Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

A new survey from Working Solutions further illustrates that travel advisors are somewhat fragmented when it comes to what they prefer to be called.

Working Solutions specializes in outsourcing. Its 110,000 independent contractors work in a number of industries. Within the travel industry, Working Solutions agents fill in at travel companies like large agencies on an as-needed basis, like when a large storm causes severe travel delays.

The company recently surveyed close to 1,000 of its travel agents online and found that 68% prefer the term "travel advisor," while 32% prefer the term "travel agent."

Kim Houlne, president and CEO of Working solutions, said the group of agents surveyed was experienced (more than half have been in the industry for over 10 years). Because of that experience, the services they render are more in line with what an advisor, not an agent, provides, she said.

"I think it provides an element of professionalism to them, as well," Houlne said. "They are doing this because they have the knowledge that you don't have, and they want to share that knowledge with you versus just taking your ticket order and placing it."

Gail Rigler, chief marketing officer of Working Solutions, said given the experience base of the agents surveyed, she was surprised the number preferring the term "travel advisor" wasn't higher.

"I think in any profession, people would like to know I'm not just here to take down what you're saying; I can add some value to what you're doing," she said.

At 56%, more than half of the surveyed agents have worked in the travel industry for more than 10 years, with backgrounds ranging from working at traditional travel agencies to working at airlines or hotels. The remaining agents surveyed came from outside the industry, with backgrounds "as varied as pet grooming, media production, biotech and insurance firms," according to Working Solutions.

Nearly all of the responding agents (94%) identified the same three skills needed for successful customer service in the travel industry: knowledge of destinations, airline and hotels; empathy with travelers; and knowledge of GDS systems.

The most common challenges agents identified were mastering travel complexities (35%), pleasing customers (12%) and mastering industry technology (6%).

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