Evolution of the Travel Agent

Years ago, when you wanted to go on vacation, there was only one option. You had to hoof it down to your local travel agency and browse through some travel brochures. Then, when you made your selection, you’d sit across the desk from your travel agent (in a very uncomfortable chair) while they entered all the information on their green monochrome computer screen. Travel agents were the keepers of all travel information. Their life was the stuff of dreams. We imagined they had been everywhere and knew everything about world travel. They were the rock stars of the retail world.

Then, a few things happened. First, the airlines decided they didn’t need travel agents anymore and they pulled the plug on agent commissions. This didn’t work out so well for the airlines as evidenced by the number of them who went under in the aftermath. Many agencies refused to sell airline tickets without receiving a commission. Why should they work for free? So, things began to change from what had once been a very structured agency model governed by the ARC (Airlines Reporting Commission) into an industry that was evolving into something new.

Then, the second thing happened. The advent of the internet connection changed the face of travel forever. Information is readily available 24 hours a day about any aspect of travel you can imagine – from luxury yacht trips in the South Pacific to staying at a youth hostel in Europe. Whatever your budget or interest, the internet can open up a whole new world of options available to you for travel.

However, with the plethora of information now available to consumers, is there still a need for the travel agent? Can’t consumers just figure this all out on their own now? I suppose they could try. But, why would they want to? Travel agents offer the benefit of their expertise in dealing day in and day out with travel suppliers. They still hold the “secret knowledge” of the travel business, just in a different way now. Plus, the services of a travel agent are usually free to consumers, as agents are paid commissions by suppliers.

In all honesty, consumers need travel agents now more than ever before. In the past, there was so little information available to consumers that they were at the mercy of the travel agent to get any of it. Now, there is so much information available to consumers, they’re often left floundering in the sea of travel offers. Travel agents are skilled at cutting through the hype and emotion-driven marketing of suppliers. They have learned how to match travelers with vacations they will treasure.

In the wake of the home-based business revolution, many travel agents have moved their businesses to their homes. This is a good thing for consumers in that it allows for much more personalized service. Agents usually have extended hours when they’re home-based, making it more convenient to get in touch with them. And often, agents will come right to your home equipped with their laptop and brochures.

The smart travel agents have embraced technology and are using it to provide better service to their clients. Most travel suppliers are riding the technology wave too and are providing wonderful online resources available only to travel agents. The information age has educated not only the consumer, but has given travel agents powerful tools to provide superior customized service to their clients. With this type of customization, you can receive targeted travel promotions only for the destinations you’re interested in. This service alone can help cut down on information overload. You only receive information that’s of interest to you.

Another benefit of using an agent is that you have an advocate once you’re on your vacation. If anything goes wrong or things aren’t as they were promised, your agent will be your advocate to the travel supplier to try to get things corrected and made right. Just give your agent a call and let them try to sort the problem out. Don’t spend valuable vacation time in frustration. Suppliers know that if they don’t treat their clients right, agent won’t promote their products. Suppliers work hard to maintain a good rapport with the travel agent community. Word travels fast about suppliers who won’t take care of problems. However, if you don’t have an agent, you won’t have the benefit of any extra leverage your agent could provide in correcting a problem.

So, go ahead and spend some time on the internet gathering information for your next vacation. Peruse the vastness of cyberspace hunting for that perfect vacation. However, when it comes time to book your reservation, give your travel agent a call. They’ll be able to determine if what you’ve selected will meet your expectations. If they think it won’t, they’ll recommend something else you might like better. And most likely … they’ll be right and you’ll end up having a fantastic vacation!

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What Is A Home Based Travel Agent?

Many people are unclear about the travel industry. Travel agents are often thought to be the same as real estate agents. Becoming a travel agent or more specifically a home based travel agent is an exciting career change or retirement option. Some people do it full time while many do it as a part time business.

