What Does A Travel Agent Do?

"I have always really been into travel, and most of the fun experiences I remember from my childhood involved traveling. So naturally it seems like an industry I’d like to be involved in. I thought about working at a hotel, but I don’t think that’s really my thing. I’d rather be self-employed and start my own business. I don’t have the resources to open a hotel, though. I was thinking travel agent. That would only involve renting a small office, right? What would my job entail each day? I want to make sure it’s something I can handle before I get too involved."

asked by Kane from Davenport, IA

The main task of travel agents centers on providing travelers with the information they need for their trip. They sell transportation fares, accommodation and tour packages to groups and individuals. Before making recommendations about particular travel destinations, travel agents talk with their clients and determine their needs and budget. They then help vacationers plan their itineraries so that their clients can make the most of their trip. They recommend entertainment activities, excursions or day trips and help book these for the clients in advance. Their services extend to helping clients reserve their hotel, hostel or resort accommodations as well booking rental cars or arranging for transportation to and from the airport. They would then compute the cost of an entire trip and accept payment from the client to finalize the trip.

Travel agents also assist their clients by providing helpful information about a particular destination. They tell them about what the weather is like, what the customs of the people are and what safety procedures must be undertaken for certain places.

For example, if there are cities or towns in a particular country that needs to be avoided due to civil war or other reasons, travel agents will have to apprise their clients about it so they will be warned. They also provide information about the necessary documents that they will have to process and bring for their trip such as their passports and visas. If there are special vaccinations that the tourist must have in order to protect themselves against diseases that are endemic in the area they are going to, they relay this information to tourists. Travelers have to plan their trip ahead of time and the information and travel brochures about a particular destination or activity provided by travel agents will greatly help them stay safe and have fun on their trip.

Travel agents also cater to changes that customers may have in their itineraries. They help by making alternative travel bookings even when these occur while the trip is in progress. The efficiency and connections of travel agents are especially helpful during emergencies, such as when a traveler has to be airlifted out of a town in order to get better medical care in a major urban center or when a tourist needs to book the fastest flight home after hearing news of the death of a loved one.

Resorts, hotels and other travel organizations utilize travel agents so they can recommend their offers to their clients. In order to determine if the place is indeed worth recommending, travel agents may go to the destination themselves. They try the accommodations and activities and review the cleanliness, quality of service and its overall comfort level. They can then give a first-hand recommendation to their clients.

Travel agents can attend to their clients’ requests by phone or email. They typically face the computer while they are doing their reservations since they need to access the Global Distribution System (GDS) to make reservations with airlines, hotels and resorts. When they are not using the GDS to type in the reservations, they are promoting their package tours to clients and promotional offers and convincing them to book their trips.

More and more travel agents are providing more specialized services. Some have earned their reputation by arranging corporate travels while others have become known for adventure tours. There are those who arrange honeymoon travels while others prefer to arrange tours and travel packages for the elderly. There are also travel agents who work for specific tour operators and are paid to sell the firm’s services. Some travel agents specialize in religious travels or pilgrimages while others prefer to guide vacationers to the best health vacations around the world. With the increasing thrust towards ecotourism these days, some travel agents specialize in providing tourists with earth friendly destination vacations.

Travel agents are effective salespeople because they have to persuade clients to buy their tour packages and convince transportation providers and hotels to accommodate the special requests of their clients. They also have to be highly-organized since they handle a lot of itineraries for various clients. They also have to be detail oriented since dates entered erroneously can cause a traveler’s vacation plans to go haywire. They also have great customer service skills especially when they are dealing with customers who have complaints about their travel arrangements or those who wish to make last-minute changes to their itineraries.

Travel agents typically work in offices, spending most of their time in front of the computer and other telecommunications equipment. At peak travel times, they can expect a stressful office environment especially when they are dealing with sudden changes in schedule or helping clients who are facing travel emergencies. Although their work schedule is typically held during regular office hours, they may have to extend their work hours during travel season to accommodate the needs of vacationers.

Transportation and accommodation providers have allowed customers to book their own trips and make their own reservations through their websites where they have also provided the information travelers need to know to plan for their trip well. The Internet has revolutionized how travel is done so much that tourists now have access to the kinds of information and deals that used to be only available to travel agents.

There will still be areas where the expertise of travel agents is going to be required. This is in the realm of specialized travel where travel agents who focus on a particular destination or cater only to specific groups are still going to be needed.

Career Spotlight: Travel Agent

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