Want to get paid to scout and book the most luxurious locations in the world? Congrats! You’re on your way to the best job in the world.
A career as a luxury travel advisor is not only incredibly rewarding but provides the opportunity to travel the world. Plus, with a strong client base and several years of hard work building a business, successful advisors can make six figures doing what they love!
So, how do you become a luxury travel advisor?
STEP 1: Make sure this is truly what you want to do.
On paper, a luxury Travel Advisor looks like a glamorous job. Jetting off to the best resorts, being first to see a new hotel, and venturing to destinations most people can only dream of is amazing.
But what most people don’t see is the 3AM phone call from a client who decided to leave Paris right.now. Instead of in three days and will thus arrive in London early but still demanding to have a 3-bedroom suite overlooking Kensington Garden. Okay, okay. That might be a bit of an exaggeration (or just the tip of the iceberg in some cases), but the Travel Advisor must be on call 24/7—no matter where they are or what day it is.
Still ready to join our ranks? Continue to Step 2.
STEP 2: Learn the ropes as a Travel Agent.
A travel agent spends most of the day on the telephone 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, explaining the progress of their holiday planning.
Negotiating skills are the agent’s bread and butter. Travel agents have access to travel deals that aren’t available to the public. Hotels, airlines and tours send travel agents updated information. To drum up more business, airlines, and hotels will provide discount rates for travel agents to pass on to their customers. For this reason, you will often pay the same or less for a trip than you would have even without using an agent.
You can read more about being a travel agent here.
More often than not, to be a luxury travel advisor, you’ll need the training of an agent to get your foot in the door.
STEP 3: Start building your business.
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.
Friendly reminder: 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 percent commission on booking a hotel, 80 percent of that commission goes to your agency and you only get to keep 20 percent 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.
Too, since client service is the largest part of the travel agent’s job, experience in other service occupations is a good idea. Potential travel agents must be able to work under the pressure of anxious customers; patience is a crucial quality.
Even for those without a bachelor’s degree, the field is not restricted. Others begin by working in a related field, such as at a ticket agency, and work their way up to a job as a travel agent.
Decide which agency to join.
A luxury Travel Advisor needs a worldwide network of travel suppliers to ensure that their clients are treated like VIPs and get added amenities and benefits—a sure fire way to get clients booking with you rather than directly. By joining an established agency, you immediately have the connections and name recognition that ensures a return call from the general manager of fill in the blank fabulous property.
A. Align yourself with an agency that is part of a consortium
Joining or working with an agency that is part of a consortium, like Virtuoso, is key. You’ll be able to unlock exclusive amenities that add a lot of value to your client’s trip, and you’ll rest assured knowing that all the hotels have been thoroughly vetted and your clients are in good hands. Plus, you’ll have access to trainings and educational trips.
B. Research how the commissions and fees work.
- What is the commission model?
- What is the average commission percentage?
- Will you pay an annual fee?
- Will clients pay a fee for your services?
C. Figure out what you’ll need from your agency.
- Do you need accounting, marketing, and tech support? Will they provide it?
- Will you be part of a family of Advisors that shares information and help each other? Or will you simply be in an agency that lets you use the name but you’ll work on your own Travel Advisor island?
- Is the agency a part of preferred partner programs like Ritz-Carlton STARS or Four Seasons Preferred Partner?
- Will the agency provide training opportunities?
Narrow it down to a few agencies, and start your deep-level research. Call Advisors in those agencies, call Virtuoso, resort to google—whatever it is, do your homework. Once you figure out the agency that is best for you, go through their process of joining the team…then proceed to the next step!
Build a website and social media pages, and develop your online presence. Nowadays, everyone likes to do a quick online search, and you want to make sure you come up. Commit to starting and maintaining a travel blog, even if you only post once a month. You’ll be able to market yourself, and let potential clients know what you’re about.
Unsure about social media? Embrace it because it’s here to stay. The ROI of social media is that you’ll still be here in 6 years. You’ll be able to connect with clients as well as other people in the industry!
STEP 4: Dedication, Patience and Training.
Just like starting a business in any industry, you must be dedicated and patient. Use every opportunity to network and meet potential new clients. Neighborhood gatherings, community events, and even parties are great ways to get the word out about your new business. And once you tell someone you’re a luxury Travel Advisor, the questions will start flowing. Get ready!
Secondly, you need to be dedicated. You’ll experience the highest of highs (booking your first safari) and the lowest of lows (a dry spell, or worse—a “shopper” that takes up hours and hours of your time only to book on a travel deal website). Keep trucking through no matter what comes your way. In a few years, you’ll be so glad you did.
Lastly, never stop learning. Take advantage of any training opportunities. Log into webinars, go to Virtuoso Travel Week (a must!), experience a country through an educational trip, or sign up for a study tour. The industry is constantly changing, and it is crucial to keep up.