If an individual believes they can be a success as a travel agent then, regardless of their background, good on them, says The Travel Snob’s David Walker, a Not Just Travel homeworker.
I’ve been a travel agent for seven years and have just surpassed £10 million in sales (or £11 million, if you take into account cancellations).
So far this year, I’ve done £1.7 million in new sales, not accounting for rebooks.
Yet many in the industry might say I’m still not a travel agent because I haven’t done it since leaving school and have never worked in a retail store.
Now, I don’t want to be controversial but, with so many newbies going it alone from their kitchen tables, spare rooms or, like me, basements, at what point do you become a travel agent?
Like anyone embarking on a career move, especially setting up their own business, you will only consider something you think you will be good at or at which you could expect to sustain a living.
In my 46 years before setting up my business, I travelled extensively for both work and pleasure, and had built a great understanding of customer service and of airlines and hotels. But most importantly, I understood what makes people tick.
When I started as an agent, I did a week’s on-site training, where I was taught how to search for a holiday in Majorca and how to put together a month-long trip in Asia. I was shown the systems and the suppliers we can use. These basics can be shown to anyone, but it’s passion, determination and knowledge that make up the rest of the job. And I’ve kept growing my knowledge through supplier events and training over the past seven years.
“The basics can be shown to anyone, but it’s passion, determination and knowledge that make up the rest of the job.”
While many school-leavers were working behind the desk in a Lunn Poly store, I was backpacking round South America. I went on to teach at a university in the Middle East, where we had long holidays, which I spent travelling. I didn’t know then, but I was learning for what would be for the best job I’ve ever had.
My phone rings all times of day. I don’t have to be in front of a computer to tell people the difference between Virgin Upper Class and BA Club World. I can let people know the Orient-Express in Europe isn’t air-conditioned and has no en suite bathrooms, whereas the Eastern & Oriental does but the twin Pullman Cabin is very small.
Having lived overseas for 20‑odd years, I can tell clients about standing by Iguazú Falls during a full moon and seeing thousands of rainbows in the spray of the falls.
I can explain the feeling you get watching whales breach in front of your eyes in Madagascar. I can recount flying first class on Etihad to Sydney and not wanting the flight to land. I can talk about all the resorts I’ve experienced in the Maldives while on long weekends. And I can tell clients about a nine-week safari in southern Africa where we saw elephants wandering through garage forecourts in Botswana and woke up next to a snake hissing outside of the tent in Mozambique.
“It’s these experiences that clients find invaluable, and encourage them to book multiple trips with me, a fairly new travel agent.”
So, I may have only a few years’ experience as an agent, but I have a lifetime of travel experiences.
It’s these experiences that clients find invaluable, and encourage them to book multiple trips with me, a fairly new travel agent.
Skills can be transferrable
I spoke with Cherie Richards, chief of staff at Not Just Travel, about her views on new agents. She has 16 years’ experience dealing with people coming into the industry. She told me individuals had not been held back by a lack of experience. In fact, she said the qualities they possess from their previous backgrounds have often helped them be successful.
“If an individual believes they can be a success as a travel agent then, regardless of their background, good on them.”
These include former car salespeople, who can provide great customer service, and marketers, who know how to display an offer across multiple channels. If an individual believes they can be a success as a travel agent then, regardless of their background, good on them. As long as they put in the time and effort to make their investment work, the support is there.
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