Back to Basics: The Role of a Travel Agent

Over the next few weeks, we will be going back to the basics. This week, we are focusing on the role of a travel counselor. If you are just starting out in your field, the concepts discussed below are an excellent place to begin. And, if you are a seasoned veteran, it never hurts to remind yourself why you are here.

For in-depth learning on the foundational principles for travel agents, enroll today in The Travel Institute’s Travel Introductory Program, the TRIPKit®.

For now, consider this: Your role starts and ends with you being a professional. An understanding of professionalism in the travel workplace is a necessity for all those who wish to call themselves travel agents, counselors, advisors, experts, or other terms conveying expertise.

So, let’s revisit the basics. What is the definition of Professionals? These are people who earn their living by practicing some skill or engaging in some activity that requires expertise. True Travel Professionals demonstrate a commitment to the ethics and standards of the occupation and to the interests of the client.

Are You Exhibiting Ethical Behavior?

Professionalism implies a commitment to ethical behavior, which means following certain principles of proper conduct. If you earn a reputation for unethical behavior, you forgo the trust of clients and are likely to lose their business. Therefore, it is imperative that you create and follow a code of conduct.

A code of conduct is a useful tool to standardize ethical behavior for a group of professionals. It shouldn’t be viewed only on a new hire’s first day of work. For a code to be effective, it must be reviewed and practiced by all members of the organization, at all organizational levels. Travel organizations, large or small, can benefit from a written code of conduct explaining the company’s policy regarding ethical challenges most likely to occur. These codes should incorporate the core values—those guiding principles and fundamental beliefs—that make up the heart of the organization. These can include things like:

  • Excellence in service—To ensure clients receive your best efforts and customized products of the highest quality before, during, and after a transaction
  • Honesty and integrity—To exhibit ethical, truthful, and honorable behavior and to exercise good judgment
  • Passion—To love what you do and to inspire excitement in your clients
  • Commitment—To be loyal, dedicated, and devoted to your clients, the organization, the community, and the profession
  • Individual responsibility—To hold yourselves accountable, to deliver what you promise and to own up to your mistakes
  • Efficiency and accuracy—To do things correctly the first time and without wasting time, effort, or resources
  • Communication—To respond quickly, accurately, and honestly to clients, vendors, suppliers, supervisors, and coworkers
  • Currency and knowledge—To constantly research current trends, methods, and destinations to best serve the client and the organization.

Be Aware of How Others Perceive You

The way you dress, speak, listen, write, and interact with clients and coworkers—in fact, everything you do and don’t do—helps form your professional image. Make sure you are communicating an image of professionalism. Remember that you always have opportunities to promote your services, so behave professionally everywhere (in the grocery line, at your daughter’s soccer game, etc.)

In his best-selling book, Purple CowTransform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin compares marketing to driving past fields of cows. At some point, no one notices the cows are there, but, if there was a purple cow, that would attract interest and be remarkable. “In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible,” Godin says. So, you always should strive to be a purple cow.

Once you’ve established your unique and professional identity, carry it forth through:

  • your attire/accessories (business attire; dress codes)
  • your business cards, email signature
  • your website, social media content, photographs, videos, and other graphics that are posted, shared, or retweeted

Why Does a Client Need You?

Sometimes it’s good to step back and look at all the things you bring to the table as a travel counselor. You demonstrate your worth every day, and you certainly have proven your value by stepping up for your clients over the past few months. Take a moment to ask why does a customer need you? A large percentage of your value lies in doing the things the customer cannot do. Every day, you

  • reduce the stress of planning a vacation
  • lessen the risk that something will be forgotten and that things will go wrong
  • remove obstacles that get in the way of what the client wants to do
  • add convenience by relieving the client from doing all the work
  • provide travel options that are good, better, and best
  • rescue the client from difficult situations
  • be a client’s advocate ALWAYS.

So, as you continue to do these things, pat yourself on the back for being a true Travel Professional!