When I moved to Australia in 2011, I made a bit of a career move and went from teaching at a primary school to working as a hostel receptionist and travel agent at a small backpackers hostel in Sydney. I loved informing our guests about their travel options and really work with them to make sure they get a holiday experience that they love.
While currently, I am no longer a travel agent, I still help people plan their trips through my blogs and that’s why today, I’d like to share some of my personal top tips on how to become a travel agent and point out the skills and qualities of a good travel agent that will help you perform better in the travel industry.
I will go into strategies to boost your travel sales and get more satisfied customers, as well as bring you useful guides and other tools to help you get the best out of yourself as a travel agent.
The Travel Tester shared the best travel agent tips and tricks!
Education for Travel Agents
First, let’s start of with some frequently asked questions about the job of a travel agent:
- Is there a school for travel agents?
Many (home based) travel agents learn on the job, but there are also many schools that offer degree programs and certificates in hospitality & tourism. Here, they often focus on the business side of a travel agency, such as sales and marketing, pricing, planning itineraries and working with computer systems. There are also classed that teach you about specific destinations around the world, but of course that is best learned on location, so if you have a passion for travel, that is a plus! You can start working in this field right after high school graduation.
Once you get a job in a travel agency, you’re often schooled on the specific computer systems they use to book airlines, hotels and activities.
- What can I earn as a travel agent?
Travel agents earn a median annual salary of $36,460 (2016). Most people will work via a travel agency, just 15 percent of travel agents are self-employed.
- What are the duties of travel agent?
A travel agent will book and ticket airfare for both domestic and international travel, as well as selling cruises, tour packages, hotels, etc. They handle all aspects of the booking process including documentation, quality control, deposits, final payments, reviewing itineraries, visas, vaccinations, etc.
When the client is on a trip, the travel agent can help to resolve any issues and emergencies.
- What are the skills needed for travel agent jobs?
It’s not all about how to sell travel packages in this job! Part of the travel agent skills and qualities are excellent customer service skills and telephone manner, strong communication and sales skills and the ability to prioritize and cope with pressure at busy times.
Qualities of a travel agent: strong geography skills!
Getting to Know the Customer
I believe that one of the most important things in selling travel is to get to know the customer as well as you can. The more you can find out about the wishes of the people in front of you (or on the other side of your website/email/phone), the easier it will be to find a product that they will be happy with.
If you don’t know who the person or (group of) people you’re talking to exactly are, it will be really hard to find a product they’re absolutely going to love. So let’s start chatting to them and find out as much as possible:
- What type of traveller are they?
Are they solo travellers looking to meet people? Are they a couple looking for time together? Are they a group looking to hang out?
- What type of transport do they have in mind?
An organised group tour? A tour with an experienced guide? Do they want to buy or rent their own car? Do they want a flexible hop-on-hop-off bus pass?
- What type of experience are they after?
Are they lovers of nature and adventure sports? Do they search for beaches, bars & parties? Are they looking to learn something? Do they have any specific cultural interests?
- What budget do they have?
Are they looking for experiences over budget options? Are they saving on transport/accommodation to do once-in-a-lifetime activities? Do they have any discount/travellers/student/teacher cards?
- How much time do they have?
Are they looking for day trips? Do they have time for combinations of activities in different locations? Are they in need of a complete tours or train/bus passes within a certain time limit? Can they travel off-peak or do they need to travel in school holidays?
- What is their level of fitness?
Are they limited in mobility? Are they super fit?…. Don’t let age fool you, I’ve had a 70-years old Scottish guy looking for the best place to do a skydive!
As you can see, there is a lot of information to be gained when you spend a little time chatting to your customers and getting to know them a little better. It’s no problem to write some of their wishes down on paper, especially if you promise them to look some things up for them and contact them later with some ideas.
Once you know your customer as good as you possibly can, it’s time to start giving them some ideas of what they can do with their plans, money and time and to start planning their trip and sell them a travel product. Think about how you would like to be approached by a travel agent yourself!
Try to ask as many open questions as possible. These are questions that cannot simply be answered by a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Let as much come from the customer self as possible. Don’t put words in their mouths. Ask them to tell about a previous holiday experience they enjoyed, instead of asking them if they like beach holidays.
Interested in becoming an international travel agent? Keep reading!
Selling Travel to Groups of People
Selling to a group of people can be a bit more challenging than selling to just one or two people. Especially if they don’t have the same idea about what they want to do! There are many skills needed to be a travel agent selling to groups of people.
With a solo traveller, it’s easy to find out what this person likes. After all, he or she is the only decision maker and doesn’t have to think about another persons wishes or possible limitations. With two or more travellers, you have to be sure that the travel product you sell is to the liking of everyone, not just one of them.
Ask the opinions and ideas of everyone in front of you, not just the person that takes the lead in asking you for information. Of course this isn’t possible when not everyone is there, but you want to get as much information about your customers as possible. Make sure that in the end, everyone is going to be happy, or they will get back to you with complaints – or worse: never come back to you at all!
