So, You Want to be A Travel Agent?
Thinking About A Career in Travel?
Here’s What You Actually Need to Know to be Successful in the Industry
Do you love to travel? Do you have a knack for planning, organizing and seeing the beauty in the details? Are you usually the go-to person for planning everything for your family or friend group? If you said yes to any of these, then starting a career as a travel agent might just be the perfect fit for you.
Do you remember the best part of being a child going on vacation? I do. It was not having to do anything but tell your parents where you want to go, and showing up. You were able to go with your family and just focus on having an awesome time! No stress, no worries, no problems. As I became older, I personally found myself doing all the work of a travel agent while constantly putting together trips for my family and friends but with the stress, without the help, and for sure, without the pay. Not many people are aware that travel agents are still around, or quite honestly, what they even do. If you would have asked me a couple of years ago what a travel agent was, I probably would have referenced Toula beginning a job at her Aunt Voula’s travel agency, instead of working at her family’s restaurant in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The job works out great for her, as her love interest, Ian, stumbles into the agency and they fall in love while going through a pile of travel brochures.
Other than that, the answer would have been not very much. I assumed that travel agents most likely charged a flat rate to help you, or possibly get paid on commission like most service jobs. Well, that may have been the ways of the travel agent in the past, but with times changing and the emergence of internet sale sites, the travel agent industry has had to shift its focus to survive. Travel agents now still get paid on commission rates; however, it is not charged to the client as you would assume. Now, it is actually through the location and services they book for you.
Hotels, resorts, flights, cruises and transportation all provide the ability for a travel agent to make commission off of a sale just by booking their services over a competitor. It is a genius concept actually, since these companies are having to compete so fiercely due to market saturation. Companies are now offering travel agents incentives to book with them instead of their competitors by offering an agent a portion of the final sale profit. This way, they are getting a sale that they might not necessarily have gotten before, thus earning more overall bookings and revenues in the long run. It also turns out that when deciding to become a travel agent, you have multiple options on how to start.
You could register yourself as an independent contractor, join under an existing agency that you know (this is what I chose and love it), or you can join one of the many awesome host agencies that are out there. All options have perks in different ways, but it is beneficial to do your research on each one to make sure whatever you decide is the best option that fits your needs. I suggest contacting an agency and getting information from them. Research the company and read the reviews. Look at the commission split and what kind of support they offer their agents. All are important factors in deciding what route to take.
Once you become an established agent, your focus will shift to the important stuff- sales – making present sales and how to make future/return sales. So what would that look like, you ask? Here is a mock rundown of how a possible sale would go as a travel agent. A client approaches you and wants to book a week-long stay at a resort in Mexico in December for two people, with roundtrip flights and transfers to and from the airport. With access to multiple different sites, you can bundle all these requests into one easy package that you can present to your client with one final price to pay, and only a deposit due to hold it that day. This is KEY.
When booking on internet sites, in most cases, you will have to pay all the money for the trip upfront. If you are like me, and most average people, you usually do not have all the funds for your dream trip available and ready at the drop of a hat. When booking with an agent, their sites allow an affordable deposit to be made, and then the rest of the amount due can be paid over a period of time to a set date, usually about 2-3 months before your trip date, no interest accrued, no gimmicks. This is a great feature from travel agent sites because it makes a trip you believed to be out of your price range, suddenly becomes something super affordable. So, using the scenario above, for instance, say that trip totaled $3,000. Your customer would, most likely, have to pay down $300-$600 to hold the trip, and would have until October to make the full payment. Thus, every time your client got paid, or came into a little extra cash, they would contact you to make a payment towards that final amount until it is paid in full. Once the trip is paid and the client goes and has a fantastic time, everything you booked for the client will have a commission amount back to you for making that initial booking for them, and you will get paid!
