Becoming a Travel Agent (Part 2)

| Wednesday, 22 Jul. 2009

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

A quick lunch is followed by more classes in researching rates and making bookings with the cruise lines. I thought this would be simple -- calling the line and saying, "I'd like to book a suite on thus and such a ship" -- but it is a lot more involved than that. You need to examine deck plans to secure the best possible stateroom for the client's money. You may know they want a balcony cabin, but maybe they want a second cabin directly across the hall for their kids. So you want to try to find the best combination at the lowest price while still meeting the clients' cabin requirements. We saw a demonstration of how this could be done, by comparing various cabin combinations on different decks, then putting "courtesy holds" on the best ones so you can present them to your client for a decision. Hmmmm -- this is far more involved than I thought!

Vive la Difference We also learned there are significant differences between cruise lines, and an important part of being a good travel agent is steering your clients to the one that best meets their needs. Many of our clients will be first-time cruisers, we were told, and they really won't have any idea of what each cruise line is like. Maybe their next door neighbor came home raving about a cruise, but that might not be the best one for the prospective client. It is up to the travel agent to ask the right questions about the client's needs and preferences, and then recommend a product that will ensure they have a wonderful time on their cruise. If the clients have a lousy time, chances are they won't come back. So several hours of class time was spent teaching us how to perform this critical task.

Most evenings we didn't get out of class until close to 7:00 p.m., just in time to rush off to dinner. We did group dinners at places like the Gumpy Gators and Outback Steakhouse, where we spent hours talking with each other and with some experienced CruisePlanners agents who were flown in to share ideas and motivate us newbies.

Plenty of class time was also devoted to cruise line presentations. Representatives from Holland America, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival and Celebrity told us about the nuances of their line and its ships. They provided brochures and flyers and encouraged us to visit their travel agent websites, where we could see more in-depth training presentations. Many of these reps were available after class, so that individual questions and concerns could be addressed.

The Nuts and Bolts of the Business In between the cruise line presentations, we had classes on accounting and payment processing, setting up our home offices, using the agency's software to keep track of our bookings, using the cruise lines' software to make reservations, using the direct mail program, making effective use of marketing materials, setting up our CruisePlanners web site, working with groups, and on and on. Mid-way through the week my head was spinning. Did I make a mistake? All I wanted to do was talk "ship" with other like-minded people and make a few bucks by handling their reservations. And now I have to know all this other stuff too? This is beginning to sound like work!

On other days, we visited cruise ships. We had ship tours scheduled for three of our four-and-a-half days of training -- Emerald Princess, Carnival Freedom and Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas -- all huge ships that we had about an hour to "inspect" from stem to stern.

Continue Article >> Becoming a Travel Agent (Part 3)

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