In the 26th session of Survive and Revive, Richard invited Josh Thorpe, founder of Travel Edjo, to discuss the future of the travel industry, and where Josh’s new business can fit in. Finding himself stood down as a result of the recent pandemic, Josh founded a Facebook group called ‘AUS Travel Agents – Preparing for the New Travel Industry’ and has kept his days busy by holding daily chats with various suppliers about their plans, their challenges and the future. This recently led to the launch of Travel Edjo, a platform for travel agents to source travel industry education, supplier driven training, self directed learning, product knowledge, and much more all in one place.
How Have Agent's Lives Changes And How Will They Continue To Change?
It would be safe to say that there’s not a single person in the travel industry whose life hasn’t been changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Josh doesn’t believe he was personally affected as much as those around him, he felt that there were many members of the industry who could benefit from the resources he could provide. While most affected people immediately went into survival mode, Josh realised that there was still a need for a long-term change of direction, and one which would be difficult for many agents to overcome. This trend was the move away from traditional brick and mortar agents, and towards mobile agents, particularly as certain companies struggle to maintain employment and even survive.
While there has been a growing number agents who have already adopted this lifestyle, particularly in the US where mobile agents account for 80% of all agents, the COVID pandemic has significantly accelerated this trend. Now, instead of being able to make this transition over the span of a few years, many traditional agents have been forced to attempt this transition over the course of only a few weeks. For example, someone may have worked in the industry for an extended period of time, with nothing but a landline and a completely separate-from-work personal social media account. Now, this person has suddenly needed to jump on the digital wave and begin to develop a business profile on various social media channels, including many that they have likely never used. Not only is this a drastic and very stressful change of pace, but one that requires a significant level of learning to master. To go even further, the added clutter from more and more agents simultaneously jumping on board this mobile trend will likely cause tension and stress for even those agents who were already working mobile before COVID struck.
While the world slowly returns to a state of normality, and some of these traditional agents will be able to resume their original positions, there are many who won’t be so lucky, and thus mobile travel agents will likely form a big part of the travel industry’s future.
Having identified these trends, Josh felt that the downtime he’d received from being stepped down from his current role provided him with an opportunity to make his vision of a travel industry education network a reality. Once something only in its idea stage, Travel Edjo had been fast tracked by the pandemic to becoming the go-to source of information for now over 2,500 travel agents. Travel Edjo has most recently featured Josh’s ‘Zoomcasts’, which bring on various travel industry suppliers to discuss various topics that could be useful to the agent community. As a rule, this content is typically focused on self-directed learning, encouraging agents to become the best that they can be, and jumping on as many opportunities for learning as possible.
The ultimate goal of this is for Travel Edjo to become a network and a platform for agents to interact with as a resource and training centre, especially for the significant number of independent and smaller agents who didn’t previously have access to any such resources. At the current point in time Travel Edjo is entirely free, however as Josh continues to build his brand and network, the possibility for a premium version in the future remains, but only if Josh feels he can add enough value for it to be worth his client’s money.
The Agent Of The Future
The recent downsizing of the industry is likely not a decision that will be rapidly reversed, even as the world returns to normal and travel begins to recover. As such, there will undoubtedly be a surplus of unemployed agents essentially ‘on standby’ for new roles, and thus the intake of new ‘young blood’ into the industry will likely be in very low demand. While Josh doesn’t currently have any concrete plans for Travel Edjo to be able to build a beginner-to-professional level of training for this market, he believes he will have at least a few years time to plan that out before it is desperately needed.
For the time being, Josh believes that a collaborative approach will be the best way for the industry to recover and prosper into the future. However, healthy competition between worthy rivals will still play a vital role in ensuring innovation and quality, in Josh’s opinion.
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