Like the agents who are on my team always say, “Why do the work and stress of booking a trip, when you could let me do all the work for you!” Most agents do not charge any additional rates and clients are getting all the same (sometimes better) deals than they were getting before! Plus, all the REALLY stressful things like flight changes/delays, problems with a reservation, or needing to cancel a trip for some reason, is now out of your customer’s hands and off of their radar. They have hired you to handle that for them. They have an advocate who is an expert on the issue, and who can fight on their behalf, if needed. Depending on the travel agent booking site you use, as an agent, you can earn anywhere from 10%-30% commission from a booking. So your client received a great deal, enjoyed a care-free, fun trip, and you got paid. Win-Win-Win!
Here are some helpful tips from a travel agent that can hopefully help you bypass all the hard stuff and avoid costly mistakes-money and time wise. Most people become a travel agent part-time until they have built-up enough clientele to quit their day job and commit full-time. It can get a little overwhelming constantly sending out quotes, making bookings, fixing issues with trips while people are on them, and remembering to keep up with logging your sales to get commission. However, the real time consumer will be marketing your business and services. Advertisement for your business used to mean buying an ad in a newspaper, putting your companies logo on a park bench or putting up a flyer on a wall. Since we have entered the new age world of social media, those are now things of the past. Now, to successfully market your business, you have to buy an ad on Facebook or boost a post to extend your reach, be present on every social media platform you can, get your logo some exposure, and start email marketing to get your deals out there.
From personal experience, 90% of my own sales have been through social media. The best part – It is FREE advertisement! Either someone saw a post that captured their attention, or I posted about a resort having a honeymoon special that made a newly engaged couple reach out to me wanting more information. It’s crazy, I know, because we have this preconceived idea that it should be harder than that, or that should cost more than this, but it’s not and it doesn’t! The downside to this, it does take time. Ever heard of that old saying time is money? That will come to surface while working this job. Creating posts, sending emails, sending follow-up emails, keeping a website up and running, creating a nice logo, being constantly present on all platforms- I’m tired just from thinking about it all.
To be successful at maximizing not only your profits, but your time, I strongly suggest looking into hiring a marketing agency. You can have them take care of all of the above headaches, while you focus on the most important thing, selling. You can hire a company like TIMA (Travel Industry Marketing Agency) to create your logo and make it look professional and modern, handle all of your social media and email marketing, and do the daily job of maintaining a nice presence for your company on all platforms. My Business Marketing professor in college once told us, “Marketing and sales is the most important business function there is. Some may argue it’s accounting, others will say it is operations or human resources, but without marketing, you would have no sales. Without sales, you would have no revenue, and without revenue, you would have no business.” How we market our products and services is how we portray to the world who we are and what we have to offer. If you do not invest in that, you do not invest in yourself.
Helpful Quotes From Agents Who Are Killing the Game:
“Educate yourself! Try to attend as many Familiarization Trips as possible. Also, stick with it! It’s not a microwave business, it’s an oven business. It may be slower and a take a little longer, but the end product is always worth it.”
– Traci Shearwood & Laura Duff from Traci’s Travel
“I jumped in full-time, you definitely have to make an investment to be successful. Don’t try and book everything that comes along, go after a niche and specialize in that, you will be much more successful!”
– Joel Sholtz, Luxury & Romance Travel Specialist
My advice to someone considering becoming an agent would be to research and join with a reputable host. Also, network as much as you can. When people come to me asking for advice about getting started, my first question is almost always “Where are you going to find potential clients?” Simply hanging your ‘travel agent’ sign on your door isn’t going to be enough.
– Kristi Sharp, My Land and Cruise Planners
There are a lot of different routes to becoming a luxury travel advisor. If you are more of a self-starter and have a network already, you may consider to work as an independent contractor with a support agency. If you decide to work for an in-house agency, you can get leads and clients given to you, and will learn from being in the environment with others, as well as have that company structure to refer to. Make sure you build a foundation first. Create a website, collect possible client contacts, educate yourself and be aware that it will take some time before the cycle of money starts to come in.”
– Addie Bell, JetSet&Travel