Brownell CEO & President Troy Haas shares his predictions on what the new decade will bring for the travel industry.
Travel has the rare and unique ability to touch hearts, open minds, and connect people of the world in a deep and meaningful way. (I assert there is no industry that can say the same.) Right now, we are in a pretty amazing moment in the travel industry. The world is more accessible than ever, and people are making travel priority.
We are also an industry at the mercy of political, economic, and natural disruption where everything can change in an instant. And although the industry has seen ups and downs, people’s desire to see the world has remained steadfast. With more than 130 years at the forefront of the travel industry (Brownell, not me personally. I am closing in on my 27th year), I feel confident in making a few travel industry predictions for the decade we’ve just begun.
Prediction 1: The Travel Industry will earn more recognition – and take more responsibility – for being a driving global economic force.
The travel industry is the world’s largest industry, providing 10% of the world’s jobs. It also is responsible for 1 in 5 new jobs, the most job growth of all industries worldwide. And more than an economic force, we know travel is a force for good. We have seen more economists and government leaders pay heed to the impact of tourism and that attention to the industry will grow.
Our responsibility beyond our clients’ trips is also increasing. More and more advisors see the important humanitarian and sustainability role they play in driving tourism, most recently with the wildfires in Australia. They will play a stronger role in giving back to destinations as well as helping clients to the same.
Prediction 2: Travel firms that focus on human experience, complemented by technology (and not the other way around) will not only weather any economic downturns, but will also post growth in sales and revenue.
The travel industry continues to thrive because there is a relentless demand from clients to experience the world. We are all seeing it, from all age groups across the country. That tired truism about shifting from buying stuff to experiences, well, it’s still true. The human heart yearns for connection, for meaning, and there seems a collective understanding that travel is a wonderful way to meet this inherent need. That gives us a dynamic environment for our careers and business. Technology may allow for more fluent work situations and collaboration, but it’s no substitute for human listening and understanding.
Prediction 3: Roll-ups and IPOs in the travel agency space will offer a great opportunity to privately-held agencies who offer boutique and concierge-level services based on personal relationships between advisors and clients.
With great growth also comes consolidation. We are seeing the expansion of “Mega-Agencies”, backed by Wall Street and venture capital money, acquiring smaller agencies at a record pace. Most often, the roll-ups are an exit strategy for agency owners, but they offer very little upside for the advisors or their clients. Agencies who value and put an emphasis on culture – human connection, community, and care – create an environment where advisors and clients flourish.
Prediction 4: Experienced travelers consider exploration and experiences a necessity, not a luxury. Knowledgeable travelers will not curb their travel, they but will alter their planning patterns and how they allocate their travel dollars.
If there is one absolute truth in the travel industry, it is that change and disruption are a guarantee. Economic uncertainty, elections, terrorism, and natural disasters are an unfortunate, yet undeniable thread in the fabric of our work. Most economic analysts agree that we are headed towards an economic downturn, or “semi-recession.”
While experienced travelers will not sacrifice the number of trips they take, or forgo their creature comforts, they will mix 5-star accommodations with lesser-priced, alternative-accommodations and mix “high/low” experience activities. For example: In a single trip, clients will hire a private driver and guide for a few days, and then self-explore via public transportation for the other days.
In this wonderful moment of travel our team at Brownell – our staff, advisors, independent contractors, and travel partners – are well-positioned for the next decade. Ours is a culture based on our core values of Passion, Integrity, Graciousness, Innovation and Excellence. I don’t predict that the next decade at Brownell will be much different from the past 13 decades we have operated – our focus will continue to be on building trusting relationships with our clients and travel partners around the world. We will be a company with whom our staff and independent advisors are proud to work. We will be the travel firm our supplier partners enjoy doing business with regularly. And we will be the best in the business of delivering exceptional travel experiences to our clients.