A career as a travel consultant can be a fun and rewarding job, as long as you have the skills and know-how to navigate through this highly competitive industry. While there isn't a lot of training required, it is ideal to know a lot about travel, as well as possessing a few other talents such as customer service, sales and marketing, computer and networking skills.
What Does a Travel Consultant Do?
A travel consultant is very similar to a travel agent--they are responsible for a variety of tasks all related to domestic and international travel arrangements from start to finish. You are the first person a travelling individual speaks with, and you are responsible for various points of follow-through during and after the person's vacation or business trip. A big responsibility rests on your shoulders, as you are the coordinator of all the important elements pertaining to travel.
While education is helpful in any job market, a travel consultant really thrives in the business when he or she has the hands-on experience to get the job done right the first time, every time. One qualification for success as a consultant is the tenacity to make effective sales pitches without making customers feel as if they are being "sold." This may include finding them great hotel and flight details that will free up some of their vacation budget to splurge on extras that bring in a great commission. You also will sell well if you are organised and able to create an alluring display of promotional materials, including brochures, maps, postcards and perhaps even a notice board filled with photos of past happy clients.
A travel consultant also must have a patient and long-suffering personality that deals well with complaints. Since you will be handling complaints at least once in awhile, you must be able to maintain the "customer is always right" mentality and keep a smile on your face. In a fast-paced job that is endangered in some regions due to Internet travel sites, you must always keep your customer service skills at a top-notch level.
More Than Just a Sense of Direction
A travel consultant also must have plenty of knowledge about the world. You will need to know which vaccinations are required for each country, what visa mandates there may be, and what the exchange rate is for specific foreign currency. Knowing about various destinations' car rental businesses and different calibres of hotels is also vital. And while foreign travel know-how is invaluable, you cannot neglect your knowledge of destinations at home. An extensive list of facts featuring America's top cities and tourist traps will make you a capable travel consultant your customers will come to love and appreciate. Navigating through the various travel components of a destination is essential, as you will be responsible for making reservations, confirming these accommodations and transportation arrangements, and checking periodically on all related bookings to ensure each customer has the best experience possible.
Your social life really does play into your professional life. If you do not get out to meet with the operators of various city tours and others who are employed within the tourist industry both here and overseas, you will never be able to pull strings and get your customers competitive rates. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with everyone from the ticket desk operator at major American airlines to the hot air balloon ride operator in the smallest corner of Europe. Whoever it is, if they are in tourism, befriend them and strike a deal whenever possible.
Finally, computer skills are essential. You will be using the Internet constantly, both to make arrangements and to update your customers via e-mail. You also need to know how to use a program such as Microsoft Office to keep track of details and take advantage of simple tools that keep you looking professional at all times, such as spell checker and spreadsheets laying out various costs and itineraries for your clients.