In Support of Agents

ROBIN AMSTER | JANUARY 12, 2016 12:00 PM ET

Travel agents landed solidly in the Winners column in a year-end story I wrote on the year’s Winners and Losers. The reasons: Among others, we’re hearing compelling stories from individual agents and seeing impressive sales figures from agent groups to back up the buzz that agents are “back.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s all sweetness and light on the agent front. At least one Florida agent sees the need for far more awareness of the value of agents.

Leila Coe, an independent contractor with World Class Travel in Gainesville, has taken matters into her own hands by introducing a multi-faceted agent awareness campaign and, so far, hundreds of other agents have joined her.

A newly launched website, www.travelagentawareness.com, provides information on the campaign and allows agents to submit their contact information to be listed on the site as a supporter.

Coe’s initial effort, a Travel Agent Awareness Week, was held this past Nov. 1 to 7. “I was sick of agents complaining on Facebook forums and elsewhere so I decided to do something about it,” she says.

The “grass roots” campaign focused on a Facebook group Coe started. She asked agents to post on Facebook—and other social media—on a variety of topics, including Why Use a Travel Agent, Your Specialties, What Your Typical Day as a Travel Agent is Like, and, The Future of Travel.

A blog post from Jeanne Morris, of JMorris Travel in Monroe, Georgia, beautifully sums up exactly what an agent does. Instead of paraphrasing, here’s what Jeanne, a family travel specialist, wrote:

“I really wish I had something glamourous here – Travel for Free . . . I’m a millionaire doing what I love. . . Famous Clients. . . But in truth, being a Travel Professional is WORK!

“Do I travel?  Yes.  For free?  Hardly!  Am I am millionaire?  Uh, not even close!  Do I love my job?  Absolutely!  Do I have famous clients?  Not really, but I do strive to make them feel like Rock Stars!

“My job consists of research, dealing with suppliers, making plans and itineraries (and then changing them a million times to make them perfect), waiting on hold to make changes on a client’s trip (sometimes so long it is easy to forget why. . . or even who I am calling!), quoting different options, and more research. 

“My job consists of explaining to people that I don’t get paid until they travel (and only then if they book through me).

“My job consists of going over each family’s plans with a fine-toothed comb to make sure their getaway is perfect for them.

“My job consists of putting my own family life on hold when I have clients travelingI’m constantly checking weather forecasts and scanning the news headlines in case there is something that may affect my clients currently traveling.

“I answer frantic texts and phone calls from clients with questions or problems. 

“Yup, my job is not glamourous.  But when you see your client post on Facebook about how wonderful their Family Getaway was (and you know your part in it) and how precious the memories they made together as a family, it is all worth it!”

Coe has now introduced other initiatives as part of what she envisions as a continuing campaign.

The latest is a call for agents to boost awareness by seeking out someoneto interview them—whether that’s a client, a friend or local or national media.

Coe plans to make the 2016 campaign a quarterly event consisting of February, May and August events plus another week-longevent next November.

May's theme will be memes but the details have yet to be worked out for that or for August. Next November will once again feature daily topics for agents to post about on Facebook, their own blogs or other social media platforms.

“I just want to share with the public why we are here and why we do what we do; that we are not a computer but use real human intellect, emotion and common sense when putting together our clients trips,” says Coe. “And that we care about our clients in ways that Orbitz never can.”