I currently work as a Travel Agent for a small local travel agency. I have been employed by this agency for almost 10 years. Some people think that travel agents spend their days jetting off to exotic locations for free. In reality, most of my day is spent on routine office tasks and customer service. I spent 75 percent of my time communicating with customers in person, on the phone and via e-mail.
On a 10 point scale, I would rate my job satisfaction with a seven. Sometimes I feel that my days are monotonous and follow the same routine. I would enjoy my job more if I got to travel instead of sitting at a desk planning vacations for other people.
Every now and then, I have a rewarding moment that makes me feel like I have definitely chosen the right career path. A few weeks ago, I was able to help an elderly man plan a surprise vacation for his wife for their 50th wedding anniversary. The wife sent me the sweetest thank you note along with pictures after their vacation. I felt proud that I was able to make their travel dreams come true.
I started working part-time at this travel agency when I was a college student. I was hired to work in the evening filing documents and answering phone calls. Unfortunately, my money ran out and I had to quit college. The agency then offered me a full-time job as a travel agent. If I could go back, I would choose to find some way to stay in college and receive my Business Administration degree. The lack of a college degree has made it difficult to advance in my field.
The most important thing I have learned during my career is the importance of excellent communication. When dealing with customers, I have to remember not to assume that they know anything about proper travel protocol. During my first year on the job, I received a frantic call from customers who were denied boarding for their European cruise. The customers were furious that I did not tell them they needed passports! From that point on, I determined to explain each travel requirement to my customers, even if they seemed obvious to me.
The most important thing that I have learned about the working world is that there is no easy path to success. There is no substitute for commitment and hard work. I have also learned that people still crave personal customer service in this era of technology.
Throughout my decade of work, I have received some strange requests. One customer needed help figuring out how to be able to travel the world with his pet pig! I spent many hours contacting airlines and hotels on his behalf.
I get up and go to work every day because I gain satisfaction from assisting my customers. It makes my day when I receive a note or e-mail thanking me for my efforts. Of course, my job also comes with plenty of challenges. Some customers are impossible to please. They want discounts and services that I have no way of providing. Sometimes I can spend days planning a vacation for a customer, and then they decide to book online instead to save a few dollars.
On most days, my job is not very stressful. However, I certainly have days that are busy and full of stress. The stress mostly comes from customers who are planning last-minute vacations. Some stress is also related to my pay, since a large portion of my paycheck comes from commissions. I have an average yearly total of around $35,000 including both pay and commission. Since I am a single, I can survive on this amount, but I am certainly not getting rich. I worry that I am not putting enough into my retirement savings account.
Since I am a travel agent, it is ironic that I only take around two weeks of vacation each year. One of these vacations is usually complimentary due to vendor incentives. I wish that I had more vacation time, but it is difficult since a lot of my pay is based on commissions. If I am not at work, my paycheck suffers.
A college degree is generally not required to begin as a travel agent. Excellent communication skills are the most important aspect of this job, along with a strong sales presence. If a friend was considering becoming a travel agent, I would make sure that they understand most of their time would be spent in an office instead of traveling.
In five years, I would like to own and manage my own travel agency instead of working for others. I have always dreamed of starting my own business.
This is a true story as told to LatPro.com, the worldwide leader in providing online employment resources for Hispanic and bilingual professionals. LatPro is the largest diversity employment site in the U.S. and the most complete personal career advancement service for Latino and bilingual professionals.