When I tell people I’m a travel agent, their usual response is “Wow, how’d you get that job?” A very close second is “How do I become a travel agent?” Let me tell you, a travel agent is not nearly as glamorous as you may think: we spend countless hours arguing and haggling with airlines, hotels and other travel agencies in order to get the best rates for our clients, some who are double checking every quote on the internet. There’s also a common misconception that travel agents must travel a whole lot; let me tell you, we’re just like any other office job, and office jobs don’t give that much time off.
Dissuaded yet? Well consider the following benefits of being a travel agent:
-solid understanding of travel industry
-several discounts available at any time
-the chance to talk about travel all day
If these three things appeal to you, the becoming a travel agent can be a dream job.
Here are several skills that will help you become a travel agent:
1. Know what a GDS is and how to use it. A GDS (Global Distribution System) is the application that connects travel agents with the travel suppliers. In short, if you don’t know how to use a GDS, an employer will have to spend months training you before you can start making them money. My advice: take local college course that trains you on this. I have interviewed dozens of people looking to become a travel agent, and have never even considered someone who didn’t know how to use a GDS.
2. Sales skills. Don’t think for one second that you are not in sales. Thanks to the internet, every schmuk out there thinks he can find a better deal than what you’re offering (and sometimes they’re right, too). You need solid sales skills to close the deal. Nervous to call someone about a hot travel deal you just came across? Unable to convince your clients beyond a shadow of a doubt they will lose money if they don’t buy right now? Sorry, you’re in the wrong business.
It’s important to realize that salesmanship is a good thing for your clients, too. If you know that prices will go up over the next week (and they usually do) then by all means sell your client on that fact! They will without a doubt thank you for convincing them it was a good idea to buy when they did, rather than let them pay more for their delay.
3. Know your routes. Simply put, you will save your clients (and make yourself) more money by knowing how airlines structure their routes. It helps to know, for example, that Delta’s main hub is in Atlanta, and you can use them to score great deals on flights to Tel Aviv. Take the time to learn about each major airline, what routes they are most competitive on, and how you can use this to your advantage.
How do I become a travel agent without any of these? Simple, you follow my path: get a job working for a student travel agency, get paid for next to nothing, then work your way up to corporate travel (where the money) is. If you are willing to spend the first six months paying dues, then this is the way to go. Otherwise, take a course, learn a GDS, study your routes, and get those applications out there!