Thursday, February 25, 2016

What Does It Really Take To Be A Travel Professional?

The Travel Professional 
(aka “Travel Agent”)


Hey listen. I get it! You want all the benefits that Travel Agents gain on their vacations, but let me tell you from first-hand experience….. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be and it takes a lot of work and dedication to be the best at what we do. Especially like some “club” organizations or “multi-level marketers” (aka "MLM") want you to believe. To me, that is just the old “pyramid” scam affect which effects the REAL persona of what a Travel Professional is perceived to be by others.

When I tell people what I do, I get the puzzled look and then the ultimate question of “Does anyone even use travel agents anymore?” I mean, nowadays?” There is a huge misconception about the extinction of the travel community, and that’s far from the truth. A perfect way to break down why a travel agent is the best way to go is the news report by Angie Liu from WRAL's News Channel 5 - 5 On Your Side - "Why Use A Travel Agent?" It gives a scenario of how the average consumer spends an overwhelming amount of time using the internet to find a vacation. Even our own Dondra Ritzenthaler & Keith Lane of Celebrity Cruises explain why you should be using a travel professional to handle your next cruise or land vacation.  After watching this, you’ll understand why travel agents will always be needed.

Travel agencies aren’t tied to a storefront anymore. Due to technology, there are tens of thousands of home based travel agencies. Fewer storefront travel agencies may offer an illusion that travel agents aren’t around anymore. But don’t be fooled.  According to PhoCusWright, the travel agency distribution channel accounts for one-third of the U.S. travel market, selling $95 billion in 2011. That’s means about 1/3 of the US travel market is booked by these so-called extinct travel agents. PhoCusWright is projecting sales of more than $100 billion this year alone! Yes, billion. Even better news, the number of home based travel agents is growing—up from 31,000 in 2006 to 40,000 in 2011. Along with their increasing numbers, home-based agents now account for a substantial portion of agency leisure sales; in 2010, home-based agents racked up nearly US$10 billion in gross travel sales, or more than one third of all agency leisure sales.  So travel agent careers abound – just in a different location!

In the past, I wrote "Why Use A Travel Agent Over The Internet?" so we won’t go into that. But a travel professional has to commit to the business in order to become the best. The following is a “bare minimum” (for starters) of the rigorous and time consuming dedication that is put into a travel professional's success:

However, you can have all the travel knowledge and education in the world but that is only part of it.  The next part is the personal experience, business relationships with vendors, colleagues, and clients, and the networking skills to get the job done.  It also means that you have to be an expert in those specialties that you feel best fit your knowledge, skills and experience and capitalize on it. Furthermore, today’s travel agent is not static in a specific location checking emails, contacting travel vendors, customers, booking changes/updates, etc. wherever we are; not just sitting in a chair at a computer.

You can book it yourself, but until it’s something you do day-in and day-out, you can’t appreciate what a real pro does. Someone that books travel all the time knows the nuances of travel—getting to know the customer, what form of travel fits their wants, budget, and schedule; bookings with various vendors; awareness of the best promotions and expiration of those promotions, thereby providing the customer the best deal; how to avoid mistakes; and rapid response to a customer's travel emergency.  Meeting the customer's every travel need takes more that a "click" on the keyboard - transportation, lodging, insurance, emergency contacts, VISA's and Passport applications, luggage restrictions, side trip suggestions, and so much more. 

It’s amusing how customers feel and assume that travel professionals work for free. Besides everything you just read, let me ask you this: When you go to the doctor for an office visit because you are sick, don't you have to pay for that? How about a lawyer? A dentist?  What makes a travel professional any different?  Bottom line: It doesn't.

A travel agent lives, eats and sleeps travel 24/7. Everyone likes to think they’re a travel expert because they can Google it. But in reality, there's a lot more to being a travel professional than meets the eye, don’t you agree?

Please feel free to comment as I would love to hear from you.

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  1. Excellent article that provides a great perspective on what it takes to be a successful travel agent, thanks for sharing!