Make your own mental calculations of the impact of the travel industry in your city or town. Is there any air transportation? What about buses or rail service? Are there any car rental locations? Is there a shuttle service to get people from the airport to hotels, or from home to the airport? Do you have any ferries, cruise ships, sailboats or barges you could purchase a ticket on in your area? Are there any hotels, motels, restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, malls or theme parks nearby? Does your city host any major events or have any parades? Are there any tourist attractions close by? Google travel agencies in your city, do any come up?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, calculate the number of people employed at each location. Now multiply that by the large number of cities, states and countries in the world and you can see for yourself what a huge impact the travel industry has on an economy, and how many employment opportunities there are.
The Industry as an Employer
The World Travel & Tourism Council's 2018 analysis of the global economic impact of Travel & Tourism showed the sector to account for 10.4% of global GDP and 313 million jobs, or 9.9% of total employment in 2017. See the full report below.
In the United States, the travel industry has become the second largest industry. The U.S. Department of Commerce projects travel and tourism will soon be the number one industry in the country. The World Travel and Tourism Commission projected a 4% growth in the industry as a whole worldwide over the next ten years. Countries large and small can benefit from the travel industry.
In Canada, Canadian tourism recently generated 633,000 full and part-time jobs, which is up from previous years. Tourism in Canada represents about 4% of government revenues resulting in over $19 billion in revenue for Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments.
As technology grows, the world seems to grow smaller. Businesses are becoming more and more global and the need to travel is increasing. The thing you can always count on in the travel industry is that nothing stays the same. Popular destinations this year will not be so popular next year. Trends in travel from ten years ago are unheard of now. Experts tell us that travel professionals will always be necessary, but the ones who survive are the ones who respond to an ever-changing environment.
Fun Fact: Most travel agencies charge service fees. According to an ASTA survey, more than 90% of agencies charge some sort of service fee and 10% of agencies earn at least half of their income from service fees.
A good travel agent must be self-confident, professional, out-going and enthusiastic. A genuine desire to help people — to be of service — is a signal of success. An ability to communicate effectively with clients and co-workers is a benefit. Travel agents should be honest and friendly, with a willingness to go the extra mile for a client. Attention to detail is helpful as there are many details to cover as you assist clients in their travel plans. These are all personal traits.
A significant amount of knowledge is required to be an effective travel agent. A background in geography, communications, world history or computers would certainly help. A basic understanding of the following will give you a good foundation.
Recommended Skills and Knowledge
- Customer Service
- Telephone Manners
- Internet Capabilities
- Basic Math
- Grammar and Language
- Specific Knowledge
Let's look a little further into those:
For you to be credible as a travel professional, you need to have a basic understanding of geography, including continents, oceans, countries and major cities. When your client wants to vacation in the Cook Islands, you should have a general idea where that is, or have a good map handy. As a professional you will want to meet the needs and expectations of each client so you will need some knowledge of (or know where to find out) what the destination looks like, what the climate and culture are, etc.
It is impossible to know everything there is to know about every destination. It is possible, however, to have references at your fingertips which can assist you. There are thousands of destination geography resources available both in print and online, however having key information quickly available is going to be the most beneficial to you. While studying the Geography unit in this course, we recommend creating your own reference notebook- with key information that will be the most relevant to your specialty and your audience (which we will go over later in this course).
You will need some training or understanding of sales to be a successful travel agent. Many people have a negative concept of a salesperson, based on a bad experience they may have had. In truth, a good travel agent must be a good salesperson—one who meets or exceeds the client’s needs and expectations by suggesting an appropriate product or service.
Leisure travel is intangible. You often cannot feel or see the experience the client is describing to you, but you can recommend a tangible product (cruise, tour) that in your professional opinion will be what they are looking for to give them the intangible experience they want.
Customer service and sales skills are often grouped together and are thought of as the same thing. Customer service is going beyond the expected and putting the customer first. Good customer service includes being thorough, watching for the details and following the task through to completion. Since many travel products can be purchased directly through the supplier, online or in any number of retailers, it is often the customer service that keeps the client loyal to you and to your company.
Much of your work will be done by phone so you will need to have good phone manners. You will need to answer the phone properly, take messages, transfer calls and handle putting people on hold. Often, the first impression of your company is based upon how the phone was answered so make it as positive and professional as possible.
Computer Skills, Including Internet
A working knowledge of computers will help ensure your success as a travel professional. More and more companies are going mostly (or fully) online, so a familiarity with the internet and how to effectively utilize it to find the information you want will aid you in your career. Most travel companies use a computer system of some sort to track reservations and store data. Even without a knowledge of the specific program you may be using on the job, understanding how computers work and being able to access and utilize digital information can give you a head start in your travel computer training.
Understanding math is necessary to calculate fares, rates, taxes, commissions, etc. If your clients can figure out the rate before you do, you may lose some of your credibility as a travel professional. Also, most travel companies have accounting departments. The personnel receive some of the same benefits as other employees working for the company with regards to travel discounts. If you like math and accounting, this may be an area for you.
Tip: Always have a calculator that you are familiar with using at the ready while you are on the phone or in a meeting with a client.
Grammar and Language
Proper use of grammar while speaking and being able to express yourself in a professional manner will aid you as you sell to your clients. If you use improper grammar, clients may be hesitant to give you their hard-earned money as they may doubt your credibility and professionalism.
Not only is proper speaking important but being able to write professional letters is helpful. Correct spelling, especially of cities or countries, is important. You may need to write letters or send emails requesting confirmation, documentation or to clarify or resolve a problem. Proper use of language and grammar can set you apart and speaking a second language fluently will add to your list of skills as a travel professional.
Specific knowledge in the area of travel you want to specialize in will be needed. For example, if you should choose to pursue a career as a travel agent, you will want to educate yourself in all of the above areas, plus you will need knowledge of airline tickets, airfares, cruises, tours, hotels, car rentals, etc. No matter what area of travel you choose to pursue as a career, a willingness to continue learning will be important as the industry is in perpetual change.
There are many educational opportunities available for someone who wants to enter the travel industry. On-the-job experience is one way to receive training. You are now completing Travel Essentials which will assist you as your grow your travel agent career.