November 2019

My first job in the tourism industry was as a travel agent in England way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  At that time everyone booked their annual vacations from printed travel brochures, or catalogs. This wasn’t something that happened just in England, but across the world. The books for next year’s vacation started arriving in the travel agency around September although they largely remained in the back storage room until just before Christmas when us junior travel clerks had to replace most of the existing stock on the shelves with the new shiny catalogs.  Of course we were tasked with getting rid of the literally hundreds of now obsolete books. These days how we did that would be an ecological disaster. We put them in the trash, burned them in fires in the back yard and found all sorts of ways to dispose of them. Recycling? We hadn’t even heard of the word.

Just before Christmas, the newspapers started running ads for the next years vacations (or Holidays as we called them) and customers began to drop in to collect their favorite destination guides. Invariably some were in short supply and we had to ration how we any we gave out always guarding the ‘Office Copy’ on pain of dismissal!

Come the day after Christmas itself (another day off for British people, called for reasons lost in time – Boxing Day) the TV was full of ads for vacations. For two months we were rushed off our feet as everyone booked their summer breaks. By the end of February it was all over and the next season winter break catalogs and brochures started to arrive.

How things have changed!  Travel agents are way different now and we have on-line agents too. Some travelers make their arrangements months in advance, especially if they have a large family or need to secure a specific hotel or activity. Many of us search the internet for ideas and  deals.  We read the review sites and are influenced by the opinions of, surprise surprise, ‘influencers’ or travel bloggers. Checking out the YouTube videos and Instagram posts to see what appeals to you is huge fun. Of course you can still go to a travel agent particularly if you have a very complex itinerary or you if you don’t have the time to research yourself.  Much of the fun is in the planning and that’s much easier and enjoyable in the days of the internet.

It’s now different from the past where your only advice came from travel guides that were out of date before they were printed.  Photos of hotels used only to be  provided by the hotels themselves but now you can see what fellow travelers have shared. It’s easy to see videos shot by other tourists, read reviews by people who’ve actually visited and even look at web cams to see what’s happening right now.

Of course, traveling is much less of a leap of faith than it was. We tend to be a more travelled society these days and the world is often less ‘different’ than it was, in that one airport is much like another and hotels can be depressingly similar to each other no matter where you are in the world.  It doesn’t have to be that way of course as with research and maybe the help of that travel agent or other expert you can find somewhere that expands your experience and provides cultural insights.

So, have you thought where your travels will take you next year? Have you started your travel planning? Don’t leave it too long. Travel broadens the mind they say and provides you with experiences and memories that last a lifetime.  The anticipation of your vacation is also a great joy, giving you opportunity to make your trip really special.  Remember the journey is as important as the destination – maybe more so.

The only thing we don’t have to worry about these days is what to do with all those out of date travel catalogues.  I don’t miss that at all!