We’re thrilled to present our monthly published column for Agent@Home Magazine, also featured here on TravelPulse.com, about the changing trends as they relate to millennials in the travel industry!
Whenever I tell others about my career of choice, I’m usually met with one of two responses: bewilderment or wonder. “Do travel agents still exist?” and “How did you get that job?” are two of my favorite questions in the entire world — which is a good thing, considering how often those questions come up.
I’ve found travel to be one of the most dynamic industries in the world. Indeed, each and every individual has a unique story about how they landed in their travel career. Growing up as a millennial, I certainly didn’t have a Travel Agent Barbie to play with and give me dreams of one day planning vacations. I always like to say that travel found me—and I’m very fortunate that it did.
During my sophomore year of college, I studied abroad at the Cannes Film Festival because I thought I wanted a career in the film industry. As I faced rejection after rejection while trying to get into screenings of the best movies released in 2009, I nursed my broken heart and broken dreams with a spontaneous trip around other parts of Europe. During our one long weekend, my friends and I decided to hop on an overnight train to the most Italian place we could imagine—Venice.
Most of our journey to Venice was spent on an overbooked train where the six of us were crammed into a two-and-a-half-foot wide hallway leading to the bathroom. We found rest only when the other passengers did not have to use the facilities; otherwise we were made to stand up straight, like a line of convicts, to allow those fortunate enough to have a seat to squeeze by us.
After one of these sleepless nights, I never expected to feel what I did when I stumbled out of the Santa Lucia train station into the city of Venice. I walked to the edge of the Rialto Bridge just in time to watch the rays of a Venetian sunrise bounce off of the canals. The swelling inside of my heart was so big and so obvious that I knew I would never be satisfied if I didn’t spend the rest of my life pursuing moments just like this. Right on the Rialto, I fell in love with the idea of travel and the joy, restoration and transformation that it brings.
Upon my return to the U.S., I began looking for a summer job in an office position in my college town. Thinking that just being in an environment where I could learn more about the world would be beneficial, I went to a local travel agency, which promptly turned me away for having no travel industry experience. Of course I had no experience, I had just turned 20!
Later that very summer, while visiting my family in my hometown of Columbus, Ga., my mother sent me on an errand to a travel agency to grab a brochure for a family cruise we were taking. Without much thought to it, I walked in and introduced myself to the agency owners who had planned the trip. Over the course of our conversation, during which I shared stories from my study abroad in Cannes, the agency owners saw something in me that I never would have recognized in myself.
They asked if I would be interested in planning honeymoons, which took me by surprise. I was completely skeptical of how an unmarried college student could possibly sell a honeymoon but, ever the optimist, I took the position and walked out with a part-time job that would eventually turn into a full-time career and, this year, lead to the launch of my own business, Epperly Travel, a Virtuoso affiliate of Century Travel.
I share this story to encourage other agency owners to open their eyes and their doors to the millennials who are essential to revitalizing this industry. We come with little to no office expertise and according to most studies we have an undeserved sense of entitlement (thanks, social media). But we also come with a passion for this world that is so relentless that we will do anything possible to succeed—even if it means traveling on an overbooked cross-country train, which fortunately I’ve never had to do again.
It still gives me chills to think about how travel takes our breath away, the way it catches us when we least expect it, and it’s my greatest joy to give that same experience to my clients. I am by no means an expert on how to navigate this changing industry, but I am thrilled to share my insights in this column going forward.