Thinking of becoming a travel advisor? 

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Do you love to travel? Are you usually the primary planner for family trips? Do your friends look to you for travel advice?

Have you thought about becoming a travel advisor? 

Still not sure? Here are some answers to our most frequently asked questions:

Aren't travel agents becoming obsolete? 

Travel agents... not obsolete, but maybe less desired.  Travel advisors... definitely not.  (See below for more information on the difference). While online booking engines make it easier for people to book travel on their own, many people find that the volume of choices and lack of support make online booking overwhelming and confusing.  Most people would like to be able to ask questions and trust that the person they're asking has some level of experience and knowledge so that they can trust the answer.  In a recent poll, 66% of people (compared to 49% in 2019) said that after all of the issues that came from travel cancellations during the pandemic that they wouldn't consider booking travel without the help of an advisor.  And here's a fact that most people don't know... the primary online travel booking engines? They're owned by one of two companies... Yep, all of them.  

 

Why travel "advisor" instead of travel "agent"? 

Before online booking sites existed, one of the only ways consumers could learn about travel suppliers and book travel was through a travel agent.  In those days, people in the industry acted as an extension of the cruise companies, airlines and tour operators and truly were agents for those companies.  While this is still the case today from a legal standpoint, most people in the industry consider people answering the phones in call centers "agents" because they are focused on getting customers booked and off the phone or directed back to the website as quickly as possible.  They are transaction-focused, not consultative.  With simple bookings, this may work (although the customer may end up missing out on extra deals or discounts), but what happens when something doesn't go smoothly? Advisors are consultants who are available to answer their clients' questions, share personal experiences, provide a variety of choices, and recommend alternatives when a supplier or destination might not be a good fit.  They are also advocates for their clients - helping to solve issues, handling supplier interactions and leveraging supplier relationships to create a memorable experience.    

How do I start a travel business?
Most states don’t have regulations about starting a travel agency, so you could decide to create a business, file with your state, hire a lawyer and a bookkeeper, set up seller of travel numbers, establish relationships with suppliers, and pay for marketing, technology and booking tools.  Or, you can join an already established agency as an independent contractor.  As an independent contractor, you set your hours, you decide where and how you want to sell, and you are able to focus on travel without having to worry about any of the business “stuff”.  Any legitimate agency is going to offer a commission split (typically between 70-80%) and charge annual or monthly fees for access to their technology and business tools.  You may have heard that, in business, “you have to spend money to make money” and while this is true, joining an established agency will help you save money – and a lot of headaches.

 

Why do MLMs have such a bad reputation in the industry? 

The MLM model isn’t focused on selling travel.  If you’re serious about become a successful travel advisor, you need to find an agency that provides you with marketing and business support, training and development opportunities, and access to experts in the field.  At Big Creek Travel, we have several different programs in place to support our agents and help them grow their businesses. The agency you select should be focused on helping you become a travel expert, not on recruiting other team members. Additionally, being able to buy an IATA/IATAN or CLIA card without any experience is against industry regulations.  Those who have these cards legitimately have worked hard to earn the necessary commission levels to qualify.     

Do I need a certification or degree? 

Despite what some companies may try to tell you,  you do not need to go to travel school or have a degree to get started.  Many suppliers, tourism boards, and industry organizations offer training opportunities – often at no additional cost.  When advisors first join us, we spend time helping them choose an area of specialization and providing them resources where they can complete training.  Once an advisor becomes a specialist in one or more areas, he or she may decide to become another resource for our associates and has the opportunity to earn bonus commissions.

How do I get paid? 

Travel is a sales job.  You may be thinking “Oh, I can’t sell to people, that’s not who I am”, but here’s a quick tip: Most people love to travel, so travel sells itself.  What you’re selling is YOU – your expertise, your knowledge, your professionalism, your ability to help clients save time, money and stress…  We have an entire marketing program to help our advisors – new and experienced – learn to promote through building connections and not through direct selling. That being said, pay is 100% commission-based, so you get paid on what you book.  The good news is that your income potential is unlimited.  If you need a steady source of income, however, being a travel advisor probably wouldn’t be a good primary career choice.  

Can I work part-time?
Absolutely! Our advisors are independent contractors and set their own hours.  You may work on travel as much or as little as you’d like.  While many of our associates do focus on travel full-time, several have other full-time careers and book travel part-time.  

Am I limited in what I can book?

Not at all.  We have a preferred list of suppliers that include the primary cruise lines, tour operators and resorts, but there is very little that you can't book.  We have destination experts, special interest suppliers, and many account managers who can help, and we are always willing to take a look at supplier not on our preferred list.  

Do I get free trips?
Unless you’re a top producer for a supplier, not typically.  Advisors do get opportunities to go on “fam trips” (familiarization trips) at discounted rates and some suppliers do offer travel agent discounts, but free trips are extremely rare. If that’s someone’s primary goal for entering the business, we usually discourage them from a travel career because they will become disappointed very quickly. 

How does Big Creek Travel help?
As mentioned above, we have established a program to help support our independent advisors through marketing, business and technology.  We offer ongoing training opportunities, coaching sessions, and leads programs.  We invest in marketing and networking to help our advisors grow their businesses and to increase Big Creek Travel’s visibility and credibility.  We have a Help Desk system to help answer advisors’ questions, and our owners are accessible as well.  We welcome new advisors who have never worked in the industry AND experienced advisors who might be looking for a change.  We feel confident that our programs will help you work efficiently so that you can focus on what you love the most – selling travel!

Travel is an exciting industry and can be a rewarding career.  Our primary goal at Big Creek Travel is to focus on providing the best tools, support, and  expertise to help our associates succeed. 

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Image by Braden Jarvis