What Now


Travel Coach Weekend Thought:

Q. I am a student on work experience with a travel agency that is set to merge. What is the point in starting a career in travel when the future looks so bleak for me and the other members of staff?

Dorothy, Nottingham

A  Dear Dorothy,

There is no quick answer because despite all the changes in booking patterns in the trade, nobody really knows where our industry is heading. The speed of change is rapid and many of us find it hard to keep up with, let alone get ahead of the game. As a coach however it is my duty to focus on the positives, so here goes


Youth equals choice. Being a student means you can still select your career direction. If you develop I.T. skills, you will be in great demand because the industry uses technology a lot. Previously being a computer person meant being a background figure, but now and in the future, you have the chance to be much more centre stage.

A White Star passenger list cover from 1930


If you fancied front-desk work in a travel agency, why not use the same skills in a hotel or a conference centre? When I coach agency staff that looking to change career, I emphasise the great range of prospects in Hospitality. If you start at reception and become good at it, you can soon be on the route to management. The same applies to Food & Beverage and restaurant work. There are some really fantastic jobs in the Conference and Meetings side of the business and the support provided by organisations like ABPCO (https://www.abpco.org/) is way ahead of what has been available to retail travel.

Experience also equals choice. Your more experienced colleagues can take a similar view, because even if they may not have your exuberance and youth, they still have gravitas and know-how. Loads of people are achieving great success with the excellent satellite travel agencies (the term home-worker is being used less because many do not now work from home.) This way of working suits those who enjoy being their own boss, have an entrepreneurial spirit and are content with being alone for long stretches – it is not for everyone.

Travel agencies will not vanish completely. They will however become more specific in whom the serve and in what they offer. Your senior colleagues should focus on their individual skills and strengthen them. An example would be someone who is very good at selling a particular product such as cruises, or a destination such as Florida. They need to home in on what they are good at and become as indispensable as possible.

None of these ideas are guarantees of job tenure but it is important to remember that although there will be fewer jobs as a travel agent, the broader travel business will actually offer more prospects than ever before.  Opportunities are out there, but not as you knew them.




Originally published in Travel Bulletin – What Now? Travel Coach 28 March 2007

©Renato Fantoni



Travel Coach Weekend thought; How to handle a client

The following is one of several letters I have received on the theme, namely “How to handle a client”.

Dear Travel Coach

My late winter-sun and early Summer ’17 booking season was quite good, especially with the specials. Many clients saw the e-mail offers and just booked them. I am still busy with people contacting me but now they are not booking. Some are even showing me deals they have collected from competitors and are simply trying to beat down the price. Do you have any suggestions?

Pat B, Birmingham

Dear Pat,

My first thought is that you are allowing the price of the holidays to dictate whether people book or not. Without doubt price is very important and customers are ever more conscious of the choices in front of them, but there is more to booking a holiday than cost alone.man gives her a loving heart

If as you say people are actually making the effort to contact you then you and your colleagues are missing out on more business. When someone pushes open your door, walks over the threshold and sit opposite you, they are giving a very strong buying signal. It is up to you guys to read that signal and make a sale. The same applies to phone calls and email requests.

When you meet a customer face to face you have a great advantage over on-line systems and telephone sales operations; you have the chance to build a one-to-one relationship with another person. The old saying “People buy people first” still applies. Try using this four-stage “Random Romance” model:


When you meet a potential customer why not go to the door and open it for them?  Sit them down and ask how they are. Even if the shop is busy a few old fashioned courtesies will not go amiss and the client will be struck by your friendliness. Most importantly, remember to smile! Engaging with the customer also means making it clear to them that you are prepared to listen. Nod your head as they talk and make eye contact.


Being a travel agent can be a bit like being a detective. People seldom say exactly what they want as they frequently don’t know it. The Discover phase is the chance to actively listen to them. Start with open questions like “What kind of holiday do you fancy” or “Which kind of city would you prefer”? This will help you continue to give a good impression while simultaneously getting important information. Take notes as they talk, it looks professional (like a doctor) and enables you to capture vital data such as their names and contact details.

Pair off.

Only when you have reached this point do you demonstrate your product knowledge. By this stage you will know a lot about the client and can match them to the best trip for them. I would suggest making a maximum of three alternatives. While describing each one inform them how this will benefit them. For example, if they enjoy eating local food tell them that “this hotel is near typical restaurants where many locals eat-this means that you will be able to have a true gastronomic experience of Rome”.



Once you have presented your three options ask the client which is their preference. If you have done sales training you will recall that this has the effect of saying “So, which one shall we go for” rather than fatal “Do you want to book then”? In reaching this stage you have put in a lot of work so you don’t want to blow it all away with one clumsy question. Likewise, you cannot afford to let the client leave with all your great ideas.

Good luck with using these four stages.

FOOT NOTE. Thinking of joining a networking group? If so, take time to pick the right one. My first tip is to find one with a florist, gift seller or stationer as they are the people the sell the lowest ticket products. These groups feed off the guilt felt by people that don’t have a referral and because they are so desperate to be seen to be referring, they will always come up with a low-value lead. If a florist is present, he/she will pick up the dregs and you’ll be spared the wasted time. I have nothing against florists, but they are used to £10 here and £15 there. As a travel professional you need to hold out for much better than that.

image; http://www.drewsmarketingminute.com/images/old/6a00d8341bf7cb53ef0134887edcf4970c-pi.jpg