Love to travel? Want to get paid to travel? Travel for free? Sounds exciting doesn’t it? Like the serpent offering Eve the apple in the Garden of Eden a lot of these offers are very tempting. Travel is sexy, travel is fun, travel is something a lot of us aspire to do. These ads hit all the right buttons–love, free and get paid. Buyer beware–If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
I get a lot of emails and calls from people duped into these so called “agencies” and I will use the word agency loosely here. They pay hard earned money, are nickel and dimed to death with very little return on their investment.
So, what’s a person to do who really loves to travel and wants to be a travel agent? First of all, let’s get real. Loving to travel is great and all that. If you are in travel, it does help to like it. But, you are not booking your own travel. You are selling travel to consumers and dealing with other people’s money and not your own.
Consumers, as we know, are a fickle bunch. You have to wear many hats dealing with consumers. And you have to know your stuff. They are on the Internet and think they know more than you—and they may. You have to have great customer service, sales skills, be intuitive, professional, knowledgeable and sometimes be a part time psychologist. What is your value? What do you bring to the table? You need to be able to articulate those points well. You will need training and mentoring.
The next step in becoming a travel agent is to do your homework. Research, Google, ask other agents. Some great sites with information include the Travel Institute, PATH. TRO has some great articles/resources as well. Search the Better Business Bureau website, go to trade shows. Don’t discount local travel agencies in your area. A lot of local agencies have independent contractor programs and are close by if you need help, access to suppliers etc. Call local agencies in your area and ask if they have a program or are taking on ICs. Make sure you ask about training and/or mentoring. Ask a lot of questions. And then ask more! Make a chart and compare what each host offers. Ask about fees and make sure you understand how they work & if you will be charged anything. Be wary of ads that sound too good to be true.
A good host should not take your money and throw you to the wolves. If a host has any recruiting component such as sign up your friends and travel for free-run the other way. These are MLMs (multi-level marketing) ploys. A legitimate host will not ask you to recruit anyone.
And finally, host agencies are not one size fits all. Do your due diligence and you will end up with a great partner. And as for those oh-so-tempting offers….I have three words for you—mark as spam!
Mary Stephan is the IC Team Sales Leader for Preferred Travel of Naples. Preferred Travel is a Signature member and is owned by Wilma Boyd who founded the Wilma Boyd Career School in Pittsburgh which trained flight attendants, reservation agents and travel agents. Mary can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.preferrednaples.com