Day in the life of
Travel Agent – Chris Atkins
I was the top sales rep (and then sales manager) at one of the largest travel agencies in Costa Rica.
A Typical Day
Most days I’d wake up and check my emails on my phone before even getting out of bed. This would give me an idea of the workload ahead for the day, which clients needed urgent attention from me, and ideally give me an energy/confidence boost if a new booking confirmation email was waiting for me too.
After breakfast, I’d sit down to officially start my day by prioritizing my inbox. Since my travel sales position was 100% commission-based, the clients that were ready to book were given top priority. It doesn’t make any sense to spend the time and effort to work a client all the way to the finish line and then not put in the final effort needed to get them to commit to the vacation you planned. Even among those that were ready to book there existed a hierarchy as certain itineraries were more urgent and/or more important than others. Clients traveling over the holidays, during the peak season, or honeymoons were put at the top of the list because losing hotel availability was more of a concern and could torpedo the entire booking. The final step to get clients to book involved rechecking availability at all the hotels, blocking rooms for 24 hrs if possible, and then informing the clients how to submit payment to secure their itinerary.
In tandem with attending to all the clients that were ready to book their trips, I also of course had to make time to finalize the details of the clients who recently completed the booking process. For me a booking wasn’t complete when the client submitted payment, it was complete once their reservations had been sent out to all the local operators and confirmed back to us. One of the worst parts about the job was having to go back to a client after they submitted payment and tell them “Sorry, you waited too long, the hotel is no longer available”. I would review the itinerary one last time and include personal details of the travelers as well as any personal notes for myself, then pass it over to our Reservations Department so they could work on confirming it.
Once the booked clients and ready to book clients were attended to, I’d work my way UP the sales funnel to keep clients moving along in the booking process. First on this list would be clients who have already reviewed a package I sent them and responded with questions and changes they’d like to make. This meant they were interested, and if I could reply to them quickly (within 24 hours, ideally 12) that would increase my chances they’d book with me as opposed to another travel agent, book something online themselves, or lose interest and go to a different destination.
Higher up in the funnel would be the clients that responded to my initial questions asking what kind of vacation they are looking for. Once I review their answers and get an idea of who they are, their interests, and their budget I could start building them their own customized itinerary. Same as above, if I could respond to them within 24 hrs that significantly increased my chances of getting them to book their vacation with me.
Of course, no one even gets into the sales funnel if you don’t take (or generate) new leads. New leads were often assigned to you at the start of your shift, and they too needed to be reviewed and prioritized. First I’d look at travel dates: clients wanting to travel over the holidays or within 1-2 months were more urgent than someone who is curious about a possible trip 12 months from now. Once the clients were prioritized by travel dates, the ones who provided more details about what kind of vacation they were looking for – and a phone number to reach them on – were viewed as prime inquiries as opposed to a client who only fills out their first name and provides an email address. Once again, the quicker you could contact the new leads the better chance you had at booking them down the road.
First on the list would have to be hitting your sales goal. This was important for the company and for the sake of keeping my own job – as in every sales job you need to perform or they will find someone to replace you.
One of the best ways to hit your sales goal was to respond to clients quickly. New leads, potential clients, qualified and ready to book clients – get back to them within 24 hrs or they’ll find another way to book their vacation.
Being a travel agent is the best job I’ve ever had. It is also the busiest and at times the most stressful job I’ve ever had. The highs were high, the lows were low, the key was to try and keep an even keel through the ups and downs.
The pros that I will always fondly remember are the ability to control your income: the more you worked, the more leads you took, the better you got at sales the more you could earn.
This was also my first work from home job, and after working in the corporate world for a year I can’t imagine ever doing anything different. Being a travel agent, by nature, I loved to travel and literally would work from all over the world: Central America where I was based out of, in the US when visiting family, and even in Europe and the Middle East when enjoying my own vacations!
Perhaps the best perk of all being a travel sales rep is the time spent learning the product in the field. In order to sell one of our luxury hotel properties or tours more productively and more accurately, the best way to do that was to spend a couple of days there experiencing exactly what the clients will experience. In my 16 years here I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at the majority of the top hotels in Central America, hotels I could have never dreamed of staying at if I wasn’t in the industry.
The major con to travel sales is that if you are competitive and driven there is never really a day off. Literally every single day there is a new lead to take or a new email to respond to. Every moment you aren’t working is the potential income you are missing out on. It can be addictive and endless, so you need to set boundaries.
Earning 100% commission is not always easy on your psyche either, especially the first year or two. No matter how good you are at sales, you will never close 100% of the clients that you are working with. Having a client back out of a big trip can be incredibly deflating, especially if you are stressed about hitting your sales numbers or for your own personal financial reasons.
Finally, as we all learned again in 2020, there is so much that is out of your control working in the travel industry. In my 16 years, I’ve seen the Great Recession, Zika, Swine Flu, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions that closed airports, and of course – COVID. Even with your own clients, there are things you can’t control like one of their family members getting sick, them losing a job, or them having a major financial event in their own lives that prevents them from traveling.
There are a lot of ups and downs to be sure, but when it’s good there is nothing better!
plan and sell transportation and accommodations for customers. Determine destination, modes of transportation, travel dates, costs, and accommodations required. May also describe, plan, and arrange itineraries and sell tour packages. May assist in resolving clients' travel problems.