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Gennady Podolsky Highlights Travel Advisors’ Key Roles in the Travel Experience

Experienced travel concierge Gennady Podolsky showcases the key role of travel advisors within the global travel experience.Experienced travel concierge Gennady Podolsky showcases the key role of travel advisors within the global travel experience.

As travel experiences continue to evolve, many seasoned travelers bypass online flight, hotel, and activity bookings. Instead, these travel pros seek out travel advisors, who can smooth out potential wrinkles while crafting memorable travel experiences. Global travel advisor Gennady Podolsky discusses travel advisors’ increasingly important role. He also shares insights on his affinity for “undiscovered” destinations.

Profile of Global Travel Trends in 2023
As the global travel industry continues its post-pandemic recovery, the Mastercard Economics Institute published its Travel Industry Trends 2023. This March 2023 report emphasized travelers’ emerging preferences for experiences over “things” or products. For perspective, March 2023 experiences-based spending was up 65 percent while “things”-based purchases rose 12 percent over the same period in 2019.

That said, it’s not surprising that worldwide leisure travel rose 31 percent in March 2023 relative to the same time frame in 2019. Leisure and business travel are currently up by one-third over March 2019. The Mastercard Economics Institute predicted robust travel to most regions of the world during the spring and summer of 2023.

Seasoned Travel Advisors Are Worth Their Weight in Gold
With flight delays and cancellations, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) experiencing extended computer outages, thousands of travelers have recently found their travel plans disrupted. To make matters worse, geopolitical unpredictability in several parts of the world could also derail travelers’ carefully planned trips.

Here’s where a travel advisor can help. Travelers with short flights and/or hotel stays may not want to pay for a professional travel advisor’s services. However, travelers planning complicated trips would benefit from an experienced travel professional’s knowledge and connections.

2 Things a Top Travel Advisor Brings to the Table
In 2023, currently active travel advisors have survived the COVID-19 pandemic’s industry-wide shutdowns. They also negotiated travelers’ refunds with often-reluctant travel insurance companies.

When travel began to resume, the advisors dealt with travelers’ anxiety about staying virus-free while enjoying their trips. Finally, today’s travel advisors have also weathered the growth of online travel and other industry disruptions. Taken together, these challenges have helped these resilient professionals propel their businesses to the next level.

Enhanced Professional Skill Set
In any services-based industry, providers who constantly improve their knowledge and/or obtain new certifications are better positioned to help their clients. During the pandemic’s extended business shutdowns, many travel advisors broadened their knowledge with training certifications and other documented achievements.

Today, these highly focused professionals have additional tools in their travel planning toolkits. If unexpected events occur during a client’s trip, the advisor has the resources to quickly address the issue.

Ability to Personalize Clients’ Trips
As travel advisors continue to bolster their knowledge, they are increasingly personalizing every aspect of clients’ trips. Emerging technology enables advisors to tailor each client’s flights and other transportation, lodgings, and onsite activities to the traveler’s preferences.

Taking it even further, some travel advisors now specialize in specific regions, cities, or even neighborhoods. Other travel specialists may plan trips around disciplines such as French cuisine, European architecture, or other themes.

Finally, new travel software provides travel advisors with clients’ travel goals and personal interests. This enables advisors to offer personalized (and often highly curated) trips geared to each client’s profile. In fact, cutting-edge software can now compile a targeted trip itinerary in under five minutes.

Travel Advisor Gennady Podolsky’s Early Travel Experiences
Many travel advisors have channeled their passion for travel into a rewarding career. Chicago-based Gennady Podolsky, an experienced travel agent and consultant, noted that his childhood travel experiences initially piqued his curiosity.

Growing up in the former Soviet Union, Gennady Podolsky and his family were limited to in-country travel options. Although the family traveled as often as possible, he was always curious about the inaccessible world beyond the Soviet border. “That’s why I was curious about the world because it was so inaccessible. It was so much like a distant dream. You could never see anything.

“We traveled as much as we could within the former Soviet Union. My parents were avid travelers. We did a couple of trips a year. We traveled by car, like big car trips, as well as flew to different places. So, we traveled a lot. However, it was always within the Soviet Union, and I was always super fascinated by those other places in the world,” Gennady Podolsky explained.

