The roles of Freelance travel agents do not just end up in booking of tickets and reserving accommodation for travelers. There are lots more than that, to offer to travelers especially newbies who totally leverage the experiences of an experts to excel in their first moves outside their country.
A travel agent can work for an agency or become a standalone (agent) who has a broad knowledge of the world, especially popular places. A travel agent can be defined as one who engages in selling and arranging of transportation, trips, accommodation, ship cruises, and tours for travelers. He also oversees the comfort of the travelers and affordability of these mentioned services.
Now, you’ve seen how tedious travelling would’ve been without the help of travel agents. You can earn a good living as an agent.
But Charlie, you must understand something here. Nothing under the face of the sun is undiscovered, and to make the best out of any industry in the world, your creativity and dedication will either meet up or outshine the already existing. There are needs to get equipped to conquer certain limitation in the sector, as an agent and to also understand the importance of foreign contacts, and affiliation with accredited agencies, if you really want to excel as a freelance agent in the field.
There are many other freelance jobs to earn from. So pay rapt attention to this procedures. But it’s recommended that you switch to the next section, if you think it is out of your league.
Before starting up a travel agency in any country, there are few thing you must learn about the industry, that will widen your knowledge of traveling and the industry at large. To begin with there are type of travel agents that you will love to know.
Types of Travel Agents and How They See ends Meet
Irrespective of the internet proliferation in the Tourism and travel industry, the needs for travel agents have not fully been replaced. There are basically four types of travel agents, and it depends on the scale you intend to operate as.
Accredited agent with stock
As an accredited agent with stock, it means you are IATA certified, accredited and registered with the local Corporate Affairs Commission. You have and can issue airline ticket (stock) to air passengers on behalf of airline from your office.
What this means is that you can issues travel tickets right inside your office, without any need to visit the airline in question. Isn’t this cool?
Yes of course. But due to some financial constraints, beginners may find it extremely difficult to feature in this category.
Accredited agent without stock
As an Accredited agent without stock, you are IATA certified and registered with the Corporate Affair of your country. You do not have ticket in your office but you have what is called validator that enables you to sell LPO to some agents. This category depends on the registered and accredited category mentioned above and the particular airline to get ticket for passengers
Agent by registration
This means you are operating as a travel agent by simply registering your agency with Corporate Affair Commission only, you can only make reservation to passenger while you go to the accredited agents above to buy tickets or you buy LPO from Accredited agent without stock, take the LPO to airline for the ticket in order to earn a commission.
As the name implies these agents don’t know much about the job but whenever they have travelling passengers they take the job to any of the above agents for commission.
To be International Air Travel Association (IATA) certified in Nigeria, you need bank guarantee of about 10 million Naira. If that cannot be afforded, you can settle for the third option above where you will register your agency, pay some due to the necessary associations (like the national association of Nigeria travel agents NANTA & Nigeria civil aviation authority NCAA)
However, you may also need to attend aviation school at least a month to learn how to make reservation, check and calculate fares, airline geography, ticketing and know more about other travel logistics. But a stronger bait is to employ more able hands to do the Job
To be IATA certified (professional exam), you can write the exam that comes up twice in a year march and September. Presently $550 and $30 bank charges.
Some Missing Facts
There are differences between being an IATA accredited and IATA certified. To be IATA certified, you need to have passed through the IATA professional Exam and to be IATA accredited, you need minimum of N10 Million Bank Guarantee (Facts as at the time of composing this post). But you can still practice as travel agent in some countries in Africa with or without the two criteria above
Duties of a Travel Agent and their Job Description
Being a travel agent is not without some core tasks. It’s just like any other business. It entails solving a problem to be paid for. Here are the basic duties of a travel agent:
A travel agent helps travelers to book flights, accommodations, car rentals, buses, cruises, tours, and other such services. They have direct access to most of these service suppliers and can provide a traveler with so many options. Every service is not offered online, and that is where the work of an agent weighs with good leverage.
Travel agents communicate with intending travelers, to determine their destination, transportation mode, date of travel, accommodation, and financial consideration.
Also, travel agents have direct access and a relationship with suppliers. This means that a traveler gets better service as upgrade assists, and special requests are taken care off. A traveler could want to upgrade to business or first class, and without worrying about the fine details get the travel agent to assist; also special requests could be anything from the meals, to a specific room number.
Computing Cost of Travel
Depending on whether the traveler is going on a packaged tour business meeting, or a personal tour, a travel agent after conversing with the traveler and getting the preferred accommodation, flight, or cruise, and other requirements from the traveler, computes the cost and notifies the traveler.
After, conversing and computing the cost of travel, travel agents ensure that the payment for the destination, accommodation, and other services, has been collected.
Maintaining Statistical and Financial Records
A travel agent has the responsibility of maintaining statistics as regards the travelers who uses the agency to get the peak period for traveling; the preferred destination of travelers during holidays etc. The financial records entail keeping the records of all the financial transactions that occurred. Also, ensuring the agency knows about it.
Promote travel incentives
The travel agent plans, arranges and sells travel tour package incentives, plus discounts, or any other benefit that might be of interest to the traveler.
Providing general travel advice
They help first time travelers, by advising them on issues such as, getting a visa for their preferred destination, or their passports from their home country. Other advice would include destination places for different type of travelers like newly married, business, holiday goers etc.
Physical requirement to becoming a travel agent
To get your firm registered as a travel agent in any of the types mentioned above, there some physical requirement for both the Corporate Affairs Commission and the IATA (if you are considering accreditation).
Ticket Dispensing Machines
Special Purpose Telephone
Other Online Tools
Sometimes, agents get too busy and work get more serious. At this point you consider some artificial intelligence that will assist you. Online tools are needed for task management.
This is an app that that allows users to save anything they find or stumble upon online. Evernote app, could be used by a travel agent to share important information with their client, or used on the social media platform to create content or market the agency.
Cloud storage refers to a space online, where digital data is stored and is usually managed by a hosting company. There are storage devices like Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive etc.
This is a mobile app that allows a travel agent to keep track of all flight data and even track flights through the air.
As a blogger and a social marketer, my social network accounts, pages and groups have been a great way to engage my audience. And that is a good example of the effective utilization of social media in digital marketing.
The social media is a great tool for any travel agent, as it allows them interacts with potential clients. The travel agent can help answer questions, solve challenging problems, clear up the air, and generally post information that might be regarded as useful on social media.
Buffer is great for travel agents or social account owner who do not have the time to manage their twitter, Facebook or Instagram account. This has helped me keep my twitter followers very active and engaged to my daily thought, as a marketer.
There are other agents’ sites that can assist you in the time of booking, and reserving accommodations for your clients, but you only patronize at your own risk.