Training and Developing Your Leisure Travel Agents

Vacation sales are often not profitable but the reason is typically a lack of productivity among sales agents. It is well known in this industry that a really top-notch vacation agent can be extremely productive and produce significant profits for an agency.

These vacation sales giants have some characteristics in common:

- They give top quality service.
- They have a loyal clientele.
- They are efficient.
- They know how to close a sale.

These agents are essentially consultants to vacations travelers, knowledgeable enough to advise about choice of destination, choice of package, itinerary, and so forth.

The training that is required to develop one of these vacation sales stars must include the following: destination training, techniques for closing a sale, and efficient use of systems for handling business. This is very much in contrast to a commercial travel agent. Destination knowledge for a commercial agent is a low priority while systems efficiency is a high priority. A vacation agent, on the other hand, is primarily a consultant and must be knowledgeable about the destinations being sold.

Destination Training

Any good salesperson will tell you that product knowledge is absolutely crucial for effective sales. You probably have observed yourself that agents who have visited Mexico are much better able sell Mexico to their clients. FAM trips, therefore, are an important training tool for vacation agents. Many agencies use FAM trips as employment perks instead of as training devices.

To use your FAM trips as training, first decide what destinations your agency sells or would like to sell. Schedule your vacation agents on FAM trips to these locations. Destination training is also available from many package suppliers. Again, focus your training efforts on destinations that your agency sells. If Las Vegas is your biggest vacation market, then invest your staff’s time in Las Vegas training.

Finally, there are tremendous resource materials available about specific destinations. Build a reference library of material for your vacation agents. Again, your library should emphasize the destinations that you sell.

The bottom line is product knowledge. What is it that you are selling and how can you train your agents to know that product? If you are selling a particular package, train on that package. If you are selling a particular destination, train on that destination.

Many large vacation agencies have very successfully developed specialties for particular agents. Thus, an agency might have a Caribbean specialist and a European specialist. Such specialties are a tremendous resource to your agency and can be internally utilized for training. For instance, your agency’s European specialist can host destination training seminars for newly hired staff or less experienced staff.

Closing the Sale

A good vacation travel agent is not just an information library. If your agents sit at their desks all day responding to inquiries and handing out brochures when requested, they are never going to pay their way. A vacation sales agent is essentially a salesperson. Potential clients come to your agency with an idea about a vacation, and these leads need to be converted into sales. Your agents need to learn how to close the sale! Many volumes have been written about closing skills and how they can be developed. Some people say that a good salesperson is born, not developed. In any case, everyone can improve.

The essential steps in vacation salesmanship include:

- Identifying a lead.
- Qualifying a lead.
- Following-up.
- Closing.

Whenever a client wanders into your agency with a few questions about a trip to Mexico, picks up a couple of brochures, and then wanders out again, an opportunity for a sale has been lost. A top-notch salesperson in an agency would not let a prospective client wander in, select a brochure, and wander out. Your agents need to be trained to see these inquiries as opportunities for sales, and they need to be trained in skills and techniques for converting shoppers to buyers.

As in any kind of training program, the important element is to make your point and then constantly monitor and counsel your agents regarding their performance. Watch the number of inquiries compared to the number of sales; track the ratio and publish it. Everyone knows that ego is a prime motivator for salespeople. Publishing agents’ performance in closing sales can be a strong incentive.

Systems

It is extremely important that your vacation agents be supported with systems and procedures that help them maintain a high productivity level. It’s up to you to provide the systems and the appropriate training.

For example, whenever a visitor comes in for a brochure, it’s extremely important that a name and address be obtained and perhaps some additional information about destination interest. What happens to that data? Who collects it? Where is it kept? Who follows up and when? Management must develop a follow-up system and train agents to use it.

Similarly, vacation agents generally handle somewhat complicated financial transactions for their clients. Deposits are collected, checks are sent out, payments are made. You need to provide your agents with a system for tracking all of that activity and train them to use it accurately and efficiently.

To summarize, as you develop your training programs for vacation agents, you need to train your agents in three ways:

- As consultants – who need extremely high-quality destination knowledge in order to serve your clients.
- As salespeople – who need closing skills in order to turn shoppers into buyers.
- As production personnel – who need systems to keep track of all the activity going on in your agency.

If you invest in your vacation agents, tremendous payoffs are possible in productivity, agency reputation and professionalism.

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.

How to Become a Travel Agent (You Don’t Have to Go to Travel School)

How to become a travel agent starts with deciding why it is you want to be a travel agent. If you want to be an agent to make commissions on selling travel, to help people book travel and to travel cheaply at travel agent rates – then becoming an agent is extremely simple. However, if you’re looking to become a licensed agent, with a Main Street address, and brochures in your lobby. . .wait – that’s easy too.

