When I started out in the industry in the late 1990s, I had no idea what it really was going to mean to be a travel agent. I went to travel school and was taught how to book travel. I was taught the city codes of the major airports. The main thing a travel agent learned back then was how to type in the codes into a computer that was needed. Our focus was around airline tickets, and a “package” meant a hotel and rental car back then.
Now, we are booking detailed trips, including what activities the client will do at the destination. We can book everything from when the client leaves their house to when they arrive home. We handle everything now.
How do we learn to handle it all? Many of us learn through experience. Finding a way to learn regardless of how much you feel you know is key in the travel industry. There is no way to know it all and we all have areas we could spend time developing. For example, even if you are an excellent travel advisor, are you also great at business? What about organizing and handling all that comes before and after a trip is completed?
We all have our strong skills. We all have things we could teach someone else. However, we also have areas in which we could use more education and allow ourselves to learn from someone else’s strong skills.
I was fortunate to have people in my life that taught me what I know today. I also tried very hard to learn what I did not know; every seminar or event I attend, including the ones my agency puts on, I learn something new. Each supplier presentation teaches me something. If we are open to the fact that we all have things to learn, we can more willingly hear what people are saying.
Have you ever had someone dismiss your knowledge? Have you ever felt like someone felt you had nothing to add, since they were older or had more years of experience than you? If so, it is that person’s loss that they did not allow themselves to learn from what you had to teach.
We do not learn unless we are open to it. We need to realize that everyone has knowledge to share.
I remember when I got my first agency job, the owner used to use me as her errand girl. I went and got her snacks and lunch and I had to help her clean her desk. Our agency had to move to a new computer system, and I had strong computer skills because I grew up in a house with a computer when most homes did not have a personal computer. Instead of accepting the fact that I could teach her the new system, she just got angry with me. I left that position because she refused to see that I could be more than her errand girl. I was young but I still could have taught her something that she did not know.
Realizing that you can learn from everyone you meet can be the best gift you can give yourself.
The travel industry is full of people of all different ages, experience, and backgrounds. I love to hear stories of what made someone get into the travel industry. So many people have great stories — many never planned on becoming a travel agent and just fell into it!
If we are willing to hear each other, learn from others and utilize our unique strengths and knowledge to serve as a valuable resource for others, collectively we can keep the industry moving in a forward position.