What It Takes To Be a Successful Travel Agent

Do you love to travel and find yourself not only planning all your own trips but the trips of all of your friends and family too? Do you think you’ve got what it takes to become a successful travel agent?

Could it be summed up as:

  • Must love long walks on the beach. 
  • Must love puppies and elephants and a sense of adventure. 
  • Must love red wine, medium-rare steak and evenings in front of a cozy fire listening to Ed Sheeran 

WAIT, I thought I was writing my online dating profile requests there for a second – 

🐿  My mind can so easily wander (spoken like a true travel industry professional). Let’s get back on track.

No, this article is not about online dating but rather about the nine traits that every good travel consultant should possess to succeed in this industry. If you don’t have them all, it’s okay. You can fake it ‘til you make it. (oops, and just like that, I’m back to that online dating profile again 🤦‍♀️ KIDDING)

 1. A travel agent must be highly intelligent

I’m sure I’ll get a hell yeah on this one from anyone in the industry reading this. I don’t know how many times I’ve told friends and family that I am an Asia travel specialist, yet without fail, I’m often asked, ” Hey, what’s the cost of a flight to Cuba these days?” (sigh) 

It’s similar to when you tell someone you are Canadian, and they then ask you if you know their 2nd cousin Bob who lives four provinces away. Just because I’m a travel professional does not mean I know the depth of the Tonga Trench or the mating patterns of Galapagos turtles. I get asked crap like this all the time.  

A nervous mother once asked me how far her 12-year-old son could walk into the ocean before he went under. I said, “no, I can’t tell you that. Wait, how tall is your son?” She said, “4”9.” 

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh,”  I said. “Still, no.” 

Yes, travel consultants do know a lot of stuff. And if they’ve correctly defined their niche, they probably could kick some ass in a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit as long as the category is BLUE.  When it comes to your niche topics, there will be an expectation that you are highly intelligent.

2. A travel agent must be detail-oriented

Before you worry about this too much, there are so many tools available to help you check and double-check your work, so don’t stress if this isn’t your strong suit. It’s not mine. But every good travel advisor I’ve ever met has impressive attention to detail. There are so many moving parts to any travel itinerary that being detail-oriented is a must. From checking dates in triplicate to ensuring flights arrive and depart with enough time in-between. One letter wrong in a client’s passport name and “hello, hefty change fees!”

I would often remind my team — “ Relax, after all, we aren’t curing cancer,” but you can’t tell that to the person who travels across the globe, hours on a plane, only to find that all 12 rooms at the ultra-exclusive Giraffe Manor are booked. And he’s not on the guest list. 😳

Yes, to work in the travel industry, the devil is in the details.

3. A travel agent must be maternal and have a touch of clairvoyance

No, I’m not suggesting you need to drive a minivan. But a good travel professional has to think of everything. You need to anticipate crap happening before crap happens. And it’s going to happen. Not only do you need to expect it, but you better have a plan A, B and C on hand for when it does. 

Being a travel advisor isn’t that dissimilar to sending your kids off to school…” Billy, do you have your gloves, your scarf, your mittens, your lunch, your homework? Did you get your visa for China?” If you are good at what you do, and of course you are, at times, it will seem as though your clients have sent their brains off on vacation a few months before their departure date. They’ll look to you for everything, and like a good boy-scout, you’ll need to be prepared.

Pre-departure checklists can come in handy. Clients will appreciate these.

Pro Tip: Departure time 00:21 messes up at least one travelling party every year. Be sure you make it clear what date your clients should be heading to the airport, so they don’t miss their flight. You might laugh, but I’m tellin’ ya…every year someone invariably shows up a day late and a dollar short.

For chuckles, here are some of the questions I’ve received over the years…

“ What do you think they’ll serve at the buffet at the hotel?” (I always say bacon unless they are travelling to a Muslim country because bacon is a sure-fire favourite on any buffet but honestly, really? – how the F should I know?)

Or the client who booked Mont Blanc six months in advance and asked…” Do you think July 19th will be better weather-wise or do you think July 26th would be a better date?” Ahhhh…I’m not the Farmers’ Almanac. What do you think?

Then, one of my all-time favourites, “ What time does the sun come up in Australia?” Ummmm…huh?

4. A travel agent must be able to juggle fire swords while smiling

Sure, I know that all the experts say it’s impossible to multitask. Those experts have yet to meet a real travel consultant. A successful travel professional will have dual, maybe even triple screens up and running at all times. We’ll be on hold with an airline listening to the brassy-edge of Kenny G’s saxophone while Googling weather patterns in the Sahara and writing welcome-home postcards all at the same time.

