When I was first offered a job as a travel agent I was 18 years old, fresh out of high school and not all too well travelled, I was by far the youngest recruit in my training room, and the recruiters commented on how they had never before trained someone so young in the roll of a travel agent – regardless of this, they seemed to see some potential in me. I envisioned my career in travel, wearing the fancy scarf and red lipstick, booking dream holidays every day, gallivanting around the globe on trips that I did not have to pay for.
It took me a month of training to officially begin my roll in a medium sized travel agency in the suburbs, and it wasn’t long before I realized that while the job is amazing, it isn’t all that it’s made out to be.
I spent a total of 2 years working as a travel agent.
When I used to tell people what I did, I was met with the following responses majority of the time.
“Travel agents are rip offs.”
“There is no use for a Travel Agent, I can book everything cheaper online.”
“How do you compete with the internet?”
“Wow, do you get cheap holidays?”
“Can you get me a free trip?”
“What do you actually do?”
So what is the role of a travel agent? Well, the role of a travel agent is incredibly diverse. There are agents that only book cooperate travel, those that only book adventure travel, those that only book students or cruise holidays. I was one of the lucky ones, in my opinion – I got to book a little bit of everything. Yup, a hostel in Mexico? I gotcha covered! A river cruise in Europe worth $40,000? Yup I’m your girl! (No seriously…)
I would say that during my time as a travel agent, and even now – I am asked almost every day about my job, how I got into it, what’s it like, and I am constantly approached by other people dreaming of having a career in the travel industry – and rightly so, it looks amazing on paper.
So let’s bust some myths on travel agents, the good… the bad… the awkward, and why it isn’t exactly what it’s cut out to be.
My time as a travel agent taught me new lessons every single day. By the end of my 2 years I was incredibly savvy with customer service, computer systems, phone manor, random destinations (Hence the blog) marketing and of course sales. Having worked as a travel agent is pure gold on resumes and very attractive to companies when looking at hiring. I am forever thankful for the skills that being a travel agent has taught me.
The perks of the job.
I know when people look at becoming a travel agent the most attractive part is certainly the perks, the free trips, the cheap airfares, and its true – partly. During my 2 years as a travel agent I went on 2 familiarization trips which were heavily discounted. I paid $50 for an ocean cruise out of Sydney on the Golden Princess with a friend, and a discounted trip on a luxury European River cruise which I took my mother on. Along with this I was discounted a trip to Fiji with my girlfriends for my birthday staying at a luxury resort. Over my 2 years as a travel agent I traveled to 9 different countries and did a domestic cruise, and hey I’m not complaining.
The travel industry is widely diverse in terms of employees, young, old, and from all different corners of the world. I was lucky enough to have a close team of consultants around the same age as myself, a total mix of personalities and interests, but (most of the time) we meshed well together and were great friends. One thing that every single one of us have in common was out utter passion and love for all things travel. – Some of us even travel together.
Okay. I can only speak for the company that I was a part of – all travel agencies are run differently. My particular company was all about employee satisfaction and it was obvious in many aspects. Monthly awards nights were held to get everyone together (With a bar tab every time). Annual end of Financial year balls were a highlight and were incredibly extravagant (I recall there being acrobats last time.) – and the infamous Global ball – a weekend trip for all successful consultants to another country to party and celebrate. If a consultant made it to Global ball, they knew they were successful.
Not as many perks as you’d think.
Yup… it’s true. My life wasn’t just travel (Although it is now, isn’t that ironic.) The perks of the job were amazing, but they surely weren’t in abundance – which is fine, some jobs give you no perks at all.
Pressure to make commission.
An often taboo subject – but it’s no secret that travel agents work off commission. We were pressured day in and day out to make money and hit our targets – make sales whatever it took, and on some months, where the money may not be flowing – it did make me feel a little disheartened. While we were well looked after and given a descent wage aside from our commission, the constant pressure was stressful. There is a reason that most travel agents don’t make it through the first 6 months in the industry.
Most of my customers were amazing, and I can call lots of them my friends now, but there were the odd customers who weren’t my cup of tea.
Things go wrong all the time.
… and it’s usually your fault, even if its not. It’s inevitable that things go wrong, it happens in every industry, but after buying a house and buying a car travel is the third most expensive thing that people spend their money on – so when things go wrong they usually go very wrong. One time I accidentally sent a customer to South Africa without a visa, which lost me $1,700 of my hard earned commission. – It was due to my neglect and lack of attention to detail, but was still a serious bummer and had me doubting myself for a long time. – But you learn from your mistakes!
No work-life balance.
My average working week was 45 hours, which is significantly longer then the average working week of Australians – We were paid commission so I suppose if you worked hard you were rewarded, but rocking up to work for a morning meeting every morning was a bit of a bust, but hey, you do what you gotta do and it’s not so bad when you mesh well with your team!
Despite everything, I did it because I loved my job, I loved booking holidays and making peoples dreams come true. I loved proving to people every day that travel agents are not a dying breed and are 100% worth giving a shot, at the end of the day… I wanted to be on the holidays, not planning them anymore, but kudos to all you agents out there still kicking butt, you rock.
After being a travel agent for two years, I would certainly still book my holidays with a Travel Agent.