A career as a travel advisor doesn’t end at a certain age. In fact, the more experience you get and the more you travel, the deeper your knowledge and the better you are at your job.
We reached out to six veteran advisors to tap into some of the wisdom they’ve accumulated over the years. They were happy to share.
Care for Your Clients
Attitude is everything.
“Attitude grows your business. When a potential client can literally feel your enthusiasm and smile through the phone, email, or text, it makes a world of difference. You are there just for them and their travel dreams, and you cannot wait to plan the best travel experience ever for them!” —Phoebe Weinberg, Greatways Travel, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan
You can’t know it all, but you can know your client.
“If you don’t know something, don’t fake it. Tell the truth. I don’t expect you to know everything if you’re young, but I do expect you to use the affiliations you have. Say ‘I don’t know, but I’m sure one of my colleagues does. I’ll find out if that’s a good fit for you.’ Specialize in knowledge about the client.” —Bob Watson, Valerie Wilson Travel, New York City
Keep a paper trail.
“Document everything in the client’s record, so that if and when something goes wrong, you have a paper trail.” —Martin Rapp, Altour, New York City
The thoughtful touches matter.
“Don’t forget birthday cards for clients. And send a reminder at least seven months before their passport expires—many destinations won’t accept a passport with less than six months before the expiration date.” —Phoebe Weinberg
Meet clients before you agree to work with them.
“I always meet clients before I agree to work with them. Maybe you want to recommend a sun vacation, but you discover that the person hates the sun. I want to get in their heads.” —Bob Watson
Move on from mistakes.
“Mistakes will happen. I’ve made some major ones, but then you do your best to fix them and don’t linger on them.” —Martin Rapp
Respect Your Partners
Show you care.
“Contact the GM or director of sales at the hotel three to seven days before your client arrives to reiterate how important they are and how grateful you are for special TLC. I promise that you and the hotel will be superstars in the client’s eyes.” —Phoebe Weinberg
Be nice—to everyone.
“You must foster close relationships with hoteliers, airline reps, and tour operators because there will be many times when you need a favor and only these people can help you, and you want them to be favorably disposed to you.” —Martin Rapp
Understand what a mutually beneficial partnership means.
“A partnership is only healthy if both parties benefit from it. Only accept generous offers from partners where you feel you can sell the experience. When you accept an offer to travel for free or at a reduced rate, you need to promote that experience, whether it’s [by posting on] social media, or sending emails to potential interested clients. Be sure you are working to help them get an ROI for your experience. Your partner is also your client. Pay attention to details so they don’t have to, and act as their facilitator, mediator, and savior when challenges arise in the journey. You’ll keep this partnership for years, and they will recommend you to family and friends.” —Sandy Schadler, Travelink, Nashville
Never Stop Learning.
Show up in the office.
“The human contact, the suppliers coming in all the time—you should try to be around for all of this, especially if you’re just starting out.” —Bob Watson
Find a mentor, and respect their time.
“You will have questions. Lots of questions. Find someone who is willing to help walk this new career walk with you and share their wisdom. You have a lot to learn from someone who has been selling travel and traveling the world for 30 years. Ask them their preferences on how to work together, whether it’s [through] email, a weekly call, or direct messaging. Be grateful for their assistance, even when they are too busy for quality time with you.” —Sandy Schadler
Study, study, study.
“When I started, I was told to take home 10 brochures every night to familiarize myself with destinations, hotels, cruises, and more. Brochures are a bit outdated now, but learn the product and study all the new possibilities that exist for discerning savvy travelers—what is the NEXT new hot destination? We have weekly discussions about this as an agency. Do as many webinars as possible. Learning never stops, and I say that after 39 years in the travel industry.” —Phoebe Weinberg
Learn the tools.
“Dive deep into the tools right away and your task list will be less frustrating. Learn the software and marketing systems. Every career comes with a set of tools, best practices, and a glossary of terms that might feel like a new language. Do not gloss over this part of your career, whether it’s GDS systems, OTAs, cruise booking tools, webinars, on-demand training, CRM software, social media, texting, live chat, and video conferencing. Successful advisors master these skills so customer service and detailed planning services can shine through. The tools should help you be efficient and not be the job itself.” —Sandy Schadler
And Remember . . .
The only constant is change.
“Change is an integral part of being a travel advisor. You have to be flexible and not get upset when it happens. If you can’t deal with this, you are in the wrong business.” —Martin Rapp
Live by this acronym: TAPP.
“Teamwork with fellow employees, travel partners, and clients.
“Attitude is something you control every day, and clients want to work with someone who enjoys what they do.
“Passion is contagious. Sharing your passion for travel will result in repeat and referral business.
“Polished presentation in all you do: verbal [communication], text, emails, trip proposals, and your appearance. People want to work with you if you’re efficient, and show pride in yourself and your work.” —Cathie Lentz Fryer, CTA Travel, Cerritos, California
It’s a business of relationships.
“The first thing I was told starting out was, ‘This is a relationship business.’ It’s the first thing I tell new travel advisors. It seems simple, but it should drive the strategy for your career. When new travel advisors come into the office, they are eager to travel the world. Traveling will be a very important component of your education, but be patient. Like any other career, you must take the time and learn your craft.” —Sandy Schadler
What you do matters.
“Connecting with people and cultures from around the world and helping them while they help you feels a lot like what we were all put on Earth to do, each in our own way.” —Sandy Schadler
“I don’t consider my career a ‘job.’ I love what I do, and I’m not ready to retire.” —Mary Jean Thompson, TravelDesigns by Campbell, Dallas