When I used to hire travel sales experts, I always looked for people who considered themselves highly organized. If you are not, before long, you’ll be in the weeds. That’s how we describe having one too many balls in the air and knowing they are about to drop.

5. A travel agent must be crafty problem solver

Getting an angry text message or email at three in the morning is not something anybody wants, but it can happen. (see trait #2)  You’ll need to be a puzzle solver. There are so many moving cogs to travel that somewhere at some time, someone along the way will have an off-day and slip up. A calamity will ensue.. Your job is not to panic. Stay calm and understand that everything is figure-out-able. 

When that happens, it’s understandable that your client is upset. I’ve had profanities and obscenities hurled my way over the years. I don’t take it personally. There is always a solution, but sometimes it might require you to be creative. Whatever it takes. 

Marie Forleo came out with a New York Times Bestselling book on the topic that I highly recommend — “Everything is Figureoutable.” It’s a great read for all aspects of your entrepreneurial life. 


6. A travel agent must be empathetic

I often think every good travel consultant should have a velvety chartreuse chaise lounge in her office. At times, you’ll find yourself playing the role of Dear Abby as you listen to your clients’ waffle over the meaning of life and what they should pack. 

And because selling comes down to the Know, Like, and Trust factor, asking probing questions is the key to establishing great relationships.  You’ll want to unravel their likes and dislikes, what brings them joy, what freaks them out, are they adventurous spirits or beach slugs? Are they introverts or extroverts or a mix of the two? These are all great questions.

And listening to Mildred complain about Roy’s hernia and how he’ll need to pack an extra cushion and painkillers to endure the long flight — these are all just part of “A Day in the life.”

7. Let’s not forget, a travel agent must be long on patience

Holy hell, ain’t this the truth. Knowing when to step in and knowing when to lay low and just wait — is an art form. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be too efficient. Sometimes, the best plan of action is to do nothing because clients will often change their minds from A to B to C to D and then back to A.

 I get it. Booking a holiday that for many, may happen only once a year, there is a fear of getting it wrong. And while it is absolutely your job to put their minds at ease and help them feel confident in their choices, they will still change their mind just because they can. Don’t fall for the trap. Patience, grasshopper. And this too shall pass.

8. And a travel agent must be extremely resourceful

There is no playbook for selling travel. The most successful agents in the industry are the ones who know how to manoeuvre around obstacles to get the most for their clients. A good travel agent knows when to push and not take no for an answer. And they will seek out who the general manager is in each hotel and contact them in advance to advise they have VIP guests coming who need upgrades. It’s ringing up the hotel’s concierge and having him secure a table at the swankiest Michelin-starred hotel in the neighbourhood.

what makes a travel agent special

Tom Marchant, co-founder of the ultra-elite luxury travel brand Black Tomato, says that no request is too big for his company to consider. They’ve hidden diamond rings inside ice caves in Iceland for a dream wedding proposal. They’ve hired Hollywood cinematographers to film a family’s jolly around the Indonesian islands at the cost of US$665,000. They just roll up their sleeves and figure out how to exceed their clients’ expectations.

9. Most of all, a travel agent must know how to laugh

Above all else, if you don’t have a sense of humour, it’s going to be tough. You might muddle through, but it’s so much easier when you can put things in perspective and realize you gotta laugh. In fact, if you can make like a duck and allow the water to roll off your back…that will be a good thing.

Actually, now that I think of it, this could also be a great list of admirable traits to look for on an online dating profile. 🤔

So tell me…how’d you do? Does this sound like the best career ever? If you think you are ready to dig a little deeper, I highly recommend reading the following posts next:

Best Advice for Getting Started in the Travel Industry

Top Travel Agents Share Their Best Advice for Starting Out in the Travel Industry

Revealing Your Secret Sauce, Unlocking Your Hidden Talents

Choosing the Right Travel Path

And, if you are interested in learning how you can work with me to help you get you off on the right foot, click here to sign up for a consultation.



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Sameer Bhattacharya
Sameer Bhattacharya
2 years ago

This is a great read…. thank you for sharing…

2 years ago

You are spot on in every aspect!

Last edited 2 years ago by Amelia
2 years ago

Thanks for the laughs! You made it an entertaining read!

2 years ago

Really nice post!! I have a lot of work to do on my self ☺️
I enjoyed reading and learnt a lot! Thanks for sharing!

2 years ago

What a funny guide! And informative. You definitely exude the sense of humor part. 🙂

Steve Perkins
Steve Perkins
2 years ago

Fantastic article! I’d like to think I have many (if not all) of these traits 🙂

2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perkins

You do Stevie Wonder!

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