There are several companies that enable interested parties to become agents for them for a small fee. In exchange they provide an internet site branded with your ‘travel agency’ name, they provide the booking engine to help you book travel and give you access to travel agent sites that provide travel agent rates. This is the path I have chosen, and would recommend to others.

The disadvantage to becoming an agent this way is the lack of SABRE computer system training or use. Also, you don’t automatically become a cruise expert or a vacation expert. By joining your local travel agency, you would get these things automatically as part of the new team.

However, on the flip side of that coin, by going the route I have chosen, you can get any credentials or level of expertise you want with the training they do provide, access to independent training and even virtual training done through the company’s website. Why would you want to be a cruise expert anyway, if you haven’t taken the classes to learn the trade.

The SABRE computer system is pretty outdated as well, the software the new breed of agencies provides gives you all the access to the help and research that you need to be great in the travel industry.

Top 3 Travel Trends For Today’s Travel Agent

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

~~Mahatma Gandhi~~

1869-1948, Preeminent leader of Indian nationalism

Trend #1 – The Internet

Everybody knows that the internet has changed virtually everything… especially the Travel Industry. Online giants like Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz have revolutionized travel. Even Travel Agents & Agencies are booking online while the general public searches and buys their own vacations online. In fact, it’s estimated that 82% of all travel is now being booked online. Travel is one of the most researched topics on the internet… and also the most profitable.

The internet is simple, seamless and the perfect medium for the travel industry. We just point, click, and pack our bags. Before the internet, however, an agent’s bread & butter was commissions earned with business travelers… predominantly flights. American Airlines was the first to pull the plug on paying commissions on flight purchases as the internet started coming into its own and more business travelers were finding better deals online.

Since 1997 well over 200,000 agencies went out of business. Over 1 million travel agents lost their jobs to the internet. That number grew after 9/11. The days of brick & mortar very quickly got taken over by click & order, making for a far more efficient system. However, those very few agents & agencies that could foresee the positive impact the internet could have for them, jumped right into the explosive opportunity that the internet introduced, to maintain as much of their client base as possible. Very few, a decade ago, opted to go with the flow of change. Today, everyone understands that the internet is here to stay. When we are adaptable to change, we flourish… and profit.

Because of the internet, the online travel agent is also home-based. Because of the tremendous opportunity, continuous industry growth, and #1 industry training, today’s travel agent is your mother, cousin, aunt, neighbour, best friend, etc. and earning 60-100% of the vendors commission. It’s for everyone.

Trend #2 – Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing has been and always will be the best way to market anything. Statistics prove that 80% of all vacations (most anything really) are taken because of a recommendation from a friend, family member or co-worker. Think about the last time you came home from a vacation. Did you keep it a secret? No way! We talk about it for 2 months before leaving and talk about it for 2 months after we get back! And we show everyone pictures and videos! And we recommend the destination and hotel to everyone (or not) and tell them where we bought our terrific deal!

Familiarization trips (FAMs) play a huge part in word-of-mouth marketing. The only way for agents to really learn about what they sell is to experience it first hand. FAMs are put together by cruise lines, hotel chains and destinations worldwide. They usually include accommodation, tours, meals, shows, transportation, etc. Prices are slashed making it affordable for agents to travel multiple times a year… VIP!. The vendors roll out the proverbial red carpet for agents when they arrive. They’re given the most exclusive experience possible because vendors know that when agents return home… they’re going to talk about it!

The average person will purchase his vacation online at retail, once a year.

Agents will travel multiple times a year, all over the world as far and wide as they want to go, for pennies on the dollar. For this, FAMs continue to be one of the major perks today for agents in the industry.

Which takes us to…

Trend #3 – Home Based Business

Travel students, Baby Boomers and everyone in between are bringing travel home!

Leading agencies smart enough to follow the internet trend, have gone online and now offer just about anyone the opportunity to be professionally trained to operate and sell travel from home!! Woohoo!! That’s right! YOU can sell travel from the comfort of your own home and get paid!

Doesn’t it make sense that if you’re going to travel anyway (especially as much as the Boomers), that you buy it from yourself and get paid? Or get paid commissions on the trips your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers are taking already? Of course! Most people will do business with someone they know & trust. You may as well be that person, right?

Agencies quickly caught on to the franchise phenomena online and have opened up the opportunity to just about anyone with a valuable work ethic who is willing to learn. Coupled with word-of-mouth marketing… you’ve got a winning combination! The more knowledgeable you become, the more perks, FAMs, FREE trips, upgrades, etc, become available to you… cha-ching!

I’ve been selling travel for years. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a travel industry professional. For more than two decades I’ve been asked “How did you come by this work?”

But I also get asked, “What’s the best place to go for our honeymoon?” or “Can you recommend a Caribbean cruise itinerary?” or “What hotel should we stay at in the Mayan Riviera?”

