Case study

Specialist travel agents coordinator — Tara

Travelling is Tara's passion - she travelled the world in her gap year, and spent her summers exploring new destinations. It's no surprise she loves her job as a specialist travel agent coordinator...

How did you get your job?

After graduating, I got a job as a travel consultant for a travel agency specialising in round the world travel. I worked in that role for a couple of years, when I was promoted to an assistant team leader, which means you're second in command of a small team of people.

I co-led that team with the team leader for just over a year before taking my current job at the Association of Independent Travel Agents (AITO). I have been here eight months now.

Nothing can substitute for your own experience and, in many travel jobs, this can be why you're hired

How relevant was you degree in getting your job?

I couldn't have done a more relevant degree subject - a BSC in tourism management. But in reality, the most valuable skills and assets a travel agent manager will have is their own travel knowledge, and the ability to work with people of all kinds. Everyone goes on holiday.

Describe a typical working day

I may create a marketing e-blast for the travel agents I look after to send to their staff for educational purposes or to their customers for advertising and enquiry generation - this involves collating several holiday offers from AITO tour operators to advertise.

I may contact a venue to book a training event for my agents to attend - we have at least six a year, and they all need to be organised separately, with venues booked, menus chosen, prices negotiated, etc.

I also plan two conferences per year for the AITO Agents, which takes several months each time, and is a lot of work, but very enjoyable.

I collect sales figures and stats from the operators on the travel agents, and use them to run a league table incentive competition. I write newsletters for the agents, design questionnaires for their feedback and manage their website, and generally run any kind of support system or information for the agents who are members of AITO.

Another part of my job is to handle the admin side of AITO Agents, like renewing everyone's membership annually, and billing them for their fees, etc. The aim for them is by joining the Association; it will help grow their business, so that is what I'm always attempting to do.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My current role has developed as I'm settling into it more and becoming faster at completing the more pressing work - it frees up more time to think of new projects and ways to assist the AITO Agents that perhaps haven't been tried before.

My personal career ambitions are to learn as much as I can from this position, and then ideally move into a product role, as I think I'd enjoy this.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the variety of the role - I do lots of different things, and it's a great opportunity to try my hand at many different tasks, like events planning, writing, PR and marketing.

As a travel agent manager, the best part of the job was the variety of holidays I could plan - the agency I worked for specialised in long haul, multi-stop or round the world trips - the kind of holidays that are too complicated for an internet search engine to process, so every enquiry was different, and often a puzzle to piece together their route in the most logical and cost effective order.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

As a travel agent, the most challenging part is the competition against the internet and/or other travel agents - customers can be ruthless. This makes the job high pressure, as you always have targets to meet, and can feel stressed and come under scrutiny when they are not met. You can experience a drop in your salary from this, as you will earn less commission.

As the agent coordinator for AITO, the challenge is juggling so many different tasks and jobs - everything seems to come at once sometimes.

What are the best things about working in tourism?

The perks are the best thing by far. You get to travel a lot, and are encouraged to take a lot of your own holidays too, often with a discount. You never have to beg for time off to go on holiday really, as employers like you to do so (although you do have a limit as always).

The other best bit is the people - people who travel tend to be fun loving, social, adventurous and fairly laid back in the work place, so it makes for a great environment.

Any words of wisdom for someone wanting to get into this career?

Travel as much as you can in your own time, and to get used to talking about it in an enthusiastic but not self-involved way. Nothing can substitute for your own experience and, in many travel jobs, this can be why you're hired.

Many employers like to know you have a degree, so they know you can work hard and have a high level of knowledge and understanding, can write and communicate well, etc, but it's not essential to be in tourism; whereas individual travel knowledge is irreplaceable and cannot be taught.