Travel Agent

I spent some time with Sharon Cooper, who is part of Vision 2000 Travel Group and is an experienced travel agent with an interesting clientele. She has travelled nearly everywhere and her clients are just as adventurous as her. When she was younger, she was really interested in geography and actually wanted to become a teacher. However, she became a travel agent, loves it, and is amazing at what she does.

She deals with clients all day over the phone and tries to plan their trips effectively. Surprisingly, she talks to most of her clients over the phone and not in person, but I guess that is due to her non-storefront location. In fact, she has known some clients over 20-30 years and never met them face to face. Her clients really trust her because she has a lot of credibility. She travels all the time—she isn’t just reading guidebooks—and her clients usually follow in her footsteps, going to the same destinations. 

I was fortunate to sit in on a meeting with a client and a meeting with a supplier. Although face-to-face meetings with clients are rare, they happen around once or twice a week. Sharon grabbed a map and first started the meeting by giving a small geography lesson of the region the client wanted to go to. She then qualified the client by asking what their expectations and needs were for this trip. Are you going for culture? Golf? Beaches?... Once she understood the client’s needs, she made recommendations on cities to visit and activities to do. I was really amazed by the extensive knowledge Sharon has—I wouldn’t want to play her in a game of Geography. After Sharon had outlined dates and given possible trip configurations, the client was happy. After that meeting, we met with a Parisian hotel representative who showed us recent renovations that had been undertaken in a high-end hotel in Paris. Supplier representatives usually come in on a daily basis to her office, which makes a fun break during the day. 

Cool Fact: The craziest trip Sharon planned was exactly 365 days for two clients who went around the world. 

Popular Trips: Croatia, Mediterranean cruises, and safaris in Africa. 

A Typical Day

Sharon Cooper, the travel agent I shadowed, rarely sees clients in person. Instead, she does lots of research and bookings over the phone and online. However, she meets on a daily basis with a lot of suppliers (hoteliers, airlines, tour operators…) who present updates on their products

Top 3 Perks

1) Interaction with colleagues  

2) Meeting interesting suppliers from around the world 

3) Discounts and deals for travel agents (especially cruises)  

Job Culture

Indoors, using a computer, lots of phone calls, cyclical business, research, sitting, e-mailing, problem-solving.

Requirements

1) Degree from a community college 

2) Pass an exam 

TIP: Travel experience helps a lot!  

Skills Needed

Listening, understanding needs, communication, people skills, computer, multi tasking, math, research, organizational and planning.

The Field

- Technology has really helped out and made the industry faster. 

- Travel agents don’t get the same discounts and deals they used to get. 

- Although Expedia and other online travel tools originally hurt the industry, many people are fed up with the poor service and are using travel agents again.