Back to Basics: Today’s Travel Industry and Its Players

Over the next few weeks, we will be going back to travel basics—the foundation for success. There are no shortcuts in travel, therefore you should not shortcut your education. As the saying goes: “You don’t know what you don’t know!” To start the base of your knowledge, you need to understand the players, their role, and the partnership you have with them to serve your customers.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect because we are celebrating Customer Service Week, and the core of everything you do as a travel counselor is to service your clients in combination with your industry partners.

    Fully understanding the many players in the vast travel industry and how they can help you reach success can be overwhelming but very important. The TRIPKIT program, the travel industry’s leading entry-level training, arranges all the segments and divides it into four major categories: suppliers, distributors, supporting businesses, and supporting organizations.

    Suppliers Suppliers own the goods and services travelers use, including transportation, food, accomodations, entertainment, and attractions. Airline and railroad companies, car rental companies, hotels, and cruise lines—all are major suppliers. Restaurants, nightclubs, museums, theaters, and others also may be considered suppliers, though on a smaller scale.

    Your job as a travel counselor is to help your clients choose the service or supplier best suited for their needs. Because there are thousands of suppliers, it’s important that you develop preferred relationships or take advantage of existing preferred partnerships through your agency or consortium. These relationships will benefit your client, the suppliers, and you by creating an alliance of trust, quality, and reliability.

    Distributors Distributors act as intermediaries between suppliers and travelers, helping travelers obtain the goods and services owned by suppliers and helping suppliers promote their products in the marketplace where travelers can find them.

    A travel agency is a distributor because it acts as the intermediary between the client and the supplier. Your role as a travel professional is to understand the client needs and match it to the best supplier of services. A travel agency also acts as the marketer or seller of supplier products to the client. Other distributors include tour operators/packagers, consolidators, and destination management companies. 

    Supporting Businesses There are many businesses in the travel industry dedicated to providing services that help travel professionals be efficient in their roles. These include global distribution systems (GDS), travel insurance companies, customer relationship management tools (CRMs), and, of course, host agencies. Host agencies are travel businesses accredited by ARC, IATA, and CLIA, and they affiliate with independent travel agents in an independent contractor agreement. These businesses provide the travel counselors with the tools and services they need to support distribution to the client. All independent agents are 100% the owners and operators of their businesses; they are not employees of their host agencies.

    Supporting Organizations Supporting organizations aid, educate or regulate the travel industry. For example, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is a trade association that lobbies governments and speaks to the public on behalf of its members. National tourist offices (NTOs) are government agencies that promote travel to their countries; for example, the German National Tourist Board with offices in New York and Los Angeles promotes travel to Germany from the United States.

    The Travel Institute—a non-profit, independent organization that is the global leader in industry education and certification—has trained hundreds of thousands of travel professionals through its courses, webinars, and in its online Premium Access Library. Insurance providers offer clients insurance against many of the risks associated with traveling.

    We hope you enjoyed this great excerpt from the TRIPKIT program.

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    Throughout July, travel agents and other professionals can qualify to receive a 50-percent savings thanks to the generous scholarships from The Travel Institute Fund.

    The Travel Institute, Inc. (TTI) is an educational organization that was incorporated on November 12, 1964 as a Washington, D.C. nonprofit corporation.  TTI is organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes, developing, and providing educational programs and materials relating to domestic and international travel for the general public, educational institutions and travel professionals.