As I look in the mirror | TravelResearchOnline


As I look in the mirror

I had a booth at a business trade show several months ago and someone I hadn’t seen for years stopped by my table. When she asked what I was doing nowadays I responded that I was a travel consultant and I booked leisure and business travel. Her response was, “I thought travel agents were dead?”  Dumbfounded, I assured her that travel agents are alive, well, still kicking and that news of our demise is premature.  I went on to tell her how much I loved working in the travel industry, what I do,  and how professional travel agents differ from the online sites.

Travel agents have an image problem. The term ‘travel agent” encompasses anyone with a pulse that can put an ad on Craigslist promoting themselves as an agent. The Internet empowers people to book their own travel. Consumers think they don’t need travel agents. With a point and click they can book it themselves. While the Internet is a powerful tool it can’t replace the human interaction and expertise that I  bring to the table. That’s the message I try to convey and it is an important message.

To differentiate myself from the amateurs, hobbyists and card mills I use the term “travel consultant.” Consultant comes from the Latin word “consultare” meaning “to discuss.” Wikipedia defines a consultant as a person who “is usually an expert or a professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter or a professional who provides advice in a particular area or expertise.”

Being a travel consultant is much more than clicking a mouse and taking someone’s credit card.  As an expert I am continually updating my knowledge by reading the trade magazines, private message boards designed for agent networking , and many consumer magazines like Conde Nast and Travel + Leisure.  I take courses through the Travel Institute and CLIA. I attend trade shows, seminars, webinars and take specialist courses.  I use the tools and education available to me on the vendor sites, go on FAM trips and participate in on-site training opportunities. All of this helps to increase my knowledge and make me the expert.

I style myself to clients by looking and acting like the professional I am. I try to look, act and conduct myself in the best possible way. I dress professionally.  My 30 second elevator speech has a powerful message that differentiates me from the pack.  I practice it so I say it with confidence. I let other know that I am indeed a professional. I not only walk the talk but I go the extra mile for my clients every day. And they appreciate it!

How do you see yourself when you look in your mirror?

Mary Stephan is a luxury travel consultant and owner of Allons Travel in Powell, Ohio. Currently, Mary is studying for her CTA and working towards her ACC/MCC designation.

  12 thoughts on “As I look in the mirror

  1. Tim Richmond says:

    I could not agree more with this. I have been using the term travel consultant for over 15 years. I wish we could get the support of the suppliers to use this term also.

  2. I also agree. My background is in the customer service/outreach arena, so I though travel consulting would be a natural for me. To my surprise, I still find it hard to avoid the ‘canned’ packages we agents are rewarded the most to provide. There is no way I’ll sell my clients some of these ‘deals’, so I usually end up getting less commission because I piece together WHAT THEY WANT from scratch, instead of forcing them into pre-designed itineraries. But I will continue to operate this way, as the satisfaction level for myself, and the positive comments from my clients, is worth more to me. If I had to pay all my bills in this business, though, I couldn’t do it!

  3. Suraj Zutshi, CTC, CTIE says:

    Absolutely, postively, indubitibly we should be using Travel Conusultant, Travel Counselor and even Travel Advisors.
    At my networking group, the introduction often includes” we are travel consultants, travel is a passion and not a hobby; we are not pseudo travel agents who refer travelers to a website and do nothing else to promote travel.”
    Some suppliers are doing that so let’s make it a mission to tell that tyo every rep who walks in or makes a sales call. We have to do it, no one else will and that includes ASTA, ARTA, NACTA and whatever other group is in vogue.

  4. Dear Mary,
    I have been in the travel agency business for 48 years. I dropped the term “travel agent” when
    deregulation hit in 1978. For those of us dedicating our lives to feeding the passion of travel and consulting our clients on a daily basis, we are travel consultants and I see you are on your way to becoming a Certified Travel Associate. Don’t stop there. Proceed to the next level and complete your Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) status. I became certified in 1973 and proud to carry the designation.
    Keep up the good work! As for me, I am now hosting world cruises for Virtuoso Voyager Club and you can follow our World Cruise Blog at Life and Travel are one in the same. I wish you the best of luck. Your story will be inspiring to many others in our profession.
    All the best,
    Brian T. Robertson, CTC

  5. The term “Travel Consultant’ is also overused. Travel Professionals need to specialize. “Cruise Consultant”, ‘Africa Safari Consultant”, “Honeymoon Consultant” are better.
    It is impossible to be a specialist generalist. Or a generalist consultant. The world is too big.

  6. Tommy Nguyen says:

    We have also used this term for almost 6 years so far and we do think it is the best term to describe the work of a person who are working in hospitality industry.

  7. Tommy Nguyen says:

    As a small scale business and inbound tour company, we do think this is the best term to describe the work of a people who are working in travel industry.

  8. Joan Spratford says:

    I agree also, I just met a real estate agent that has a Travel agent “License”, paid 395.00 to Global Travel and sends “all” his clients to the webb sight.

  9. Lisa says:

    Agree 100% that we need to set ourselves apart from the pseudo agents flooding the industry. I have been a Corporate Travel Consultant for almost 20 years now. I have my CTC as well. Going the extra mile and providing the customer service the clients deserve is what makes us great. The clients and suppliers need to be reminded of this.

  10. I could not agree more with the comments and sentiments expressed by Mary Stephan. Over ten years ago I insisted that all computer screen savers in my office were changed to read //
    Name of Agent — Travel Consultant //
    as a constant reminder to each of my colleagues they are Consultants and NOT agents.

    I have been fighting this fight and voicing this same concern in any and all forums available to me. My bottom line positions:

    1. We need to figure out what a travel consultant does and can be expected to be responsible for and train to and test to those standards
    2. We need to come up with a universal registration system so those who pass these basic standards can differentiate themselves from those who only went into Staples and paid $20.00 to get some business cards printed and also so we can be found by the appropriate folks who can corroborate who and what we say we are — both when things go right, and, unfortunately, when something goes “bump in the night”.

    It is only we who can help ourselves and, regrettably, at every presented opportunity, we chose to fight the solutions and/or ignore the issue by sticking our heads in the sand.

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