A travel agent books travel for customers and is paid by suppliers a commission on the booking. For bookings that suppliers do not pay a commission on, a travel agent also can charge the client a service fee for his/her time. An example is if you were to book a hotel for a client, the hotel would then send a check to the agency after the client checked out. Most hotels pay 10% of the price of the hotel before taxes and fees. A $100 per night hotel reservation would mean $10 a night for the travel agent who made the booking. This hotel would cost the same whether the customer uses a travel agent or books through the hotel directly. In many cases the travel agent can get a better price. It costs the customer nothing to use the travel agent unless the travel agent charges service fees.

Can anyone do this? In order to work with suppliers, you must have an account set up with the supplier. Most require an agency to hold an IATAN, CLIA or ARC number. IATAN stands for International Airlines Travel Agent Network. CLIA stands for Cruise Lines International Association. ARC stands for Airline Reporting Corporation. Each of these memberships requires different things including sales, money in the bank, experience or training in the industry, and membership fees. Many will require Errors and Omissions insurance of $1,000,000 or more.

For the average travel agent, membership is not a possibility with some organizations so the agent will team up with an agency and work as an independent agent or outside agent. There are also advantages of working with an agency because most travel agents cannot make enough in sales with a particular supplier to obtain higher commission levels and bonuses. Working with an agency with many agents can increase the commission percentages the agent gets because of the joint sales of all the agents at the agency. Support is also a very important aspect of being a successful agent. Agents who do not work with others tend to feel more isolated and have to learn to do it all solo. Since no agent can have the experience of being everywhere in the world or staying at every hotel or resort, having others that you can get advice from is really helpful.

The future of travel agencies is always questioned. The truth is the industry has changed in many ways. Some changes were for the better, some for the worse. Many airlines have cut commissions for travel agents. However, there are many other suppliers who are paying travel agents more than they were ten years ago. Cruises used to be booked by only the rich and now people in every income book cruises. Each year more and more people go on cruises. Most people say they want to go on a cruise at least once and many who go on their first come home to want to book another.

You can earn commission on many travel reservations.

Hotels
Rental Cars
Tour Packages
Cruises
Some airline tickets
International airline tickets
Travel insurance
Ground transportation including limos
Attraction tickets
Train tickets

People all need travel arrangements at some point in time. Those who take road trips need hotel reservations. Those who need to travel for business need airline tickets, rental cars, and hotel reservations. Families want to experience vacations with their loved ones. People visit family and relatives. Most people who win money say they are going to spend it to take a nice vacation. Newly married couples go on honeymoons. You are not selling something that is hard to sell. People contact you for help, you are not calling them or approaching them trying to sell them something they don’t want.

Educating the public is the main thing any travel agent must do. Most people put travel agents into the same category as real estate agents. They believe it costs additional to use a travel agent. This is untrue. In many cases a travel agent can get a better price than the general public through the suppliers who work only with travel agents. Many people do not know all the options for booking a vacation. A good travel agent does. Once people are educated on how a travel agent gets paid, they are more willing to work with travel agents. If a person knows that if he or she let you book a hotel and it will cost the same price regardless, she or he will work with you. It is important to let people know how you can help them save time and money on their travel arrangements.

So how do you get into the industry? Many people think they must go to school or become certified. This is not true. You can get into the industry and begin training. I don’t recommend anyone spend thousands on a travel school until he or she knows this is a career that he or she will really want to pursue. The truth is you do not have to spend thousands to get trained. There are many courses free to travel agents from suppliers. There are also organizations such as ICTA (Institute of Certified Travel Agents) who offer courses as you get more years experience in the industry. CLIA also offers courses. There are some agencies that will offer training. Even if you decide this is a career you would like to pursue, you do not need to spend thousands to become an educated and competent travel agent. There are many courses you can take with suppliers and organizations to get a better education in travel. I truly believe a hands’ on approach is the best way to become a better travel agent. Learning to work with suppliers and how to find the information your clients need is an important part of becoming a good travel agent.

How can you find an agency to work with? There are a few organizations dedicated to independent travel agents. NACTA and OSSN are the top organizations. NACTA stands for National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents. OSSN stands for Outside Sales Support Network. You can also search online for home-based travel agent programs. I would never recommend anyone spending a lot of money to start this business. It is key to first try and see if it is something you would really want to do and get training before you invest too much money into it. Get involved in the industry first and see if it is really a career that is best for you.