Hey, it’s not rocket science!! If I have the answers and I can get paid for the sale… Hello??

The internet made it possible for me to have my own online agency and benefit even more from the extraordinary perks available to travel professionals! Being online means I don’t really even have to be home. Because my business is online, I am accessible to the world, 365 days of the year, 24/7! Friends and family can book all by themselves while I’m hiking with my dog! I can even book flights or all-inclusive vacations right from my BlackBerry!! WOW! So my home-based travel business is really my mobile travel services!! Super cool!!

We must not forget the amazing benefits that come with owning a business from home as well!

Aside from the obvious travel perks, just about every family vacation now becomes a FAM. As professionals, when we take a few minutes to inspect and ask questions about the accommodations, tours, restaurants that we ourselves are experiencing while on vacation, we’re really educating ourselves for our customers. So our personal vacation now becomes classified as a business trip… and an expense that we can write off! Super cool, again!

On a personal note, I’m only 45 seconds from my bedroom to my office!

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to work from home, anywhere in the world, to have your own business and to qualify for such incredible travel-insider perks. Retirees, at-home-moms, students on the run… it’s available to just about anyone with a can-do attitude, has a strong work ethic, loves to learn, and is highly self-motivated. A few hours a day can earn hundreds to thousands of dollars! No bosses, no limits!

Travel Agents

Becoming a Travel Agent

Travel agents need to become well-organized and detail-oriented in order to compile information from various sources in order to plan and organize their clients travel needs. They encourage people to travel and help them plan and prepare for their trip. Travel agents help travelers sort through large amounts of information in order to make the best possible travel arrangements. As an agent you are also expected to know how to advise travelers about their destinations, such as the weather conditions, local ordinances and customs, attractions, exhibitions, and money exchanges. These professionals increasingly specialize in specific destinations or by type of travel. Those who specialize in a travel destination, will have the best chances for success. Travel agents held about 101,000 jobs in May 2006 and are found in every part of the country.

Travel Agents face increasing competition from travel and airline websites for low-cost fares, but travelers still prefer using a travel agent who can cater to their specific needs. To attract these travelers, many agents specialize in specific interest destinations, travel to certain regions. Advanced computer systems and other networks make it possible for a growing number of travel agents to work from home; however, some agents desire to have an office presence for walk-in business. Opportunities should be better for agents who specialize in specific destinations, luxury travel, or particular types of travelers.

Visualize a vacation of self-indulgence in massages, savory culinary treats and boutique shopping. Furthermore, luxury and specialty travel is expected to increase among the growing number of Americans who are seeking out exotic and unique vacations and a growing part of travel agents business is organizing and selling tours for the growing number of international visitors.

Independent Travel Agent – Live The Exciting Life

Today there are a vast array of different opportunities available to those people who would like to earn money from running their own business. One such business, which is proving to be extremely popular, is the independent travel agent. Certainly if you are interested in becoming such a travel agent there are plenty of courses now available that you can take.

Along with courses being available at your local college or university, there are some courses, which are now available and can be taken online. The main benefit of taking an online course is that you can carryout your studies at a time that is convenient to you and at a pace that you feel comfortable with.

There are many sites where such courses are being offered although some are specifically designed for those who are already involved in the travel industry. However, if you are starting from the very bottom then there are courses specifically designed for you.

These courses will take you from the very beginning learning all about the travel industry, sales techniques and all the various documentation involved. They will also teak you about all the various parts of the globe and why people travel to certain parts of the world. They will then also provide you with more in depth knowledge regarding various sectors of the travel industry such as cruises, extreme sports holidays etc.

Finally these courses are then there to help you with starting up your own independent travel agency business. They will show you the steps you will need to take to get it up and running. Show you the stages of preparing a business/marketing plan and then how to use it. Also they will explain what it is you will need with regards to equipment in order to run your independent travel agent office from your home.

As mentioned there are plenty of online courses available but it is essential that you spend some time looking at each of them before you make your final decision. If you have any questions or queries regarding a particular course then do not hesitate to contact them for assistance. Certainly, a course where they respond quickly to any communications is one that is going to be willing to spend time providing their students with the right sort of training.

Also although you will see courses available for sale on auction sites such e-Bay these should be avoided. If you really want to succeed in this area of the travel industry it is far better to go with a course that has the right accreditations and which allows you to gain the necessary certifications. Again there are plenty of places online, which can direct you to the places that offer a good quality independent travel agent training course.

First MLM and Travel Agent Model Arrives

In this exciting new century there is a new way to become a travel agent. The days of the expensive travel agent courses are becoming ancient history, and so is the overhead traditional travel agents had to deal with.

