a mere 24% of total sales, but those are this year's numbers.
Are these good numbers?
We would not venture to answer that question, but we suspect they are good because they are different. They show that the business has changed and that agents have adapted to change. In business at least, that is what evolution is all about: the process of adapting to change. It never ends.
The best thing that can happen in a dynamic business such as travel is whatever process can make your business stronger and more adaptable. Over the long term, that almost never means staying put.