As airlines repeatedly cut the commissions that they pay to the hard-working travel agent and as the Internet continues on its inevitable path to dominance as the preferred method of booking and buying travel, it now seems obvious that within the decade, the only place one will ever see a travel agent will be inside a museum. Online technology has, in essence, put the travel agency business out of business, just as automobiles slayed the horse and buggy. That simple. That quick.
There are those who predict that the same fate awaits commissioned insurance agents and brokers who currently deliver the bulk of the industry's sales. Says Yobie Benjamin, chief of global e- commerce strategy at Ernst & Young and quoted in a recent issue of The Industry Standard, "The days of commission agents are numbered. They're dead animals. Consumers only see them twice in their life: the first time by circumstance, the second when disaster strikes. There's no reason to keep these guys."
While Benjamin is probably guilty of overstating the case, his basic premise is accurate. The speed, efficiency, cost-savings and growing user-friendliness of the Internet virtually guarantees that insurance, like travel, will be a commodity that consumers will naturally shop online. Insurance agents will think twice before they steer their children to the same profession.
Where will all the new jobs be?
According to Graham Molitor, president of Public Policy Forecasting, the period leading up to 2015 will be designated the leisure time era. Says Molitor, "Leisure-oriented businesses, everything from bars to video stores to opera houses, will account for 50 percent of the U.S. gross national product shortly after 2015."
As an example of that contention, he notes that 15 million Americans visited Disneyland in Anaheim in 1996, while 10.8 million (excluding business visitors) visited the nation's capital. Savvy investors, always at the forefront of emerging trends, are already beginning to shift their bets to leisure-hospitality enterprises.
To bolster this viewpoint, one need only look at the burgeoning travel industry. Only 3.5 percent of the world's population has engaged in any form of travel. That number is expected to double by 2020, resulting in a $2 trillion travel/hospitality marketplace. In the hospitality arena alone, job growth within the next 5 years is projected at 18 percent.
What all this means is that both the previous industrial-era job and the current information-age career will be replaced in major part by opportunities that will emerge from the soon-to-erupt leisure/infotainment volcano.
Tomorrow's new office will also demand a more people-oriented approach. According to the administrative staffing service, OfficeTeam, the top jobs of the year 2005 will include the following:
* Mentoring director -- a full-time, on-sight professional to match company veterans with newcomers.
* Fitness manager -- a contracted specialist who develops exercise programs, establishes ergonomic standards and provides information and referrals for life-enhancement programs, e.g. weight management, smoking cessation.
* Business etiquette adviser -- a "Miss Manners" for the high- tech office who, for example, establishes policies on use of cell phone or e-mail during video conferences.
* Catering manager -- a full-time or contracted specialist who develops nutrition …