Ladies Who Lunch love to gossip about it, under 30s love to boast about it on every social media platform possible and over 40s love to frame pictures about it.
Getting paid to travel the world is certainly one of the most appealing jobs in the world… but where do you fit?
First things is first, what’s the difference between a travel consultant, a travel agent and a tour operator?
It is an important question because while there is significant overlap amongst the three, each career is different.
In short, a travel consultant is a local expert, meaning they only focus on a specific part of the world, in some cases one country. This person usually lives (or has lived for an extended amount of time in) the place they consult on and has an intimate knowledge of the area.
A travel agent is similar in that they helps clients put their trips together, by booking, organising and scheduling a trip – a service that consultants do not do.
Finally, a tour operator is the person that works with holidayers on their trip, once either a travel agent as booked their spot or a consultant has advised them too.
Why do people still hire travel agents? Can’t you just book your trip online these days?
Turns out, the travel industry and the role of a travel agent is booming. They know more than you do, they are better connected than you, they have access to benefits you can’t get otherwise, they can often beat any other prices available (even online, yes), and after you’ve planned everything, they provide a safety net during your trip that you simply won’t get by booking yourself or buying insurance.
Having a top travel agent can also make you an instant VIP – free room upgrades, hard-to-get restaurant reservations, line cuts, access to otherwise closed stores and exhibits, private guides and cheaper – often much cheaper – premium airfares.
Day to day, what do they do?
Travel agents inform clients where they can obtain passports and provide them with the required documentation based on their destination. Agents solve problems, deal with details and handle any issues that may come up for a client during their trip. Imagine trying to book a hotel in the middle of the night in Africa. Or having to deal with a cancelled flight in a country that you don’t speak the language. You don’t need to if you have a travel agent.
A travel agent spends most of the day on the telephone/computer arranging holiday dates, discussing prospects, networking connections with resorts, airlines and tourist organisations and keeping in touch with the industry trends and deals. The other half of their time is spent with clients and explaining the progress of their holiday planning.
Negotiating skills are the travel agent’s bread and butter. This is the secret behind their access to travel deals that aren’t available to the public. Hotels, airlines and tours send travel agents updated information and to drum up more business, these same companies will offer discount rates for travel agents to pass on to their customers.
How does it work?
People, groups and corporations typically give their travel agent a budget for a trip. It is up to the travel agent to provide different traveling, lodging, and entertainment options for their clients that meet those budgetary constraints.
The agent will then work with their industry contacts to settle on an itinerary within the dates and travel priorities of the client.
You get paid on commission, so first and foremost, you’re a salesperson.
Your job is to recommend things like hotels and excursions, because you get paid a percentage for everything you book for your clients.
When you’re an in-house agent with a travel agency, you typically have an extremely low base salary and an 80–20 commission split.
That means if you get paid 10 per cent commission on booking a hotel, 80 per cent of that commission goes to your agency and you only get to keep 20 per cent of it.
If you have enough clients, you can become an independent agent, which means you work for yourself but remain affiliated with a host agency.
How to get into the industry:
Many travel agencies require that their agents hold a business degree or diploma.
As client service is one of the largest parts of the travel agent’s job, experience in other service occupations are also ideal. Potential travel agents must be able to work under the pressure of anxious customers; patience and excellent customer service are crucial.
So if this sounds like it could be for you, find the course you need.