There’s a lot to learn upfront, but don’t be overwhelmed.
Your first year of any job can be exciting, but it can also be difficult, especially if it’s your first time working in the industry. With so much to learn, the first year of becoming a travel agent can be overwhelming. Although Jeannine Bottorff has been a travel advisor since November, 2012, she only became an independent contractor eight months ago. “Since I am still close to the starting line, I feel I have a unique viewpoint,” says Bottorff, owner of Classic Family Journeys, an affiliate of Travel Experts, Inc. “I think the biggest hurdle that new advisors face when they are just learning the business is building a clientele. This is especially true if you are home-based and figuring it out by yourself.”
To help promote your new business and get your name in the game as a travel agent, Bottorff says that advisors need to focus on what their strengths are and then use that to their advantage. “I’ve had colleagues who came into the business with a Rolodex of contacts, so they leveraged those previous relationships to gain business,” she says. “I’ve also heard of those who love to go to trade shows or bridal expos, so they focused on developing their clientele by meeting people face-to-face.”
Bottorff used her writing and marketing background to blog as a way of letting clients know about her experience and making a name for herself. “Since I was new to the industry, I felt the way to build credibility with a potential client base was to demonstrate my knowledge of destinations from my years of travel,” she says. An agent’s first year is about more than just getting your name out there to the public. Lynn Clark, vice president of engagement at Trisept Solutions, says that those first 365 days need to be spent figuring out how to make money.
“A new agent needs to find the right support network to be successful,” she says. “Sometimes that can be provided by a host agency or consortia, and many times it can be provided by working with the right technology. Agents should also look for other training on business and sales techniques to drive sales and retain customers.”
Rhonda Day is a Dream Vacations Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist in Louisville, Kentucky and she believes that this first year in a travel agent’s career will definitely be a learning experience for travel industry newbies.
“In the first year, new agents will have lots of trials and errors, they will make mistakes and they will likely quote many more trips than they book,” says Day. “They should stay positive and keep plugging along because it takes time.”
She also says that beginner agents will have more down time in the first year than they will have down the line. “Spend that time wisely by doing training, networking and just letting people know what you do,” she says. “New agents should look at all quotes as a learning experience.”
Before you know it the first year will be over and the lessons will be learned. There will be more to learn down the road, but this advice from successful agents will help create a strong foundation for future years in the business.