If you've ever considered a career in the travel industry, you have many options. People are traveling more than ever. The internet and social media have created both opportunities and challenges for travel agents. Overall, however, it's an exciting time to become a travel professional. Let's look at the top 7 signs that you should consider becoming an independent travel agent.
1. You're Passionate About Travel
The most important requirement is that you truly love travel. It helps if you've traveled extensively yourself but this isn't essential. What really counts is that you find different places and cultures fascinating. Of course, there are different types of travel agents. You don't necessarily need to be enthusiastic about everything travel-related. Depending on your background and interests, you might specialize. You might focus on a certain part of the world or type of travel such as cruises, European travel, the Caribbean, adventure travel, or other specialties. Or, if you truly do love to explore every corner of the globe, you could take a more general approach.
2. You Like to Work Independently
The clue here is in the term independent travel agent. However, it really applies to entrepreneurs of all types. While the idea of not having a boss and working for yourself is quite appealing to many people, you need to have the right mindset to succeed. An entrepreneur needs certain qualities such as motivation and self-discipline.
You don't have a boss or manager assigning tasks for you so it's up to you to prioritize, set goals, and stay on track. If you're accustomed to working a 9-5 job, you could still make a great travel agent. However, you will need to make an adjustment as you realize that everything is up to you!
3. You Enjoy Helping People
As a travel agent, you're not only dealing with places but also with people. You need to be focused on connecting your clients with the ideal travel products and services. This means you have to be able to empathize with them and consider their needs. People have different schedules, budgets, and preferences. You need to shift gears with each client and decide how to best help him or her.
You'll also find that clients come in many forms. Some will be a joy to work with while others may be a bit more challenging to interact with. This, of course, is true for any position that involves serving the public. As a travel agent, it helps to have patience, empathy, and a sense of humor.
4. You're Organized
A travel agent needs to be organized. The more clients you have, the more important this quality becomes. You have to be able to keep track of your clients' itineraries and related tasks. You need to set your schedule, prioritize, and give yourself deadlines. Travel, including flights, cruises, hotel reservations, resorts, and tours, are very time-oriented. In some ways, you actually need to be more in tune with your clients' schedules than they themselves are. People will be counting on you to help them plan the best possible trip. So you need to be able to organize and keep track of all the details.
The good news is that today's technology can help make all this easier. You don't have to keep all this information in your head or in a spiral notebook. There are numerous programs and apps that will automate many tasks for you. However, it's still up to you to make the best possible use of these tools.
5. You Enjoy Research
A travel agent needs to be an expert. It helps if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the world but this isn't necessary. With so many online resources at your disposal, it's fairly easy to do research quickly. It helps if you enjoy looking up information about exotic as well as nearby (whatever that means relative to you) cities, oceans, mountains, and jungles.
When clients hire you, they will expect you to connect them with the places and resources they need. This means you have to be ready to answer lots of questions. When you don't know something, you'll have to look it up for them. It also helps if you're proactive and do research on your own before questions come up. The best travel agents stay current with the latest trends in the industry and enjoy finding destinations, activities, restaurants, and so forth to recommend to their clients.
6. You're Comfortable with Digital Marketing
Today's travel agents live and work in a world that's very different from those of the pre-internet era. Travel agencies used to be primarily physical locations. Now you might have a physical office but most likely you'll be working from home. This means the bulk of your work, including marketing your services, will be online.
You need to be able to navigate the various types of online marketing, which includes building a website, managing social media accounts, and perhaps an online newsletter and email list. You don't have to be an online marketing expert to get started, though. There are quite a few resources to help you learn along the way. You do, however, need to be willing to learn the ropes so you can promote yourself online.
7. You're Flexible
Flexibility or the ability to adjust and try different strategies is always a good trait for an entrepreneur to have. It's also a particularly necessary quality to succeed in the travel industry, where conditions are constantly changing. You'll often find that certain clients are prone to change their minds about dozens of details. For all this, it helps if you're willing to investigate alternative routes, dates, and approaches. For example, if someone is looking for the cheapest way to get somewhere, it helps if you consider lots of possible itineraries. You also need to be adaptable when it comes to your marketing. By testing different methods and approaches, you can find the solutions that work best for your business.
Becoming an independent travel agent can be the start of an exciting adventure. Even when you're not traveling yourself, you can vicariously take part in your clients' journies. It helps if you possess some of the above qualities. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a genuine passion for travel you may be able to develop the necessary skills and qualities required for this business.