First thing is first, establishing 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, a career in each is significantly different.
In short, a travel consultant is a local expert, meaning they only focuses on a specific part of the world, in some cases one country, in other cases even a small place within a 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 her clients put their trips together, though a travel agent will go on to book, organise and schedule a trip for a client – a service that consultants do not do.
Then, 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.
Let’s talk about being a travel consultant:
A “travel consultant” is now more valuable than ever. They have the knowledge and first-hand travel experiences to share with people looking to book their holiday, something an agent or the internet may not be able to offer. Cyberspace is, after all, not reality!
A travel consultant will work for the client, not for travel suppliers or airlines. Travel consultants will usually:
- To help clients choose and plan their trip, its destination and places to visit,
- Suggest places; consult clients about their choices or preferences and,
- To provide advice about passports and visas and help in the visa process.
Not anyone and everyone can become a successful travel consultant. You will need to be exceptionally knowledgeable about a region, country or city and more, you’ll need to have the skills to communicate with clients. Being successful in this field means providing clients what they are looking for.
No one can have an encyclopedic knowledge of the whole world, so the most successful travel consultants choose a specialty. You might focus on cruises, or African safaris, or honeymoons, even travel for destination weddings. You will need to know every hotel, every restaurant, and every excursion in those areas that related.
Because of this, traveling is a regular part of the job, but it’s not a holiday.
Every few months, travel consultants go on trips to brush up their knowledge and learn about new features in their territory. You try everything you’d want to advice your clients on: You sleep in the hotels, you eat the food, you get the massages. (This sounds ridiculously luxurious, and it is, what’s better you’re there to work).
Being a travel consultant is pretty much 24/7, you could get a phone call at 2 a.m from your clients in Europe asking about details on their itinerary.
How to land a job as a consultant:
Travel consultants are usually freelance workers. This means they work for themselves. So, to become successful in the industry you will need to attract and maintain your own client list.
You need to start thinking about how to do this this right away, and keep it at the front of your mind while you’re thinking about your products and your pricing. Are your clients going to be budget travellers? Honeymooners? High-end luxury travellers? 40-60-something couples?
Then, you need to define your product. For example, you could: give overall itinerary advice via email or phone/Skype; sell/recommend day trips or classes; suggest hotels, guides and restaurants; create a written itinerary; provide on-trip support; and more – including any combination of those things.
Then finally, you need to decide how you are going to make money, AKA your business model.
The most common way that consultants work is to charge for your time per-hour, as a consultant. If you think you’d prefer to book the accomodation, flights and manage the bookings side of travel, you should consider a career as a travel agent.
If this sounds like it could be for you, find the course you need.