What's the hardest part of running your agency? For many, finding
and keeping good employees rank right up there with increasing
The answer is not always to raid travel schools, according to
Donna Daniels, president and part-owner of Fox Travel, an American
Express representative in greater Houston.
Daniels, who owns the 15-year-old leisure agency along with her
husband, James Bailey, has had her share of misadventures with
travel school graduates.
"I have hired several people from a travel school, and they
didn't work out," she said.
With this in mind, Daniels came up with a list of suggestions on
how travel schools can better serve the travel community:
Ask agency owners and managers to help design the school
"They need to ask travel agencies what they need green agents to
be able to do right out of the oven," she said.Invite past graduates who are now working travel agents to be
guest speakers at the school.
"Students graduate thinking they are going to be able to walk
into an agency and start ticketing," she said. "They need to know
that is not the case."Incorporate role playing into the curriculum so that students
can learn to qualify clients and closing techniques.
"They should learn to ask questions like 'Are you celebrating
something?' and 'When was the last time you traveled?' " she
said.Screen prospective students not only in terms of ability, but
"Make sure students know what to expect in terms of salary,
hours and travel opportunities," Daniels said.Emphasize such real-life skills as answering the telephone,
taking messages and greeting walk-ins.
"Computer skills, ticketing and other office tasks take a back
seat to these more elementary skills," she said.
Bottom line: "You have to be able to correctly spell and
pronounce the name of the client."
Beating the bushes
So how does Donna Daniels, part-owner of Fox Travel in Houston,
find good employees? Her staff, all of whom Daniels prizes, came to
her through a mixture of advertising, kismet and pixie dust.
"A week ago a woman with 26 years' experience as an agent just
walked in the door," Daniels said.
said the woman left a competing agency in response to one of her
newspaper advertisements. "I spent $700 a month to run an ad in
four newspapers, and I got five responses," she said.
The carefully worded ad did not mention minimum amount of
experience, and it didn't say anything about Apollo training;
instead, the focus was on fun, self-motivation and sales
experience, she said.
Retraining an experienced agent to a new computer system and
office procedure was no big deal, Daniels said of her new hire,
adding "she was immediately productive."
As to the other responses, two were from salespeople without
travel experience, and Daniels is considering hiring them to man
her travel kiosk at a local mall.
"My theory is that it is easier to learn the travel business
than it is to learn how to sell."
Daniels has one more shining star in her arsenal, she said, who
is -- you guessed it -- a travel school graduate.
"We were the 23rd agency she applied to, and she is a shining
star. In short, she is the exception" to Daniels' experience with
travel school grads, she said.Instant smarts
By now, unless you were on Mars, you know there is more profit
in selling tours and cruises vs. airline tickets.
How would you like a software program that will match your
client with a travel product, check availability, make a
reservation and produce an invoice while the client is sitting by
In other words, how would you like to be what we were meant to
be -- expert travel consultants able to service clients in an
efficient manner at the point of sale?
a client management system that will save you hundreds of dollars
(possibly thousands, if you lease), not to mention time?
What would you be willing to pay for a product that could, at
the very least, reduce the number of CRS workstations, and at best,
break the bonds of CRSs completely?
If you enjoy being an unpaid lackey for the airlines, click
another link. But if you want to continue to reduce unprofitable
point-to-point airline tickets, read on.
Smart Travel Technologies Inc. in conjunction with the U.S. Tour
Operators Association, has produced Package Power. The software, on
CD, works in conjunction with an Internet site and will allow for
continuously updated information.
One of the components is SmartLink, which searches through
thousands of vacation options by destination and type of vacation.
It will compare products from several tour operators at once.
The Electronic Brochure gives users access to all the operator's
tour and vacation options, eliminating the need to call the
It will show availability of departure dates; price the tour
selected based on gateway, dates and pre- and post-options, and
allow electronic reservations.
The cost? Free to the first 5,000 agencies that request the
program at www.ustoapackagepower.com.
What are you waiting for -- airline commissions to be
Lucy Hirleman, CTC, MCC, owns Berkshire Travel in
Newfoundland, N.J. Contact her at [email protected]; fax (973) 208-1204.