I am looking down the barrel of my 33rd year working in the Travel Industry. I have never been bored a minute since I started in 1988 working for Bank One Travel in Columbus, Ohio. 

Bank One Travel was acquired a few years later by USTravel, and I was very involved in the consolidation of a large number of other travel agencies.  USTravel was then acquired by EDS and less than a year later we were purchased by World Travel Partners.  Smack dab in the middle of all of that, the industry was turned upside down when the airlines made the fateful decision to cap commissions and eventually remove them all together.


It was the end of the world as we knew it…

Travel Agencies were earning 80% of their revenue from commissions and almost overnight, that went to 0%.  Everyone published obituaries on the demise of the modern travel agency.  Travel Agencies scrambled, adapted and changed to a fee-based model and still were able to collect commissions on other non-airline products.  They still received overrides from the airlines for meeting sales targets.


It was the end of the world as we knew it…

Internet travel providers started showing up on the scene to compete with the brick and mortar agencies and then the terror attacks of September 11th 2001 brought the airlines and the nation to its knees.  The skies were quiet for a number of days as all air travel was suspended.

Corporate fraud was rampant in the early 2000’s as highly publicized spending and improper accounting practices at companies like Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco had exposed significant problems with conflicts of interest and incentive compensation practices. The outcome from these investigations resulted in the passing of the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

In 2003, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) ravaged many Asian countries and travel was suspended to and from those countries devastating the Travel and Hospitality industry again with a 90% decrease in travel to and from Asian countries.


It was the end of the world as we knew it…

Too big to fail, they said. Things were bad starting in 2007 when the mortgage crisis began and ultimately exploded with the total collapse of companies like Leaman Brothers, Bear Sterns and eventually the major automakers.


It was the end of the world as we knew it...


Here we are smack in the middle of a global pandemic and a resulting total economic crisis.  It’s hard to see what’s on the other side, but looking back, we can see the way we adapted, persevered and adjusted the way we ran our businesses.  And survived!

I still work with most of the same companies that took a chance on us back in the early 2000’s – and they are larger and more successful than ever.  Right now we are all hurting. But I know from the past, most of us will survive this and even thrive over the coming years.

After all, it’s never the end for us in the travel industry. It’s just another day and another change and another opportunity to learn and grow.  I am sure the next time “the end of the world as we know it” comes, I will be digging this article up again. It’s not our first rodeo.

Travel rodeo trouble

Be safe, stay healthy, and always try to have some fun!


Erik Mueller, CEO, Grasp Technologies INC.

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