The travel industry is experiencing a renaissance of the Golden Age of Travel, according to Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group. And that’s occurring in concert with the resurgence of the professional travel advisor.
Chacko made his comments Wednesday at the Travel Leaders Group 2019 Industry Outlook at the company’s new global headquarters on Broadway in New York City.
Most people think of the Golden Age of Travel as back when planes and trains were more luxurious, featured attentive personal service and people dressed up to take a trip.
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Now, however, “the world has shrunk” as airlines are offering nonstop service around the world at affordable prices and upscale expedition ships are taking people to exotic destinations, he said. “Prices are super competitive compared to where we were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.”
At the same time, Chacko said, consumers have more choices than ever and are searching for more unique adventures, so they’re increasingly seeking expert advice from professional travel advisors—“someone who understands the vast array of travel choices but also understands their customers.”
He noted that Phocuswright years ago predicted the extinction of travel agents, but now notes that they’re “thriving alongside OTAs and supplier-direct channels.”
Even millennials are turning to travel agents, according to the MMGY “Portrait of the American Traveler” study, which might not be what you expect from the generation that grew up with the internet. “But they’re seeking experiences none of their friends or parents have had,” Chacko said.
He said travel agents could help craft “hyper-intensive itineraries” with the help of tourism boards to meet the desires of their customers.
Trends continuing in 2019 include strong economic conditions, a positive GDP outlook, investment in every travel sector, the rise of the travel advisor and more “conscious travelers” seeking value-based, sustainable, meaningful travel, Chacko said. Challenges include safety and security, overtourism, cybersecurity and the actions of the federal government.
Travel Leaders Group includes 20 brands, 4,200 global employees, 6,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors who together produce a total sales volume exceeding $20 billion.