If the rest of the group doesn’t agree with the chosen tour/activity/accommodation, you’ll have to try and find an alternative that will meet them in the middle somehow, so be sure to know what everyone’s wishes are.
Some things that you should keep in mind when planning a trip for more than one person:
- Different Budgets
Not everyone in the group might have the same amount of money to spend. See if you can get them any group discounts, free meal and drink vouchers, discounts on accommodation and book them tours that include optional activities, so that everyone can decide for themselves if they want to spend extra money or not.
- Different Taste For Activities
Just like a budget, people travelling together will have different ideas about what they want to do on a trip. Find (day)trips that include more than one activity, such as a surfing day trip that also includes a BBQ lunch and beach games and find tours with optional activities, like mentioned in the previous point.
- Different Ages
Especially when you’re planning a trip for groups like families, you will have an age difference that you have to consider. Don’t just think about suitable activities (with different prices for adults, seniors, concessions and children), but also about the facilities at an accommodation you might book for them, like playgrounds, child seats, entertainment, neighbourhood, etc.
There is a great video on YouTube from ‘Trudy & Judy’ that will show you the type of customers you might get in front of you at the travel desk. There is the group booking, the well informed customer, the family vacation, the walk-in customer, the honeymoon couple and the dream customer. Be prepared for everything!
I would definitely recommend watching the video, as it will give you an idea of what to expect – and it’s really quite funny.
How to be a good travel agent? Patience is key!
Developing Travel Agent Skills
Some travel agents work for years with the same customer and develop a great relationship that makes it easier for them to select a product they will love. But even if you work with an ever-changing group of customers, you can use your personal skills to get a better contact with the customer and help them find a travel product that fits them well.
Wondering how to be a travel agent that keeps on selling? Here are some personal skills travel agent you must develop and that are key to what makes a good travel agent:
- Build Rapport
If the customer doesn’t like you personally or thinks you’re just there to take their money, they won’t buy anything. It’s as simple as that. They will listen to you, but then take the product and buy it somewhere else, probably. If customers know you’re there to help them and that you take the time to listen and understand their travel plans, they will be far more likely to book anything, and they probably come back to you for more information as well. Let the customer know you would like to hear how their trip went, to share their experience and photos on your companies Facebook Page / Website, etc.
- Make the trip insightful
The customer needs to be able to picture themselves in the chosen destination. They need to feel the sand on their feet, the sun in their face and the wind in their hairs. Explain exactly the kind of experience they can have and use photo’s, video’s, stories from other customers or your own experience to do that.
- Know the product you’re selling
Nothing is more easy than selling a travel product you’ve tried and are excited about yourself. And I don’t mean that in a vacuum-selling-kind of way (‘I have the same one at home!’). Take every chance you get to familiarize yourself with the travel products you sell. Write down customer experiences, go to travel shows/expo’s, so-called ‘famils’ (product tests, usually on invitation), product training and social events. Ask questions to the representatives of the company and let them know you’re interested in getting to know the product even better. Keep those business cards and don’t forget to hand out your own.
- Don’t pretend to know it all
In times when customers have easy access to the internet and know so much about destinations and products, it’s almost impossible to know the answer to all of their questions. They don’t expect you to know it either, so whenever there is something you don’t know for sure, call someone who does, or explain to the customer that you’ll look it up for them and get back to them. It’s better to check something than to pretend you know the answer and to give false information to your customer! They will find out.
- Be clear and repeat yourself
Especially with customers that don’t speak the language of the country you’re in very well, it is very important that you are clear to the customer and that they understand what they book. But this counts for everyone you sell a product to, of course. Make sure the customer leaves with a clear view on things such as: pick up time and location, what to bring, what to pay on arrival, extra (hidden) costs, etc. Print them a checklist (usually comes with the product you sell) and get that marker pen out! Let them sign what you sold them, so there’s no mistake in what they booked and what the policy from the company is (about cancellations, etc.)
For those of you who really want to get into the travel industry, and maybe even pick up some good slang words, make sure you check out the Travel Industry Dictionary, another one of those skills for travel agents that you must train yourself in!
Hopefully these tips on how to be travel agent brought you one step further your dream job! As you can see, it is very important to have an interest in the customer and using your product knowledge to make a trip insightful to them. Chances are you’ll find it much easier to sell a travel product now!
I hope this article helped you explaining what skills do you need to be a travel agent. Here are some handy videos on YouTube with more tips on how to become a travel agent and how to improve travel agent business for your agency:
Top 5 Reasons to Become a Travel Agent by LaTanya Ellison
Holly A’Court from Northcote College is going to check out what it takes to be a travel consultant and learns how to start a travel agency.
Tips on how to get started as a travel agent by Samantha (she also has a 6 month and 2 year update video on her work as a travel agent)
Juliana talks about her experience using Angel List to get a remote job as a travel agent
Find out what it takes to be a Travel Agent and how to get started
Amanda is a Disney Travel Planner and tells you all about becoming a travel agent