Classic (old-school) Travel Agent Opportunity

There are still travel agent trainings, that cost an arm & a leg, and leave you with the ability to book travel, but that’s where it ends. My wife took this old-school training and it cost her over $10,000 and she had to pay for room & board for the month-long course. She ended up with a basic privilege to book travel.

With these kind of old-school credentials, you are missing out on something BIG, and I’ll get to why further in this article.

Internet Travel Agent Opportunity

Then along came the Internet, and soon there was hundreds of web-sites offering cheap eBooks, online courses claiming that you would get the information, and training you needed to succeed as a travel agent (home-based, or overhead based).

None of these cheap deals actually deliver on their promise, and this avenue usually leaves you out of pocket for some of your hard-earned money. How much can vary – from as low as $5.95, and as high as $2500 USD. OUCH! You want to stay clear of these scams for sure.

Then Came Programs Like YTB

YTB is a smoother, and slicker Internet based company that promises to provide you with the resources to become a home-based travel agent. The problem is that there are better offers out there now. These new-world networks cost less money, set you up faster, pay higher commissions, and provide for residual income as well. The travel agents make high commissions, and they have lucrative down-lines that grow wealth perpetually.

The New-World Travel Agent System

The new-world travel agent systems use a Network that provides for online travel booking so that the agent can work from anywhere there is an Internet connection, and they pay much higher commissions. The best example to date is a new travel company known as Pro Travel Network.

Become a Travel Agent For Massive Savings

So I admit, I am a member of an e-commerce travel company. But this article is not about selling you on a home-based business; it’s all about you becoming your own travel agent. Believe it or not, even if you never sign up one person in this company, you can win financially in amazing ways, regardless! For less than $1,000, you can own your own turnkey travel business, receive quick travel agent training, and become an independent, credentialed agent with all the terrific benefits that offers. And what are some of those benefits?

First, FAM or “familiarization” trips are offered by tour companies, hotels, convention and visitor bureaus, airlines and cruise lines. The purpose of these trips is to familiarize the agent with the cruise line, hotel, or tour company. Of course, the particular company is hoping you will send future travelers their way. The great thing about these FAM trips, sometimes called member trips, is that they are so easy to access. Once you become an agent you are able to take one of these FAM trips immediately. These trips are extremely discounted, and can save you up to 80% on land trips and 70% on cruises. Obviously, this is more than worth it. Here are a few random examples of some of the member trips that you can take advantage of:

4Day Jamaica Vacation for only $234.00

4Day to Cozumel, Mexico only $181.00

4Day to Cancun Mexico Vacation, $230.00

6Day Caribbean Cruise for only $285.00

Myrtle Beach golf vacation for 3 nights: $359.00

7Day to Spain: Madrid, Cordova and Seville. From $990 for agents; $1090 for spouses/companions.

Disney World 3 Day/ 4 Night, only $335.00. The kids will love this one…

(Many of these quotes cover hotels, transfers, sightseeing, and at least two daily meals).

Second, on top of the discounts, earn Travel Agent commissions on your personal travel, as well as the travel of your clients. Book any travel on your own site or point friends/family to it and you get cash back. Yes, you heard me right.

Third, enjoy sometimes being treated like royalty when traveling as an agent. Even the governments of some nations offer the red carpet treatment to agents. This is because politicians realize the huge benefits tourism dollars can bring to their economy. So don’t feel as if you owe them the world. You’re helping them too.

Fourth, enjoy tax advantages for running a business. According to the IRS, deductible expenses related to business travel are the normal and necessary expenses of traveling to perform your business, job, or profession. When you become a travel agent, you make traveling your business. Deducting travel expenses from your income before paying taxes means huge savings. The average American traveler that spends $3,000 a year on travel must earn $4,500 before taxes. For the travel professional that owns his or her own business, their income is not taxed until after travel expenses are deducted. This could equate to a 50% savings on expenses and a $2,000 a year difference in spendable money. This could be cash in your pocket! (Consult with a tax accountant for details).

Have the ability to travel more and better than you have ever dreamed while you compile frequent flyer miles as well as many other rewards. Connect your FAM rates to frequent traveler numbers with airlines, hotel chains, etc. Not all providers let you do this, but, for example, if you have a frequent guest number for Marriot, try and attach it to your reservation. Not only will you get the discounted rate today, you are working towards a free stay in the future.

Sixth, receive unbelievable discounts to shows, theme parks, and attractions. Enjoy discounts on swamp tours, riverboat dinners, dinner theaters, etc. All you have to do is ask.

You may be thinking, “All this is great in theory, but I wouldn’t have the nerve to constantly ask for travel agent discounts right in front of customers who are paying full price.” Don’t worry about that. To get these discounts, most times you will receive them when you book the trip. And if there’s a situation involving a long line of full-paying customers, travel agents go to the Guest Relations, Group, or Administration office or window and get their discounts there.