Travel agent

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Alison, late 20s

What does a travel agent do?

"You plan, organise and book people's travel or holidays," Alison explains. "It seems fairly simple, but it can be anything from accommodation, car hire, flights, cruises, tours, transfers and travel insurance."

Alison works in the area of executive travel, so her job is not so much organising holidays, but more looking at travel for large organisations, including conferences and business meetings. "Sometimes all I need to do for a client is book flights and issue the ticket," Alison remarks. "Other times you might have to check several hotels for availability and room types, find the best way to get from the airport to the hotel, book a tour, check if they need visas, check any special meal requirements or seat preferences, put together an itinerary, work out what payments are needed - and that's all just for one person!"

How did you become a travel agent?

Many travel agents come to their job with a passion for travel and a desire to see far-flung corners of the world. "I thought that if I got into the industry that I would be getting paid to be travelling all the time," Alison agrees. "This is not quite the way it works unless you become a flight attendant."

Alison does get to travel for her work and recently enjoyed a trip to Singapore to check out the best of the Southeast Asian hub's attractions. While most of her job isn't travelling she does take occasional trips and one of the benefits of the job is "being able to do it cheaper than the average person".

What does a typical working day involve?

Any given day as a travel agent is hectic. There's a lot of talking and planning with clients. "It's very busy," Alison sighs. "You really need to have very good time management skills and be efficient and thorough with your work. Most of my contact with clients is via email or over the phone."

Either on the phone or electronically, Alison spends a lot of her time ensuring clients are getting what they want out of their potential trip. They rely on her knowledge of the travel industry to work out what they want to do. "You have people who aren't sure and want quotes on a holiday to Bali or Fiji with costings for three different hotels and airlines. "

What are opportunities like for travel agents?

There are always plenty of job ads for travel agents, partly because staff are often changing from one company to another. As Alison sees it, "The travel industry is in bed with itself - once you are in you can switch jobs fairly easily if you are any good at what you do."

The career path for travel agents usually begins with some formal training. Alison completed a Certificate IV in Travel and Tourism: "It's the basic qualification you need, and most TAFE or private colleges will offer it."

Once qualified you can move up fairly quickly in the industry. As Alison says, "Most start as a junior in a travel agency working as a domestic consultant and the work their way to an international consultant," Alison says.

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).