Only a couple years ago, the term “Millennial” was almost taboo. Travel advisors as a whole weren’t sure how to handle this new group of travelers. Are they good for business? Will they just take my advice and book online? Are they truly luxury travelers?
In November 2017, former president of Protravel International and current editor-at-large for Luxury Travel Advisor, Priscilla Alexander argued that older advisors need not be afraid of Millennials (“Millennials love to travel, seeing it not as a reward but a vital part of their life agendas,” she says). Less than one year later, “Millennial” has become more synonymous with a mindset than an age. Ruthanne Terrero, VP – content/editorial director for Luxury Travel Advisor, realized that older travelers realized they like the same, local experiences as Millennials. “The funny thing that happened over these past five years is that we all became Millennials,” Terrero says.
We accepted that Millennials are good for travel advisors.
Josh Alexander, a New York City-based advisor for Protravel, took it one step further. He noted that the industry needed to get younger—not just its clients. He told us how important it was for him to have a mentor when he entered the industry, and that there’s still plenty of work to be done to help facilitate those entering the field.
Luxury Travel Advisor recently spoke with Wendy Burk, CEO and founder of Cadence Travel, who also sees the need for more Millennials in the workplace. Currently, there are 25 (of 50) employees who are Millennials working for the San Diego-based agency. Burk also says that roughly 25 percent of the 180 independent affiliates are Millennials ("and that number is growing").
Why does Burk see the need for the industry to get younger?
"Because we're getting older," she says.
Burk adds: "The idea is that in order to remain relevant, we (the industry) need people that have incredible technology skills to share with those that have the experience. It's a really wonderful time right now where the foundation is being built."
Cadence Travel has an apprenticeship program based off this concept; in fact, it's titled "Where Technology Meets Experience." One experienced advisor will take on only one apprentice and they create a customized approach for training them. It allows the advisor to share how they communicate with customers, teach them the ins and outs of the industry and more. The apprentice, Burk says, can even teach some of the less-tech-savvy advisors some tips, such as the best Instagram practices.
To help accommodate Millennials, Cadence has given its advisors and independent affiliates plenty of flexibility in the way they conduct their business. The agency has also uses various online tools to help its advisors, such as Lattice, Marketo and Salesforce.
Burk does warn that Millennials operate differently. "I really think that we all need to be open to the fact that every single one of them likes to sit with their own headsets on—they're all listening to their own music." However, "their travel style is all experiential and that's a really big plus for us, for getting out of the cookie-cutter travel experience."
Where does Cadence find Millennials who want to work in travel?
Burk tells us that Cadence works with two local colleges, San Diego State University and Southwestern College, to find the newest potential advisors. Both colleges have hospitality programs and the professors are more than willing to help Cadence find students who would be interested in an apprenticeship. Cadence also works directly with The Travel Institute to help find new advisors, Burk says.
Cadence is also open to new advisors who don't have a hospitality background, however. 'Bring your children to work'-type days have also been successful for Cadence, we're told. Burk says that Cadence now has five employees who were brought in by their parents and joined the industry through their advisor program.
What are the top traits that Burk looks for in a potential new advisor?
"Passion for adventure. Loving to do different things. Being stimulated by new opportunities every day," she says. "But the most important things are they have to be service-minded; they have to be in a giving type of model, where they want to share the idea of creating experiences; and they have to be flexible because, in our industry, things change so often and there are so many things that we don't actually have control over once the trip actually takes place."
Burk recommends that new advisors partake in travel-focused groups outside of work, particularly those run by and comprising Millennials. Cadence's director of marketing is on the board for Young Travel Professionals' chapter in San Diego. (Another option is Millennials in Travel.) Burk says organization that can bring together like-minded individuals, where they have the opportunity to learn from those already in the business, aren't only great resources for Millennials, but that they're essential to the industry.
But, why should Millennials join the travel industry?
There are some pretty simple reasons why travel is a great industry, namely the travel and exposure to other cultures. However, there are plenty of other reasons why the travel industry can stand above the others.
"Our differentiators are the passion that we have for the industry, our sense of community, and our sense of purpose," Burk tells us.
It's also a great industry for relationship-driven people, we're told. "At the end of the day, we're in the relationship business," she says. "It's our relationship with our vendors that are going make us look great to our customers. All the elite access that we have is based on the relationship that we have with our valued partners in the industry."
Burk tells us that Cadence, specifically, is a great workplace for Millennials. Some team-building activities that Cadence hosts includes bowling nights, picnics, happy hours and yoga. Cadence also hosts retreats for its employees. It's a great way to build morale and a more close-knit office.
"I think more than anything, our goal is for us to bring young people into the industry, for Millennials to become global citizens," Burk tells Luxury Travel Advisor.
"We need more people who have a passion for travel, and who want to see and feel and be immersed in other cultures. I think that is what brought me into the business 30-plus years ago and I think that's still our means—having the passion for serving and being able to really immerse yourself."