The world is closer than ever before. Thanks to advancements in transportation, aviation technology is at its very best now. Nowadays with the right passport and VISA, one can travel just about anywhere. Even so travelling is far from easy.
There are countless options to consider and decisions to make, to ensure a safe journey. Investing in a travel agent can save time, money and a potential headache in the future. This makes becoming a travel agent very lucrative in the modern time, more than ever.
What does it mean to become a travel agent?
Before we learn how to become a travel agent, we must understand what it all means as a profession. Travel agents are a group of people who serve their customers with almost every aspect of travelling. The ‘agent’ is a person who will provide information and consultation.
Depending on the level of freedom provided by their customers agents can plan out entire travelling packages. Agents can book flights, rentals and hotel rooms if needed for an entire trip or event. They can cater to both general-purpose services or to niche travel destinations.
To summarise, travel agents analyse the budget of their clients and make a plan to get the most value out of their journey.
What do travel agents do?
The main purpose of a travel agent is to organise. A client will contact the service providing company. One or more agents will reconnect with them. The client and the agent will then discuss the client’s reason for travel, destination, travel time, budget and other needs. With this information, the agent will find an appropriate travel package. He can also book a flight (or any particular vehicle like a bus, railway or cruise ship) book hotel/resort for the duration of the client’s stay.
Beyond that there is a vast array of other tourism-related services a travel agent can provide. These include purchasing guide books, setting up travel insurance, renting vehicles, suggesting and preparing recreational activities and other on-site details.
Covering everything within the client’s budget and preferences is a big challenge. Moreover, there must be room for flexibility lest anything comes up. The agents must remain vigil and up to date with the happenings of the travel locations. They must report any threats such as bad weather conditions or dangerous activity near the destination.
The value of a travel agent
Being a service provider their value is only as much as the needs of their clients. Nowadays due to high international trade and communication travel agents can be busy all year round. But there is a clear increase in demand during the holiday seasons.
When on duty they remain in constant contact with customers via phone calls and the internet. To Give them the necessary information, adjust vacation plans when needed, as well as acting as a salesperson to various package tours.
Travel agents maintain regular research into travel locations and luxuries. They also look into prime resort locations and pre organised vacation packages. They can contact various tourism centres to collect data and stay up to date with the latest information. Some agents even travel to these destinations and collect data on-site. They keep all this organised into their database.
Skilled agents can discover new destinations on their own. They can set up excellent travel deals for both business-related and personal leisure purposes.
If the agent can achieve a good degree of influence in the tourism sector many companies themselves will contact the agent. The companies can add the agent’s services to the database and even pay a commission to do so if it means promoting their business. In fact many tourism companies rely completely on travel agents instead of advertisements. Some surveys show that travel agents earn up to triple the amount from commissions than from customer service fees.
The qualifications needed to become a travel agent
This line of work does not require much qualification. Many sectors accept even a high school diploma. Furthermore, there are training programmes in both part-time and full-time courses. Some universities, colleges, and specialised schools offer travel agent training. It’s not a must for those desiring to become a travel agent. These trainings on tourism can be helpful. But, so can previous training in marketing, hospitality, or even event planning.
To become a certified travel consultant, another path is taking travel agent classes online. This way you could become certified at your own pace, learning all the basics from home. In fact, diplomas are available online if you want to take travel agent and consultant training. The basics include booking a hotel, preparing transport services and guiding tourists.
Read next: How to become a tour manager.
How long does it take to become a travel agent?
The amount of time you’re expected to put in before becoming a fully-fledged travel agent depends on the path you take. If you take college education to become a travel agent, it could take up to 4 years. This way you’ll have a certificate and theoretical knowledge of the industry. And if you choose to take an online diploma, it could be done in about a week or two. This industry actually prefers practical knowledge and skills a lot. Thus what matters is what you choose to do with the certificates and diplomas.
Most high-level travel agencies demand at least two to five years of field experience. So working for smaller companies after training can add to your level of expertise.
How hard is it to become a travel agent?
It is not that difficult to become a travel agent. But there are certain qualities that are vital to be one. The most important tool here is character. Being an agent requires you to be in constant contact with customers.
Some personality traits are key tools in earning the client’s trust. These are adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic.
As a professional, your suggestions must be superior to a plan made by an ordinary customer. You must be able to convince the clients of that fact so that they allow you to make a plan suited to them. You have to be able to interact freely with them. They must also be comfortable around you so that both you and the client can come to a proper agreement.
You must be professional in attitude. Once you meet any form of success other companies will contact you and ask for your services. The better the impression you make with them the better your reputation will be. This will make you more likely to get income from both sides.
