Cassandra Harris is a travel agent for Accent on Travel in Richmond, Virginia, and one of G Adventures’ 2018 Ambassadors of Change, a group of travel advisors who work with the tour operator to help spread the word about tourism as a force for global good. When Cassandra is not working on sending her clients around the world, she is busy traveling the world herself. She manages the blog, “Travel Agent Diary,” where she gives helpful tips for prospective travel agents looking for more information before taking the leap into this industry.
What inspired you to join the travel industry as a travel advisor?
After juggling life as an account executive in advertising and booking my friends on their personal vacations, as well as my Meetup members, I decided it was in my best interest to take the plunge and do this full time since I enjoyed it more than I did working in advertising. Struck by the wanderlust bug.
How long have you been in the travel industry? 2 years
Where do you see yourself as a travel advisor five years from now?
Hopefully I will continue to pursue traveling and obtaining more stamps so I can educate myself and my clients on different places. I also plan to hone in on certain niches once I’ve gained more experience working with them. I just had my very first destination wedding group return from their trip and I’d love to work with more wedding groups (well, more groups in general).
What do you think Millennial-age travel advisors have brought to the industry?
I think we bring a unique perspective and can offer clients a wide variety of accommodation styles and unique trip experiences. As a Millennial-age traveler myself, I value experiences over material things. If it means sacrificing a nicer hotel for more room in my budget to enjoy certain tours and attractions that’s something I’m willing to do. A lot of tour operators are already noticing this trend such as G Adventures. They offer a travel style specifically for 20 to 30 somethings, which offer a cheaper price point with less plush accommodations.
How do you think the industry can continue to attract younger travel advisors? Young travel advisors are looking for growth potential and education. We need to continue the training opportunities whether the training is behind a computer screen or outside at a resort in the Caribbean. Young travel advisors do not want to be static, they want to constantly grow within any industry they are a part of. In this industry specifically, there’s so many educational opportunities for different destinations, hotel brands, tour operators and much more.
How do you find your Millennial-age clients?
A lot of my Millennial-age clients come from social media. Instagram is a great tool because it’s so image-heavy. I enjoy promoting tourism on that social channel with pictures of my travels or of my clients’ travels. Word of mouth though, is probably the biggest source for obtaining my Millennial-age clients. As a 20 something, I always look to my peers for their reviews, which is why sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are so popular. It’s like having a friend tell you the ins and outs of a location. People trust what their friends and loved ones recommend. In addition to social media and word of mouth, I also receive clients from organic search to my blog, “Travel Agent Diary.”
What motivates Millennial travelers and do you think there’s a tendency for Millennial-age travelers to seek out Millennial-age travel advisors and if so, why? As narcissistic as this is going to sound, Millennial travelers are looking for beautiful destinations that they can later put on the ‘gram. There are blogs upon blogs dedicated to posts helping readers find the “Top 10 Instagrammable Spots in X City”. I don’t look at that as a bad thing. They are also seeking unique experiences within each destination. It’s not enough now to just go to Cancun and swim at the beach or chill by the pool. They want to take tours riding ATVs, go parasailing, swim in cenotes, they want to visit Chichen Itza—one of the seven wonders of the world. They want to visit Barcelona and participate in a paella-cooking class or visit Rio for the carnival festivities. The ever lengthy “bucket list” just keeps getting longer thanks to Pinterest and other sites that help us organize our travel goals.
How does the form in which you communicate with your Millennial-age clients differ from how your older counterparts communicate? I have my cell number in my signature and I’ve found that texting is very quick for my Millennial-age clients if they have questions on anything. I will still follow up in an e-mail to them so there’s a streamlined form of communication. They’ll also engage with me on social media whether that’s through my personal page or my business page.
Are you starting to sell to the Gen Z demographic (those in their early 20s) and if so, how is that different from how you sell – in terms of their expectations – to the Millennial demographic?
Yes, for the Gen Z demographic I mostly sell the Caribbean (because they are able to legally drink!) and cruises. Mostly college spring breakers.
If you do sell to the Gen Z crowd (those in their early 20s), what is the key differentiator you are finding between the Millennial traveler and the Gen Z traveler? The biggest difference is really just budget. Millennials are typically farther along in their career and can afford certain luxuries that the Gen Z crowd cannot. Both groups have many similarities though in terms of valuing experiences.
And one more Millennial vs Gen Z question: Are you seeing the Gen Z crowd more influenced by what they see on social media than Millennials and how is it affecting where they choose to travel?
I’d say the Gen Z and Millennial crowd are about equally influenced by what is seen on social media.