TRAVEL AGENT - Education And Training
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Education and Training
There are many ways to get started as a travel agent. There are schools that offer full-time or night and weekend courses for people who want to become travel agents. These classes are usually from six to eighteen weeks long.
One way to get started is to work in a travel agency doing office work, such as filing and photocopying, and helping to plan simple trips. Once you have some experience in the office, you can begin planning more complex trips. Some agencies will hire high school students to work afternoons or weekends.
Travel agents are trained on the special computer systems used by the airlines, but it is a good idea to practice using computers beforehand. Learning general business and office skills is also helpful.
John Riel, Corporate Travel Agent
“One summer I spent three weeks traveling around Europe on the train. It was the first time I had traveled, and I loved it. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for a career, but I did know I wanted to travel more. Looking through the paper one day I saw an ad for a travel school that offered a three-month course.
“I really enjoyed the class and at the end of three months got a job working in leisure travel. It involved booking everything from plane, to car, to train, to cruise reservations. The office I worked in was extremely busy, but I learned a lot very fast because of it. I worked in leisure travel for five years and now have worked in corporate travel for the last seven years. Corporate travel involves setting up client business trips. I enjoy this much more than leisure because most of the clients travel often and know what they want. But because of this, they can be very demanding. Business travel also changes constantly. Meetings get changed or cancelled and plans must be continuously revised. Anyone going into this field must be flexible.
“The thing I like best about being a travel agent is the opportunity to travel and learn about different places and cultures. I have been able to travel to many places that I probably would not have gone to otherwise. My favorite trips have been to Kenya/Tanzania on safari and to Peru to Machu Picchu.”
Learning about other countries can also help a travel agent in his or her job. John Riel, a corporate travel agent, says that being a travel agent “is a constant learning process [because] it would be impossible to know every destination in the world. However, one thing a high school student could do to prepare for the job would be to study geography. Having that knowledge is a huge help.”
One of the most important things a travel agent needs to be able to do is listen. It is essential to understand what the client really wants. If the travel agent succeeds in making customers happy, they will come back again.