Believe it or not, there is more to a travel agent than booking flights and hotel reservations. There are tangible skills gained from this position that can be transferred to a number of different professions.
• Product knowledge: Travel agents are familiar with the different types of lodging, cruise ships and seating arrangements on flights. It is this knowledge that allows them to make recommendations to customers based on their needs and interests.
• Business development: They are trained to cross-sell and upsell travel products to customers whenever the opportunity presents itself. For instance, if a family of five is planning a vacation to the Orange County area, a travel agent would be wise to ask the customer if he/she would like to purchase Disneyland passes in advance to avoid a long line at the entrance.
• Customer relations: Despite the fact that online transactions are the norm, customers still appreciate the ease and warmth of a personal interaction. No matter how efficient the internet is, calling your travel agent to reschedule your missed flight is still easier and more accommodating than waiting for the screen to load on your phone at an area with low cellphone reception. The relationship between a computer and a person is merely transaction, but the relationship between a customer and a service personnel have the potential to be positive and long-term.
• Problem solving: Murphy’s Law always seem to strike when a person is traveling. Travel agents tend to borne the brunt of customer’s problems, from delayed flights to lost luggage to forgotten hotel reservations. Travel agents are the first contact and often have to go beyond their responsibilities to ensure a positive travel experience for their customers. A great travel agent is someone who may not have all the answers, but can think on the fly and go out of their way to help someone out.
If the travel industry is your chosen path, here are some possible career options for a travel agent:
• Manager of a travel agency: After being in the industry for a number of years, you may have the opportunity to be promoted to a manager of an agency or decide to set up your own company. The role of a manager is more of an administrative role where you manage a staff of people as well as oversee the sales operations of the agency. You will still have to handle customer concerns or complaints; however, your staff will be the first point of contact. Furthermore, as the manager, you will be required to attend functions to network with vendors in the industry.
• Tour manager: If travel bug bites you, you may consider a career on the road as a tour manager. You may be responsible for leading tours as well as designing them based on your target audience’s interests. On the plus side, you get to travel to great places, but not so great if you are someone who enjoys going home at the end of the day.
• Cruise specialist: As a cruise specialist, you are responsible for designing cruise packages for your company for various routes. This position may require additional training in product design and marketing. It may also require networking with travel agencies and occasional travel on various cruises.
• Resort/timeshare sales person: If you are interested in marketing and business development in the travel industry, this is a great opportunity. You will be responsible for organizing events and bringing people there to present information related to the timeshare.
If you are interested in becoming a travel agent, there are definitely opportunities for movement throughout your career. The most important thing is to follow your passion and with a bit of training and experience, it can become a career that you love and be proud of your accomplishments.
For more information on a career path as a travel agent, reach out to your highschool counselor. Alternatively, the travel industry often holds recruiting fairs and industry networking events, it may not be a bad idea to attend and talk to an industry expert.