Travel Agent

What does a travel agent do?

Travel agents or travel consultants assess individual’s and business people’s needs to help them make the best possible travel arrangements, which includes booking flights, hotel rooms and car rentals. They may specialise by type of travel, such as leisure or business, or destination, such as Europe or Africa. They also promote travel packages on behalf of cruise lines, resorts and specialty travel groups. Some travel consultants have extensive knowledge about various countries geography, weather, history, language and customs. They also advise clients about passports, travel insurance, visas, vaccinations and tours.

A travel consultant may perform the following tasks:

  • helping clients to find a suitable package holiday or to plan independent travel
  • checking the availability of the chosen holiday by telephone or computer
  • making bookings using a computer system
  • collecting payments and filling in booking forms
  • contacting clients when their tickets arrive
  • informing clients of any changes, such as cancelled flights, and arranging alternatives
  • networking with tour operators
  • displaying promotional material.

Interview with a travel agent

Busisiwe Sowane | TRAVEL CONSULTANT | Reynolds Travel

Why did you choose the travel industry?
I first heard about the job of a travel consultant at high school and thought it sounded like an interesting and different career path, so I decided to follow it.

What training did you undergo?
After tertiary education I underwent on-the-job training in using various working systems, such as Amadeus and Galileo.

Ideally, which personality traits should a travel agent possess?
You need to be calm and level-headed so that you can handle any crisis, and you need to pay attention to detail so as to avoid costly mistakes.

What’s more important: experience or training?
Definitely both. Formal training gives you the background knowledge required for the career, but experience is what you’ll really need if you want to execute your job perfectly.

Describe a typical day on the job
I start my PC, open email, and the travel requests come flooding in. One by one, I deliver possible options and solutions to the clients.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?
The fact that I’ve formed good working relationships with my clients by delivering good-quality service beyond their expectations.

What aspects are you least enthusiastic about?
When suppliers do not deliver what they promised after I have promised my clients the best service and the most pleasant travel experience.

Share some career highlights
I started at Reynolds with no experience. I had to work my way up to becoming the junior travel consultant that I am today, and I’m proud of it.

What are your future goals?
To keep learning as much as I can from my colleagues; to escalate myself to higher positions.

Any advice for someone starting out?
Just be sure that this is what you want from the outset, and be 100% willing to keep learning in order to better yourself in your career.

Describe your job in three words
It’s Involving, Challenging and Rewarding!

WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?

There is no formal qualification required to become a travel consultant, though employers generally prefer hiring staff with a Travel and Tourism Diploma or a related qualification. Some travel consultants start by working at a travel agency and receive on-the-job training, and are sometimes required to write an exam at the end of their first year of employment and training. Opportunities for on-the-job training are fairly limited, with most companies employing people with some training and experience. A National Senior Certificate is usually a prerequisite for studying travel and tourism courses. It is important to receive training at a THETA-accredited institution and be licensed by the Travel Agents Board. Travel consultants also need certification from the International Air Transport Association to be able to issue international airline tickets.

WHAT SUBJECTS DO I NEED?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Civil Technology
• Mechanical Technology
• Mathematics

WHERE CAN I STUDY?

Oxbridge Academy
National Certificate: N4 – N6 Tourism
www.oxbridgeacademy.edu.za

University of Johannesburg
National Diploma: Tourism Management
www.uj.ac.za

Durban University of Technology
National Diploma: Tourism Management
www.dut.ac.za

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Tourism Management
www.tut.ac.za

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Tourism Management
www.cput.ac.za

UNISA
Advanced Programme: Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
www.unisa.ac.za

University of the Western Cape
Bachelor of Arts: Tourism
www.uwc.ac.za

North-West University
Bachelor of Commerce: Tourism Management
www.nwu.ac.za

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Technology: Tourism Management
www.nmmu.ac.za

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?

South African Tourism Board – www.satour.info
Association of South African Travel Agents – www.asata.co.za
Tourism Business Council of South Africa – www.tbcsa.travel
Southern Africa Tourism Services Association – www.satsa.com

Sources:
www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
www.careerplanning.about.com
www.jobisjob.co.uk