TRAVEL MARKET REPORT
Agency Industry Seen Losing Its Young Entrants
Attracting a younger workforce to the industry has long been a major concern for agency owners. But Ryan McGredy, president of ASTA’s Young Professionals Society, sees a far more pressing challenge – getting young newcomers to stay.
Growing numbers of young people are joining the agency industry, he says; they’re just not sticking around.
McGredy, who worked as a web engineer before joining the travel industry in 2008, is owner of Moraga Travel in Moraga, Calif., an Ensemble agency with a 50/50 leisure-corporate mix.
He began his term as president of YPS in September 2012. The organization now boasts about 400 agent members under the age of 40.
Travel Market Report spoke with McGredy about his vision for YPS, his thoughts on attracting young people to the industry and how to attract a younger clientele.
Does the industry have a problem drawing in younger agents?
McGredy: I see a couple of sides to this issue. I don’t think the problem is attracting young people to the industry. I think we have a training, integration and retention problem. A lot of young people who join the industry don’t really stay for the long-term, and a lot of agencies don’t really know how to bring people into their organization.
The problem isn’t just getting the recent college graduates; it’s getting the 35- to 40-year-olds with business knowledge and experience who can inherit what the current generation is passing down.
So, you’re satisfied with the number of younger people joining the industry?
McGredy: I think we’re at a point that’s good for us. We’re getting in front of recent college graduates, since they’re having trouble finding jobs elsewhere. They’re looking to make a difference in peoples’ lives, so we’re making some headway there.
We are also seeing people coming over from other industries, Gen Xers who spent 10 years in a career they didn’t find overly rewarding.
Are you concerned about the state of industry education today?
McGredy: There’s a problem providing entry into the industry, since there’s no real true source to go to. Every place used to have travel schools where there was a real path.
That’s one place we really try to help, at least in being a networking base where there are people who get referred to us. We try to introduce them to people in their area who might be a good fit for them to get involved with.
How did you first get involved in YPS?
Ryan McGredy: I was looking everywhere I could to find information on how to run a travel agency and joined ASTA. When I was filling out the form, I indicated that I was under 40 and joined the YPS. A couple of months later I got an email from them asking me to go on a free trip to Jamaica. It was a great trip, traveling with other people in a similar situation to mine.
What’s new for YPS in 2013?
McGredy: We’re in a big transition phase. We shifted our structure from committee to a full-fledged community of ASTA; we have our own budget, direction and board.
We’ve been working on talking with supplier and consortia sponsors about how we can build a coalition together that represents the next generation of the industry.
What kind of events is YPS planning right now?
McGredy: We’re going to continue doing the things we’ve always done. We have a trip in a couple of weeks to Guatemala.
We also have started doing webinars on topics that appeal to the travel industry as a whole but from the YPS perspective. The webinars are on things like social media and how to target the Generation Y consumer.
We’re also working on an event in Fort Lauderdale this year where we’re going to have five speakers, TED-style, presenting rapid-fire presentations, followed by structured discussions about where we’re going to gather data on the next generation of the travel agent workforce.
How can travel agents appeal to a younger clientele?
McGredy: It’s a difficult task, because travel is such a relationship-based business. From a customer perspective, you do business with people you can relate to. If your target is boomers, it’s great if you’re a boomer and relate to them.
For me, being a father of two who works in the business with my sister, the family market is huge for us. We have another young agent who’s focused on honeymoon business, because the brides come in and she’s the same age. We find a lot of success there.