Becoming a Travel Agent

Think it's a cakewalk to get started in this career? Think again ...

I've never been good with timing. I'm the one who invests in a hot new stock just before it tanks, or spends a good chunk of change launching a web site weeks before the crash. You would think I'd learned my lesson. But no: In these troubled economic times, I decided to start a travel agency.

I figured that since I love to travel, especially on cruises, being a travel agent should be a snap. And as a member of the "industry," I would get to take advantage of free travel deals where the cruise lines offer me "familiarization" trips on their newest ships. There didn't seem to be any downside to this line of work -- just turn on my computer, answer the telephone, and watch the money roll in. And I would get to spend hours each day talking with others about my favorite subject -- cruising. What could be better than that?

Sadly, as I was to learn, becoming a travel agent is not that simple. Far from it.

Day One On January 27 I flew to Fort Lauderdale to attend a week-long orientation for my new travel agency business. I had purchased a franchise from CruisePlanners the summer before, but had pre-arranged not to launch it until the new year, when I would have more time to devote to it. But I was required to attend the home office training session before I could "hang out my shingle," so to speak.

CruisePlanners had arranged a room for me at the Embassy Suites, near the cruise ship pier. That'll be convenient since we're going to check out some of the ships docking there. The only thing on my agenda the first day was a "meet and greet" in the hotel atrium. Here we met representatives from some cruise lines and the CruisePlanners staff. CruisePlanners is supplying the beer and wine, while the hotel sponsors a manager's reception each night where cocktails are on the house. I figure all of the subsequent days on this little "junket" will be just as nice. Oh, sure, the schedule talks about full days of class. But I figure they won't really last that long. After all, we're travel agents now. They'll want us to get out and see everything Fort Lauderdale has to offer -- the beach, the shopping, the entertainment, the night spots.

The next morning, at 8:30 a.m., a CruisePlanners staff member makes the rounds of the hotel lobby, rounding up us stragglers who are taking too long with breakfast. Huh? We're really starting this early?

As I walk into the classroom, the first presentation has started -- an introduction to the cruise industry that goes on for more than an hour. After a short break, we're learning how to "qualify" a new client -- i.e., how to determine if they are likely to book a cruise.

Continue Article >> Becoming a Travel Agent (Part 2)

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