July 24, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

We want to thank those special superheroes who work behind the scenes

Meanwhile travel demand continues to keep the phones ringing. That’s a good thing, and though the workload is sizable, Canada’s travel agents are proving again and again that they’re up to the task.

Jamie Milton, co-owner of Uniglobe Carefree Travel, knows all about it. And that’s why she’s letting the travel advisors at her Saskatoon, SK agency know just how important they are, as the industry marks Travel Agent Day 2024.

“On Travel Agent Day, we want to take a moment to thank those special superheroes who work behind the scenes every day, solving problems and ensuring that the wheels of all the trips keep turning, uninterrupted and bump-free!” Milton tells Travelweek.

She adds: “The work that they do often goes unnoticed … and so on Travel Agent Day, more than ever, we want to ensure that our travel advisors are recognized and thanked with an abundance of gratitude for all they do. We want them to know their hard work is seen, appreciated and recognized and that they are valued.”

It was at Uniglobe Carefree Travel – and thanks to travel advisor Colleen Lorenzen – that Travel Agent Day got its start back in 2011. On the first Wednesday of every May, Travel Agent Day is when travel agencies recognize their hard-working team of agents, and encourage other agency managers and owners, and suppliers, to do the same.

Milton sees first-hand the toll that travel’s labour shortage is taking on retailers. Thankfully there’s good news too, as her agency has recently had success with onboarding new recruits.

“I think what our industry is missing is younger, new agents coming into the industry and I think that’s something we, as a whole, need to continue to promote and work on,” says Milton. “When Uniglobe Carefree has been able to hire younger recruits who have taken some travel courses, they do very well and are very eager to learn.”

Like other experienced travel sellers, Milton has concerns about what will happen if the labour shortage isn’t rectified. “We continue to see agents age out or retire from the industry and there aren’t enough new people coming up to replace them. We feel the labour shortage now, but I fear that if we don’t invest in attracting new people to the industry, this will continue to get worse.”

RECORD SALES & TRAVEL TRENDS

Milton’s own experience with the travel boom includes a sense of relief that demand for trips is starting to plateau. “2023 was the year we finally saw travel return to some semblance of normal,” Milton tells Travelweek.

At an agency level, 2023 started off “a bit chaotic” with the full cancellation of Sunwing’s program from Saskatchewan, as well as several significant weather disruptions that underscored the lack of slack in the airline schedules, she says. “This really brought to light that although demand was back to normal levels, the travel ecosystem was not yet ready to handle normal levels. This allowed travel advisors to really showcase their worth to consumers and drive agency bookings over supplier direct bookings and we were well positioned to take advantage of this. In the end, despite the cancellations and disruption at the start, our sales were up almost 50% in 2023 compared to 2022!”

Milton adds that so far in 2024, in the first quarter, her agency’s sales are 50% higher than the first quarter of 2023. “We continue to see a very high volume of leisure bookings and a return of corporate bookings and inquiries to a wide array of destinations.”

Three trends that Milton is watching include once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences, destination weddings and other big group trips, and weekend getaways.

“There is still a big emphasis on getting those ‘bucket list’ trips under your belt,” she says. “Consumers still have that feeling of urgency to get those big trips in while they are able to do so. Many clients are taking 2-3 big bucket list trips per year.”

Like many in the industry, Milton says she’s also seeing a big uptick in longer cruises, luxury cruises and world cruises.

“There has also been a big return to destination weddings and larger groups of friends and families travelling together, as well as corporate conferences and incentive groups,” she notes. “Lastly, we are seeing a lot of growth in the good value weekend getaways. This may be a result of everyone being busier again with work and activities, but may also be a response to some economic constraints. There are lots of clients booking for Nashville, Las Vegas, Niagara Falls, and so on, for 3-5 day getaways.”

Travelweek asked Milton what she wants most for her team of travel advisors this Travel Agent Day, when it comes to recognition from the agency’s supplier partners. “More than anything, recognition and personal words of thanks go a long way. We love having our suppliers and our clients stop by, call, email or leave reviews with messages of appreciation and thanks.”

The team at Uniglobe Carefree Travel in Saskatoon at Christmas 2023

This story appears in the May 1, 2024 issue of Travelweek; click here.

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