Pursuing a career as a travel agent

Are you a travel enthusiast? Do you enjoy working with people? Do you take the time to recommend products to your friends and family based on their interests? If so, you may want to consider a career as a travel agent.

Even though customers are able to make their travel arrangements online, many of them still prefer working with a travel agent. Nothing beats the personable interaction between a customer and an agent where the agent can make recommendations based on the customer’s needs and interests. As a result, travel agents play an important role in providing a memorable experience for travelers – whether it is for business or for pleasure.

Do you have what it takes to be a travel agent?

Today’s travel agent has multiple personalities. Not only is he/she a sales person, but also a brand ambassador and a marketing person. It involves developing a relationship with the customer and understanding his/her needs so the agent can recommend the right products to create a positive travel experience. If you are able to correctly provide this service to your clients, then they will stick around for a long time. Here are some of the desirable qualities in a great travel agent:

• Ability to communicate effectively with customers. It is more than just conveying information, but it’s the ability to listen to their needs, addressing their concerns and recommending the right products based on their interests. It means not recommending a cruise to a customer who has severe motion sickness or booking an aisle seat for a customer who prefers to sit next to the window.
• A big picture thinker. Travel agents need to be able to sell a great experience to their customers, not just a plane ticket or a hotel reservation. Think about what customers need in addition to the plane ticket to make it a hassle-free trip. Do they require hotel or car rental? Or perhaps tickets to a play in the city that they mentioned they have wanted to see for a long time?
• Be in the know. Are you up to date with the latest travel “hotspots”? Do you know if hotel X is a child-friendly hotel? As a travel expert, you are required to keep up to date with the news within the industry. You have to develop a network and great rapport with vendors in the travel industry so you can be the first to recommend new products to your customers.
• A problem solver. Murphy’s Law always strikes when a person travels. Whether it is a delay with the flight or forgotten hotel reservation or a lost passport, the travel agent is usually the customer’s first contact. Even though you may not be the most appropriate person to contact, it is your job to know how to handle these situations so that your customers don’t have to. That is how you win their loyalty.

What are the educational requirements for a travel agent?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the entry level education for a travel agent is a high school diploma or equivalent.1 Most of the training for travel agent takes place on the job. However, there are some career colleges in the U.S. which offer online or in-class training for people who wish to become a travel agent. Furthermore, some travel agents prefer to take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) certification exam as a way to demonstrate their knowledge of the job and the industry.2

If you enjoy traveling and developing relationships with customers, a career as a travel agent can be a very rewarding one. Even though online booking systems are becoming more popular, nothing beats an attentive and knowledgeable travel agent that keeps long-term customers happy and coming back for more business.

1. US Bureau of Statistics. Travel Agents: Occupational Outlook Handbook. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm
2. Penn Foster Career School. Travel and Tourism Specialist Program Overview. http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/culinary-arts-and-entertaining/travel-and-tourism-specialist-career-diploma

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