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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Members see opportunities in niche markets, adventure travel, cruising & river cruising, despite economic and political challenges
Terrilyn Kunopaski

Steve Gillick, president & COO, CITC
The feeling is optimistic when it comes to 2012 travel trends – at least that’s the conclusion Steve Gillick, president and COO of CITC (Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors) came to after receiving answers to a questionnaire he sent out to gauge the outlook of travel professionals on the coming year.

Gillick asked a selection of his members for feedback about challenges, opportunities and key issues they expect to face in 2012, originally as research for

After receiving about 50 responses in a 24-hour period, Gillick found that overall, the mood among CITC members is "very positive."

While some expressed concern, largely regarding the economy and political unrest, Gillick said these are "rational negatives, which makes sense."

A key struggle some respondents cited that has also been echoed throughout the Canadian travel industry for some time now is bringing younger people into the trade, especially with competition from online markets.

The Internet was cited as yet another challenge for 2012, but one that Gillick believes is possible to compete with.

"You have to sell your services and sell your value so people don’t even give the Internet a second thought," Gillick said. "Internet booking might be a simple flight but when it comes to your vacation and the dollars you’re going to spend, you should really be going to a certified travel counsellor."

Despite the inevitable speed bumps, Gillick said "The typical response was 'Every year, the same issues arise in different areas of the world and somehow, we rise to the challenge and somehow we overcome it.'"

When it comes to opportunities, many see cruising, river cruising, adventure travel and luxury travel as areas to tap into this year. Specialization in niche markets is expected to be a growing trend as well.

Respondents also noted that the baby boomer market, with disposable income and a sense of entitlement to travel, are also reasons for optimism in 2012.

And, while some expressed concern specifically about the European markets, others saw it as an opportunity – lower prices can mean more volume.

This was the same thought for cruising – with overcapacity would come lower costs and more demand – but of course, this means that in order to generate a level of revenue a travel professional might be used to, they need to sell more.

Even with this growing need for "volume selling," Gillick said that while many acknowledged it, nobody spoke about it negatively.

"You have sell-offs then that means you’re still going to get people who want to book with a travel professional rather than on the Internet, but you’re not going to make as much commission so you’re going to have to sell two or three of those to get to the level you were before," he said. "But I think that’s how the industry is changing and nobody was decrying that...I think they’re saying that you’ve got to be working harder."

Perhaps not surprisingly, some respondents also mentioned passion: "If you’re passionate about what you do, then you work the hours that it takes to fulfill that passion and fulfill your clients’ needs."

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