Sitting in a meeting a few days back, as I introduced myself and said, I have been a part of this Industry since 1989, one of the participants very innocently said, I was born in that year, at that moment it didn’t mean much as we were all just doing the introductions, however as I was driving back that day from the meeting, there were flashbacks of what I had learned and how that had shaped me to be what I am today.
As I went through the nearly 3 decades that I have been a part of this Industry, I realized how many times we reinvented ourselves. for my younger audience here, let me walk you through what life was like working for a travel company in the 80s and early 90s.
We Signed a register as we walked in, there was no clock in time mentioned and you didn’t have a clock out time ever. At office start time + 15 minutes the register would be in the office of the GM / Manager and if you came late you just went to his cabin to sign. Never was a word spoken about the fact that you were late. The sheer act of going to the chief’s cabin to sign was embarrassment enough.
There were no computers and Emails, there were 5 main modes of communication
- Snail Mail
You got your bookings on Telex messages (which also had a separate operator), you used the phone to confirm everything, You followed up by making a reservation request in triplicate. Two Copies for the Vendor (Hotel / Airlines / Transport) one copy for your file. This was then either sent by messenger (if the booking was less than 3 months away) or by snail mail if it was greater than 3 month period. Airline bookings always went by messenger. You drafted a reply on behalf of your Boss and kept it on his table, If your boss was happy with your reply, he signed it, and you left it at the Telex operators console. (The Telex Operator was GOD because he was the only one who could operate that monstrosity which spewed messages and made a racket.) Mine was seldom happy with my replies, which always got me a mouthful of obscenities, which was quite OK in those days, we didn’t mind being yelled at and called Idiots and duffers, most of the times we were. We didn’t have the Internet and Google to spell out things for us and tell us how to do things) so every day was a learning experience.
What we did have were processes, which ensured that everything we did was by the book. If we innovated and it was good, there was a pat on the back and it was made a part of the process, we were never given any recognition for the tweaks. We didn’t even seek it. If it went wrong we just heard whatever we were told, we didn’t go running to HR and needed a counsellor to console us.
What we did do a lot of was we learned, we reinvented ourselves, we found solutions by asking around, there was no shame in asking and learning. We didn’t say, I will google that later. If there as a training that was being held, we begged, we pleaded and we went. We were like sponges ready to soak in any information we were given. We could tell about the number of rooms the Hotels we used regularly had. We knew the people in reservations by name and they knew us, it was normal to go over every once in a while and take snacks with you for them. If our reservation was waitlisted on the Airlines (those days it was only Indian Airlines) for domestic flight and Indian Airlines had a control room which worked on charts for the flights, we would go and sit outside the control room from 2200 – 0600 as that was the time they usually entertained Travel Agents requests. We didn’t say it wasn’t a part of our Job description or it was beneath us.
We reinvented ourselves every day and wore whatever cap was needed on that day. That my friends is what I see missing today, I get calls from Agents asking me for things, which are literally a few clicks away, but they don’t even want to do that. It seems that the majority of the the people have stopped learning.
I don’t mean that they don’t want to learn, I am just stating that learning as a whole has stopped, everything is “a me too” product, no innovations, Today the Travel Industry has become a big copy and paste. I just see innovation coming from a few selected companies and people. Anyone and any company which has reinvented itself has come far. New Ideas are like a breath of fresh air which even your clients want. Guess what happens if you don’t upgrade and re-invent yourself, the same Internet which gives you learning, gives your clients the learning too and I have seen it more often than not, “Money goes from where Information and innovation flows” I see every day how much of the Business goes away to the destinations directly as few people offer Innovative products.
Where I see some Junior team members being Innovative, the next in line manager gets scared, what if this idea clicks I will be made redundant. (Yes you would be and you should be, you stopped learning). I know that a lot of you can do a lot better than what you are doing today and want to learn a lot of new things, but all you need is some coaching and Guidance, a little nudge here and a push there but either you don’t know where to look or whom to ask. This Industry has been very generous to me and has given me abundantly and all my colleagues from the West Coast of the USA to New Zealand have helped me become a Global Player, they have taught me things which I didn’t know and made me what I am today. If my 3 decades of experience can help you become a better player in the Industry then pick up the phone and call me or email me. I will be your coach, I will Guide you and help you. The Industry gave me and I hope that I can give to you. (One request please, Don’t discuss with me about Job Changes and politics in your organisation, I don’t want to have anything to do with it, I am ready to Guide you and help you to go to the next level)
Today my dear friends and colleagues the clients today are not the same, Clients have upgraded themselves to V 2.0 so why are you stuck at V1.0 still, reinvent yourself, Unleash your creativity and potential.