A French Immersion School Broadens His Exposure
Gennady Podolsky spent most of his early school years in a French immersion school. There, he finally met a “foreigner” while in middle school. “The first time I saw a foreigner was when I was 12 or 13. I went to a French school, where everything was in French. We were studying French, but I hadn’t seen a French person until I was in the 6th year of study.

“They were teaching us to speak French and what French people do, but we’ve never actually seen French people until I was in the 6th grade of the French school,” Gennady Podolsky remarked.

Channeling a Longtime Travel Fascination into a Career
Fast forward to 1993, and Gennady Podolsky was attending Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College. While many freshmen were still undecided on their majors, he was laser-focused on a travel career. In fact, he started his first agency during his initial year in college. “I started in ’93. I was still at Swarthmore. I was there for one year.

“In that first year, I started my first travel agency. To be honest, I don’t know why I always wanted to do this. I was just kind of focused while everybody else at Swarthmore wasn’t sure what they wanted to do. For some reason, I had this one track. This is what I want to do ─ no questions. So, it kind of made it easy for me. I didn’t have that search.”

A Passion for Travel is the Catalyst
“In a sense, you need to be a complete enthusiast of this industry to work in it, because you’ll make a lot more money in Wall Street, but in this industry, you don’t make that much money. You have to be like an addict because it’s a tough job, with a lot of responsibility. You’ve got to love it to survive in it.

“The combination of these things made me think, ‘This is what I want to do, period. No questions.’ I gave up all the other opportunities. I was like, ‘If I ever want to come back to college, I will do that, but this is what I want to do right now’,” Gennady Podolsky summarized.

Gennady Podolsky’s Off-the-Beaten-Path Explorations
Many dedicated travel professionals preview destinations they may want to recommend to their clients. Gennady Podolsky has taken this tack for years, exploring interesting locales that haven’t yet become tourist hotspots.

He immerses himself in each area’s culture, soaking up the local lifestyle before moving on to a new city or region. He values each area’s authentic flavor and hopes his clients can savor the experience before commercialization takes over.

“The way I live, I usually move from place to place every month. Last week, I was in Croatia. This week, I’m in Romania. Later, I will be somewhere. What I’m noticing is the over-tourism. It’s insane.

“I was just in Croatia last week. The first time I was in Croatia was 20 years ago, and it was a dramatically different experience than right now because Croatia has become such a big destination. It is an amazing destination. Because there are so many tourists, the experience that you had 20 years ago is just not even the same.

He Expresses the “Need to Travel Differently”

“I feel we need to start traveling differently. I feel like a lot of people are traveling for somebody else because they want a picture. I’m like, ‘You should do it for yourself. You should experience things you value ─ a lot of things we don’t value today.’

“I think there is a clear change that is happening toward this. I feel this commercialization of things where everything is becoming a tourist experience, where everything is slightly kind of simplified and maybe exaggerated to make it interesting,” Gennady Podolsky remarked.

Visiting an “Undiscovered” Destination
Gennady Podolsky’s desire to explore “undiscovered” destinations led him to Romania. He recently visited western Romania, where he reveled in the region’s authenticity and culture.

“I think I love to go to Romania, where there are no other tourists because people don’t come here yet. I’m in Western Romania, on the Serbian border. Beautiful place, no tourists, still authentic. This chase for authenticity and for things that are still different drives me because I feel like sometimes the world is becoming so similar.

“I want something different, you know what I mean? I want to experience something different. I want to experience something that has not changed so much yet. I travel to places that have not happened yet.

“Romania is going to be a fantastic destination 20 years from now. I probably wouldn’t want to come back at that time, but right now, it’s still authentic. It’s still interesting, they don’t have tourists. They take a real interest in people, which means that you can have very authentic interactions with local people, too.”

Traveling Light and Staying Curious
Finally, Gennady Podolsky shares the common thread in all his explorations. As a travel advisor exploring potential destinations for clients, he recommends adopting a minimalist (and flexible) approach to travel.

“You have to travel light. You have to stay curious. You have to be super open-minded.

“If you change your circumstances, you feel a lot more local. It’s almost like trying somebody else’s experience on for a while,” Gennady Podolsky summarized. Today, he continues to immerse himself in destinations and cultures, always with an eye to providing value to his travel clients.