Travel Market Report reached out to a variety of travel professionals to get their take on what really separates the great from the very good. Which category do you fall into?
Mike Cameron, CEO, Andavo Travel, Greenwood Village, CO
It’s all about customer service. On the corporate side, online booking tools have taken the bulk of the simple reservations; that leaves our agents with the complex domestic and international trips that require consultative skills. Agents have to be able to anticipate what the company and clients' needs are, and be proactive in offering them.
On the leisure side, we have an independent contractor model. Successful agents there are entrepreneurial and work hard to build their own business. Agents can speak about destinations with firsthand knowledge, and can consult and sell the ideal trip to their clients.
Jay Ellenby, ASTA chairman and president of Safe Harbors Business Travel, Bel Air, MD
Aside from the skillsets required (GDS, customer service, etc.), we look for those with a great and positive attitude first. We then look for those who are eager and hungry to learn while ultimately improving themselves professionally.
Scott Koepf, Avoya Travel, Vista, CA
Successful travel agents never stop learning and possess an unquenchable desire to learn and grow. By utilizing educational opportunities from their host agency and consortia networks, supplier programs, and professional development, travel agents can learn new skills, strengthen their expertise, and better position themselves to get ahead. Specialization is also proven to drive success as it enables travel professionals to hone their expertise, work efficiently, and ultimately offer customers better service and insider knowledge that isn’t always available through travel agents who don’t specialize.
Roy Gal, escape artist, Memories Forever Travel Group, Fairlawn, NJ
Most of my agents were my clients. I'm looking for people with personal experience, people who appreciated the service they received and want to turn their passion for travel into a profession. I'm also looking for agents who are go-getters, sellers. I'm tired of hearing you don't get into this profession to make good money. I know a few hundred agents who make a very good living working as travel professionals.
Louise Gardiner, senior director, Associate Program Canada, Carlson Wagonlit Travel
I always look for a visionary, as I encourage our travel counsellors to be passionate and creative in their interactions with clients. The days of the order-taker are long gone and if they act and sound like a computer they will most certainly not be successful. Communication is key and an amazing counsellor has amazing people skills and a natural ability to inspire and influence the buying decision. Talented and resourceful salespeople with the right mix of qualities are sure to be successful!
Steve Glenn, CEO of Executive Travel, Lincoln, NB
It’s the soft skills that are the future of travel. We can teach anyone how to book travel with the GUI systems we have. What we’re looking for is the practical knowledge of traveling that will make a difference for our clients. It isn’t enough that an agent knows that there are three airports in New York City. They need to know how long it will take to get into Manhattan and at what times of the day, and how much an Uber will cost.
Ashley Woodring, national sales director, Contiki Vacations
A great travel agent gets excited with the client. Traveling is fun and for a large percentage of Contiki travelers, this is their first big overseas experience on their own. Being excited with them is priceless. The second thing that is invaluable is great communication. I have learned from my travel-agent friends that it is all about asking the right questions, listening and of course setting the right expectations. All of that boils down to great communication.