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How to Find the Right Travel Agent?

In today’s Hi- Tech world, we have easy access to all kinds of information. We’re able to research, compare, and book travel right in the comfort of our own home. But the question arises – Who needs a travel agent anymore?

Fewer of us do, apparently. In last one decade the travel agents statistics had fallen by about 30%.

“They are an outdated remnant of past practices that add virtually no value to any transaction today,” says one of the employee working for Michigan airlines. After my recent recommendations of travel agent in various columns, I’ve been on the receiving end of the feedback – How could i..?.

So, here let me discuss about this common query. I believe that travel agents today still offer services and information that we can’t get on Internet. Granted, some things such as booking a simple flights, most people can successfully manage on their own. A travel agent however, can recommend smaller, alternative airports that the discount carriers use. This alone can save you quite a bit of money. However, the key thing that travel agents today offer is their first hand knowledge and right information. In planning a trip or vacation, one wants to find information about the places and regions suitable to them. Here the role of a travel agent comes into act considering the fact that they have traveled to many different places, they can provide much more insight than a brochure or web page can. Thus, finding the right travel agent is inevitable. The same thing goes for tours and specialty travel such as luxury, adventure, villa rentals, etc. A competent travel adviser can be your greatest asset when you’re planning a trip. The key word here is “competent.” And let me also define what I mean by agent: I’m not necessarily talking about an offshore call center worker reading from a script or a hobbyist who paid a few hundred bucks for bogus agency credentials. I mean a bona fide, certified travel professional. Once you decide to book a trip through an agent you must go through few quality check of an agent. These few measures include:

Understanding An Agent And Using Your Intuition – It’s important to feel out a prospective travel agent to see if you can build a rapport with them. This can be done even when you’re dealing with an Internet agency, through phone calls or e-mails. Face-to-face meetings are not necessary. The choice of right travel agent comes from knowledge, not words. The correct answers to your direct questions are what count. Before you even ask for a price quote, probe the knowledge and personality of the agent you may be putting in charge of your hard-earned vacation. If you get the right feel about this person, you then ask for a price quote. If a travel agent quotes you a price that is not the same as, or lower than the cost of booking directly, or doesn’t offer incentives like free insurance, or even a pre-cruise hotel room, they are choosing not to compete — a choice some agents do make. They hope to attract uneducated consumers. This not the kind of agent we recommend, unless the service is so fantastic you don’t mind missing out on a few perks. But price alone may not always be the best factor to find the right travel agent. We want the best price, but we also want assistance and service when we need it. Hence, when your skull asks this ” How to find the right travel agent”, the above mention criteria should strike you first.

Look For Certification – A right travel agent must be certified from some travel body or institution of his nation. This proves to be more promising or as the elderly travelers say “a certified travel agent is the right travel agent”.

Stay Local And Interview The Agent – There’s no substitute for the personal touch. My best experiences with agents have been one-on-one. The ability to meet – to look the agent in the eye, to shake his or her hand – is something online agencies can’t match. (Note: not all agents work in an office, but home-based agents can and do make personal visits.) The only exception to this rule is if you’re out to find an agent with a sought-after specialty. But even then, a trusted voice on the phone is preferable to the often unintelligible, script-reading customer service associate you’re connected to when dealing with a large agency. Mind this- a professional travel agent makes personal visits. Don’t pick the first agent you find. Talk to the travel pro. Pay close attention not only to the way your prospective agent responds, but also at what’s going on in the office around you.

Pressure Check – The only way to know for certain if your travel agent is a keeper is to see what happens when you run into trouble. A right travel agent would run through your foot steps in trouble. You must conform the services provided by the agent under such circumstances.

Good travel agents have an edge over almost any other seller of travel. They know what you want. They speak your language. And they’re there for you when you run into trouble.
In other words, travel agents aren’t obsolete. Only the bad ones are.

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