A Career as a Travel Agent - A CV Centre Guide

Overview

Travel Agents are generally based in retail environments or within call centres and are responsible for the promotion and sale of holidays and travel-related services to the general public.  They are the agents of the leading tour operators and are usually target-driven, expected to achieve a certain number of unit sales and to generate a certain level of income for the company.

The role of a Travel Agent in a call centre is ostensibly the same as that of an agent based in a retail outlet although the customers are obviously dealt with over the telephone rather than in person.  Within a retail outlet, the agent has the additional responsibility for the presentation and visual merchandising of the premises to ensure the full availability of holiday brochures and to effectively promote the latest special offers.  However, the general day-to-day responsibilities of a Travel Agent in either a call centre or a retail outlet are to tailor a holiday package to the specific needs of the customer and to sell any additional services such as insurance, foreign currency and car hire.  A computer system is used to check availability with tour operators and to make bookings before deposits are taken from the customer and tickets reserved.

Entry requirements

The travel industry is highly competitive, particularly since the introduction of the Internet and the subsequent availability of cheap, last-minute deals.  As a result, vacancies are available all the time and competition is often fierce, despite the relatively low salary available.  Entry into the industry is normally at junior level as there are no minimum requirements other than basic GCSE qualifications.  Most Travel Agents will have to embark on an intensive induction course to enhance their selling skills and their product knowledge before they are given customer-facing responsibilities.  Regular update courses are undertaken throughout their employment and these may even include educational visits to overseas destinations to enable them to sell these more effectively to the customer.

There are a number of training courses and qualifications available that can enhance skills and knowledge including BTEC First and National Diplomas in Travel & Tourism, HNC/HND in Travel & Tourism Management and even degrees or postgraduate qualifications.  There is also the option of completing the Travel Training Programme, an apprenticeship scheme which combines work placements with structured training.  The travel industry is regulated by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and they offer qualifications which will demonstrate a Travel Agent’s industry knowledge and professional competence.  The International Air Transport Association (IATA) offers further qualifications in itinerary planning, fare construction and ticketing for multiple journeys as well as other key areas of the industry. 

Qualifications are generally not the most important consideration when recruiting for the travel industry.  The ability to deal with customers in a friendly and professional manner is essential as is experience or competence in sales.  Travel Agents regularly have to respond to enquiries and complaints from customers so must be able to remain calm and professional when under pressure.  A lively personality will prove invaluable in this role and the ability to demonstrate knowledge of worldwide destinations is also important.  Travel and tourism are leading industries in the UK and someone who can communicate in a foreign language stands an even greater chance of progression into more challenging and diverse roles. 

Progression opportunities

There are not many opportunities for progression within the travel agency industry with branch or area manager being about as far as the career path may take you, unless of course you decide to open your own agency.  However, there is the option to work in business travel and experience in travel agency can also help you to progress further into other related areas such as working directly for tour operators and employment within the broader tourism field.

Benefits of working in this industry include the possibility of travel to various overseas destinations and discounts on your own holiday bookings.  It is also generally considered to be a good team-working environment and ideal for someone with an outgoing and friendly personality.

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