When I started in this industry, about 18 years ago, I was young and fresh out of high school with visions of traveling the world. I enrolled myself in travel school and took a job at a local brick-and-mortar agency ready to conquer (and travel) the world. I worked from department to department until I learned the ins and outs and found my calling. I honestly thought when I was in travel school that leisure travel would be my passion. I was wrong. It turned out that working the corporate travel part of the business was to be my true love.
To put it simply, I enjoy making reservations for my clients. Through the years I’ve handled retail to wholesale, rappers to rock bands, and soap stars to TV stars. I‘ve managed to keep many of the same clients, gained new clients by referral, and made some outstanding friends along the way. You truly get to know your travelers when you’re talking to them, and their assistants, on a day to day basis. Now the job itself is not easy by any means. You are constantly faced with challenges, whether its airline delays, ever rising pricing, schedule changes, changes by the customer or just a simple mistake made during the booking process. Its hard work, and requires a great deal of dedication and patience, knowledge of industry rules & regulations, and most of all customer service skills. While some may disagree, corporate travel tends to be more sensitive to time schedules, demands of demanding travelers, and a constant pressure to perform. While this all may sound scary to some, that’s where the fun begins, helping the client with any problems that arise no matter what the cause.
I’ve had clients I’ve laughed with, cried with, argued with, argued for, and worried about many times in my career. Helping them with any emergencies or mishaps while they are on their respective journeys is what the job is about and personally very rewarding for me. The traveler who fears for his safety while stuck in a foreign land that suddenly turns hostile; the Dad who needs to get home because his wife is in labor and he wants to be present for the birth of his daughter; the TV diva who needs to travel with her lawyer, child and 4 dogs at all times; or the 400 person conference in Florida that has to be re-routed & re-ticketed, within 24 hours on a Sunday, because of a hurricane—these are all routine for a corporate travel professional.
It’s true that this industry is always changing. Airlines have come (Southwest, Jetblue, Virgin America) and gone (Eastern, Pan Am, TWA, Braniff), airline commissions have gone as well, the death of paper tickets with the birth of e-ticketing, and of course the dreaded card-mills/travel agents in a box. It’s a constant battle to stay current with the times and keep the pulse of the client. Proving your expertise and skill is required on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
The Internet has spawned many new and exciting travel tools for everyone, including travel agents. Many thought with online travel, that the traditional travel agent would simply disappear like the dinosaurs. While some decided to close their doors, many of us realized that clients would now need us more than ever to help decipher the information overload provided by the very tools that we craved. The websites will not go above and beyond for you, like your travel professional will. I have yet to see Expedia or Orbitz assist you when you’re at the airport in a 200 person deep line. Travelocity or Priceline don’t care that your first child is being born. Your travel professional will. I am reminded of my value each day by my clients and the stack of postcards, pictures, souvenirs, gifts and thank you notes are proof positive. What more can I ask for?
Lisa Rapavi is a Corporate Travel Agent for CWT/The Leaders Group travel based in Montvale NJ. She is a home based agent working from East Stroudsburg PA. She has been an agent for over 18 years working in all facets of travel, but focus’ her travel skills in the corporate travel arena. L.Rapavi@tlgtravel.com