The other skill you need is the ability to organise on the fly. A client can contact you at any time and ask for a change of plans. Being able to adapt to the whims of the client is an important aspect of the job. Flexibility is vital in this line of work.
Benefits of the travel agent job
Hands-on learning experience:
Some people can’t understand a textbook definition. Thankfully a large part of the learning experience comes from doing it. So if you can learn better by training instead of studying it may be better to invest in it over struggling through college. Many travel agencies accept employees that have character over those that have certificates
Customer satisfaction is the main focus:
If you are a people person, then you are well compatible with this line of work. Satisfied customers will likely want your services again. So, if you’re wondering how to become a travel agent, look into becoming a people person.
Success breeds more success:
As stated before if you gain enough influence in the business, hotels, airlines and even government tourism sectors will offer you their services for free so that you may experience it firsthand. That way you can sell these services to the customers. It will boost the revenue and reputation of these locations. This way everybody wins.
You are the first to know:
If you are the main medium of advertisement for a tourism company chances are you will get exclusive access to special information. This is very helpful in staying ahead of the competition.
Attention to detail:
Even the smallest details can affect a customer’s trip. If you like to be nitpicky and touch upon every little detail, you can make customer satisfaction even better. If your client wants to keep his information private do not pry too deep. You must be careful about that otherwise he may dislike your service.
Businessmen will do almost anything to increase their revenues. If you go to a hotel or resort, chances are you can get great discounts. It can also make international travel easier. It will depend on the nation’s policies and regulations.
If you’re good at networking it’ll be much easier to make contacts with high ranking personnel of an airliner or hotel chain. Having good connections means they’ll be easier to recommend to customers. They will also think of you first whenever they need to advertise something new.
Freedom of office:
The job has no limitation on where you would like to work from. It can be from an office cubicle, home or an exotic location. You get to pick the work environment that is most suitable for you.
What are the long term career prospects of a travel agent?
As mentioned before travelling has become more convenient than ever before. People around the world are now travelling more than ever before. Americans alone spend trillions of dollars in travel expenses whether for family trips or business trips. Having a specialist can be the difference between an unforgettable experience and a nightmare. Despite having technology and knowledge, people are willing to spend a little extra just to be safe. That is especially true when it comes to their families. Travel agents are going to stay relevant for a very long time.
What are the different types of travel agent?
There are certain types of Travel agencies all over the world some of them are:
How to become a travel agent: step by step guide
In order to become a travel agent, you should have the followings. Otherwise, you effort to become a travel agent may go in vain. So, let’s get started.
Step 1: Commitment
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you have the mindset to fully commit to pursuing this career. If you are unsure, do your research before making your decision.
Step 2: Get a high school diploma
For most jobs nowadays, a high school diploma is normally the bare minimum to get started.
Step 3: Take specialised classes in business and travel planning
Having a good knowledge base is key in establishing yourself when you walk into any office (or start your own business). Colleges, vocational schools and individual training institutes are generally the place to go. There are also several courses available online. Taking these self-paced courses at your own pace is one way to get educated.
Step 4: Get a license
To ensure everything is under a lawful record, having a license is necessary. This necessity can vary from being insurance to being mandatory. Having a travel agent license will also quickly establish who you are and what line of work you are from.
Step 5: Pick Your Work Environment
The number of independent travel agents is increasing at a very high rate. It is up to you to decide whether you want to work with a brick and mortar company or through a hosting company, working on your own.
Step 6: Be a Specialist
To thrive in this type of work, it is advisable to have an area of expertise. You can choose to specialize in specific travel destinations. That is if those areas are hotspot tourist locations. Specialization is not limited to locations either. You may also choose to try specific types of holidays too such as luxury trips, business trips or sports events.
A good agent must provide helpful and reliable information to their customers before, during and after the journey. On-site knowledge like car rentals, hotel choices, public transport route maps, tourist guides etc.
Many travel agents are independent contractors. They do their legwork to bring in new clients. So, sales and marketing skills, as well as a knowledge of geography, is helpful. As mentioned before most information on tourist spots are now online and public. Being internet competent is important in gathering information to stay ahead.
Formal education is not everything. Having interpersonal skills and proper self-presentation will help develop lasting relationships. It can help with customer satisfaction. A satisfied client also recommends you to other people.
For independent action, it is difficult to act on your right from the get-go. Instead, work in a travel agency to earn recognition and gain their approval first. Then you can set out on your own. Staying with high-level travel agencies have their perks such as having access to better sources and contacts.
Dedication is vital to this line of work. Customers must see that through your active listening, proper conversation and clear communication. It’s also important that you put together trip packages that cater to the specific needs of your customers and be diligent in meeting deadlines.
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