‘Selling travel is a profession, not just a hobby.’ – Derek Jones, UK CEO of DerTouristik, June 2019
From years of experience in selling travel, I know it isn’t easy. You have to be thoughtful, truthful, caring, understanding, patient, focused, enthusiastic, confident, transparent, unique, a great storyteller, a great listener and adapt to any situation. Really that list is never ending and ever evolving.
We have to be teachers, psychologists, doctors, accountants, writers, artists, marketers and probably even more important, a friend. You have to do all those things, while following regulation be it the ABTA Code of Conduct, ATOL regulations, the Package Travel Regulations, GDPR, PSD2, Money Laundering and many more…
This is even before you get to product and supplier knowledge, the backbone of a professional travel agent. Knowing exactly the right destination, the right hotel, the right supplier or tour operator, or the right product. Even more, we can back that up with our contacts who can help us make the ordinary, extraordinary.
Selling travel isn’t straightforward, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking its easy, it isn’t. Those who know, know that. We are at the front line of making millions of people’s dream become a reality, and with that brings responsibility. Especially when they are spending several thousand pounds with you, and in some cases, more than some people earn in a year. You have to get it right.
So, what happens if professionalism is taken away? We end up with a lack of understanding of the industry, misinformation, and frequent breaches of regulation. All of which are there for a reason, to protect us and our customers. Tour operators have a hard choice of deciding who should represent their company, over a potential increase in sales at any cost. The value of knowledge is diminished.
It was a little while ago on the Facebook group ‘Travel Gossip’ I suggested the idea of an industry-wide accreditation scheme for those who sell travel products. While companies may have various associations and memberships it belongs to and follows their rules – there isn’t anything similar for those who actually sell, a ‘kite mark’ for travel if you like.
Those who are true travel professionals wouldn’t have a problem, you are there already – but needs and should be a level playing field.
Even from the very start of my career as an apprentice, gaining an NVQ Level 3 in Travel Services 15 years ago, those foundations have always stayed with me. Everyone else should have them too. I champion those who are true professionals in our fantastic industry, between us we do an amazing job and its something worth protecting.