How to Become a Travel Agent?
But what does a travel agent do? Well lets start with the environment – you work most typically and traditionally in a high street location where, and forgive us if we are stating the obvious, customers come in looking to arrange holidays. The alternative to the traditional high street location is the call centre environment – the same principles apply in that you are there to sell holiday packages, give holiday advice and updates and upsell other services.
Again, irrespective of where you actually do this (high street or call centre) you will be expected to provide good customer service, match holiday makers to holidays, find suitable holiday packages, use a computerised system to book holiday details, take payments and offer more generic holiday advice and information (oh, and one would imagine – deal with customer issues and complaints too!).
In the ol’ days when you left school and if you had some good grades, this job may have been an option if you wanted to get into a career at a trainee level. However – that was years ago…
Now a reality check – that type of opportunity – entry at Trainee level straight from school and working your way up as a Travel Agent, can still happen, however the chances of finding employment without getting specific travel related qualifications and some relevant work experience is slim.
Second level qualifications – be that GNVQ, HND or even Degree level in business, travel and tourism, hospitality, customer services or leisure, will aid any application that you make. What any travel related qualification will do, is give your CV more credibility and also make it stand out compared to other applicants with a less relevant educational background.
If you are looking for a job as a full blown Travel Agent (not trainee) then in my experience of recruiting for this type of role – you really need to have some background experience in sales. After all – whilst customer service is at the forefront of the experience that your customers will see – this is a targeted sales environment and all Travel Agencies will generally be working towards weekly, monthly and annual revenue and sales targets. Therefore, previous experience working in a targeted but still customer focused sales environment is a real advantage. For example, experience in a bank, insurance brokers, other travel agency, retail sales (white goods, or environments where you are expected to upsell / sell store cards etc) will all be beneficial.
For a Travel Agent role, more and more agencies like to have applicants with both travel agency experience and experience of using bespoke travel agency software too, therefore a more junior, entry level role will at least mean you get your “foot in the door” so to speak.
Entry at a trainee level will definately be aided by gaining a relevant education background and some experience of travelling, a passion for travel, and some work experience in a sales environment – i.e. outbound call centre / telemarketing or targeted retail sales etc and / or experience working in a hotel or customer facing hospitality environment will certainly be an advantage.
It kind of stands to reason, but you really need to be happy working in a customer facing / customer satisfaction type of environment to truly enjoy this type of role. Bearing in mind that some Travel Agents work in a call centre environment, face to face customer service skills are not so important, but you will still need to provide good customer service at all times. As this is a role that relies on using computers and computer systems, good basic IT and administration skills are also required. The ability to listen and organise is also key – as is being able to successfully sell and make sales (work to target). Again it stands to reason – but if you have a passion and interest in holidays and travelling – your knowledge and passion will also be valuable skills in this industry.
Still fancy a career as Travel Agent? Good luck!! We hope these basic tips help you along the way…
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