How Many Travel Advisors Can “Do-It-All” Themselves? | Travel Research Online


How Many Travel Advisors Can “Do-It-All” Themselves?

In an ideal world, travel advisors should have visited their recommended destinations and traveled as guests on the same ships or tours they select for clients. They would be familiar with local customs, explore attractions and transportation options, and provide other information their clients may need. This will provide their clients with choices that are a closer match for their preferences and interests.

Another important aspect of being a travel advisor is having a good understanding of travel costs. This includes the cost of flights, cruises, dining, accommodations, local transportation, and travel insurance. They should also know about visas, health restrictions, and special sales offered by the vendors they favor.

Probably most important, travel advisors must also be effective “pied pipers” capable of attracting new clients and maintaining their trust for many years. This requires excellent communication skills and a friendly and approachable demeanor. They must build strong relationships with their clients and provide them with personalized, honest, memorable travel experiences.

Finally, travel advisors must be skilled in using the computer software that is now the pipeline for connecting travel agencies with travel companies and banks. This software allows advisors to access information about flights, hotels, and other travel options, as well as to book travel arrangements and process payments. They must also keep thorough notes of their discussions with vendors and clients.

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With all these “should” and “musts,” even the best travel advisors often need help while open positions remain unfilled. Is the lack of qualified applicants to blame, or is it the wide breadth of responsibilities, experience, and knowledge that travel advisor positions require?

Like many other complex businesses, a team approach may be the best solution for travel advisors. Permit people with unique skills and experience to do what they do best. Supplement their skills by bringing other workers into the picture. Most needed travel advisor skills can be grouped into five areas. Consider providing travel advisors with opportunities to specialize in those they do best.

  1. Sales: Assigning advisors with strong sales skills to handle new client acquisition allows you to capitalize on their abilities and increase your business’s potential for growth. These advisors should be confident, motivated, and have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. It is important that they understand your business’s services and products, and can articulate their value to prospects and clients.
  2. Client Retention: Dedicated advisors are passionate about customer service. Maintaining relationships with existing clients is key to ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. These advisors should be knowledgeable about clients’ preferences and able to handle many issues that arise during the planning process. They should also proactively seek opportunities to upsell and cross-sell services and products to increase customer lifetime value.
  3. Destinations & Travel Products: Assigning advisors with first-hand experience with the destinations, cruise lines, tour groups, and resorts is vital for the agencies’ credibility. Staff members should be able to provide recommendations and insights specific to the client’s interests and answer most questions they may have. They should also have extensive travel experience themselves. If the ages of your sales staff don’t exceed that of most of your prospects and clients, you need more gray hair in your sales group.
  4. Travel Alternatives: Assigning advisors who are creative problem-solvers to clients with specific needs or requests can ensure that their travel plans are tailored to their unique requirements. These advisors should be able to suggest alternative travel options that meet the client’s criteria and budget. They should be comfortable proposing unconventional solutions when necessary. They should also be able to handle last-minute changes or unexpected issues and be proactive in seeking out new and innovative travel options.
  5. Data Entry & Report Generation: Assigning staff who are comfortable with technology, but haven’t acquired the skills and experience needed to be effective travel advisors to a data entry and report generation unit, is a good way to start off promising applicants of any age in the travel industry. Since these skills are not the forte of most travel advisors, they may be welcomed into many companies as beginning IT or travel advisors after a limited time in these positions. Offloading these tasks will likely improve morale, permit more efficient operations, and provide a career path for those who would otherwise not qualify for positions within the travel industry. Offering training opportunities for both career paths would be built into these rotating positions that would turn over every two years. In the entertainment industry, these positions would be called paid intern opportunities.

By identifying skills like this, you can ensure that your travel advisors can focus on their unique strengths and experience. This should lead to better results for your business and more satisfied clients.

This isn’t to say travel companies need five sets of people. The needed skills and experience tend to cluster in three sets. In larger travel agencies, each job cluster can have unique career ladders and compensation methods:

  • Sales & Retention staff should include a mix of entry-level, mid-range, and experienced personnel. We’ll call these staff “Travel Consultants” for this discussion.
  • Destinations, Travel Products, and Travel Alternatives staff will all be experienced travel advisors with extensive personal travel. In many cases, they also will make major contributions to retention by arriving at innovative solutions for dissatisfied clients. We’ll call these staff “Travel Concierges,” a term already used by Frosch. To avoid apparent conflicts of interest and the reluctance of Travel Consultants to share commissions, Travel Concierges probably should not receive commissions but paid annual salaries.
  • Data Entry & Report Generation staff keep data and paperwork flowing. Their career ladder allows them to join the IT Staff or the Sales & Retention group, if they want to change roles. We’ll call these staff “Travel Techs” for this discussion.

If travel agencies and suppliers adopt this kind of structure, the skills of all three units will be brought to bear on behalf of most clients. Commissions will be shared between the Travel Consultants and the Agency.

Travel Concierges can be brought in to assist prospects and clients whenever Travel Consultants or Agency Management feel they will benefit the sales and retention processes. Since all prospects and clients will be informed that a major share of the funds generated by their Initial Consultation Fees goes to supporting the Travel Concierges who don’t share in commissions, any prospect or client will also be able to request their services. The agency may require a supplemental consultation fee, if requests require extensive time or research.

Most activities of the Travel Techs will be transparent to prospects and clients and will be included in the Agencies overhead. It’s anticipated that AI (Artificial Intelligence) will make software applications easier to use within a few years. Many will become so transparent that even novice Travel Consultants can use them with minimal training. Also, to ensure accurate processing and reporting and to meet audit requirements, the Travel Tech group should report directly to the Agency CEO, not through the Director of the Travel Consulting Group.

The major benefit of this kind of reorganization will be that today’s travel advisors will feel supported in carrying out their responsibilities; agencies will be better able to take advantage of the skills of individual travel advisors. As a result, clients will be better served.

If the funds generated by new Initial Consultation Fees are allocated mostly to the new Travel Concierge unit, and most inputs to CRM systems are shifted to Travel Techs, the effects on an agency’s bottom line will likely be positive as Travel Consultants and Travel Concierges each focus on the activities that are their unique specialties.

Dr. Steve Frankel and his wife have cruised on most of the Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal, Azamara, Oceania, Regent, and Windstar ships. Steve is the founder of Cruises & Cameras Travel Services, LLC. He has been recognized as a “2021 Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and a “Travel Expert Select “by the Signature Travel Network. His specialties are luxury small-ship cruises and COVID-19 safety measures, and has a doctorate in Educational Research with minors in Marketing and Quantitative Business Analysis. He’s also earned a Certificate in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University. Previously, he managed qualitative and quantitative research in the private & public sectors. He’s a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has written 13 books and hundreds of articles. His email address is

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