The group, which launched earlier this year in Los Angeles, has already expanded to five cities. The newest chapter, in Washington, D.C., is set to launch next week.
Chapters now exist in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago and San Diego. Anyone who was born in 1975 or later can join the community.
Supporting one another
Gary Oakley, officer of development for the Miami chapter, explained the organization’s reason for being. “The purpose of the group is to network and meet like-minded people for support from different areas of the travel business.
“We have been planning events every month; our second event is next week at the Soho Beach House on South Beach,” he said. “The idea is to bring millennials together – to have a voice in the industry and to grow business in our area.”
Oakley is vice president of travel services for House of Travel in Aventura, Fla. He told Travel Market Report that he was surprised by the strength – and youth – of the local travel agent community.
“I didn’t realize we had so many young travel agents in the South Florida area,” said Oakley. More than 60 travel industry professionals have joined the Miami chapter since its launch on June 20.
Mentoring program for students
Although the Miami chapter is only months old, Oakley is already in talks with educational institutions about finding ways to expose young people to the travel industry.
“We’re partnering with local colleges and universities to start a mentorship program where students come out and perhaps do some shadowing at our offices to get a feel for things,” said Oakley. He mentioned Johnson & Wales University as a potential partner.
Barriers to attracting young agents
While the technology side of the business can be daunting to newcomers, he hopes that hands-on training can help draw more to the travel agency community.
“I think the biggest thing missing is that millennials see Amadeus or Sabre and get scared because it is foreign to them,” said Oakley.
“Also the whole travel agent name was not attractive. In my agency we like to be known as travel consultants.”
Oakley first became involved in Millennials in Travel after finding it hard in his early days to relate to the more experienced travel consultants with whom he works.
“I felt lonely; it was hard for me at first to communicate with the more mature and older employees,” admitted Oakley. “I wondered why we don’t have a lot of young people in the industry.”
After joining ASTA’s Young Professionals Society, he began corresponding with Millennials in Travel. He saw an opportunity to leverage the skills of millennials and draw in a younger workforce to the travel industry.
“We communicate differently, understand things in a different way and want to bring those qualities into the travel world,” said Oakley. “We want young people to know this is fun.”
Does not charge dues, yet
Currently membership in Millennials in Travel is free, but the group plans to start charging a membership fee sometime soon, Oakley said.
“Right now we are a nonprofit, but we will charge for membership and access to our database soon,” said Oakley.
See earlier story: New Trade Assn. Aims to Unite Millennials in Travel