“Wow, do travel agents really travel for free?”
“Do you ever work?”
“Wow! Sounds like you have the best job ever!?”
“I thought all travel agents went out of business 50 years ago?”
I’ve been a travel agent for over five years and these are the most popular questions I get. The answers to which, by the way, are “sort of,” “yes,” “yes,” and “no.” For travel addicts like myself, being a travel agent basically sounds like the dream. I mean, you get paid to talk about the travel destinations you’re already talking about. Plus, you get heavily discounted travel from time to time.
That being said, being a travel agent isn’t the glitz and glamor you’d imagine. I have spent countless hours researching clients’ vacations for them to take my work and book it on their own. I’ve interrupted dates to take an important phone call from a client in a destination. Free vacations? Yes, after work and research; even then you’re time is usually filled with meeting and handshakes with resort representatives. I’m constantly networking and juggling a thousand tasks to keep expanding my business and clients happy – all while trying to have a social life of my own.
How to Spot a Scheme
Without knowing the facts, it’s easy to see why a lot of predatory multi-level marketing (affectionally referred to as a pyramid scheme) based “travel agencies” tend to pop up. It sounds like the dream job, but if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Multi-level marketing schemes plague the Internet in almost every kind of career paths, and travel is one of the worst offenders. These agents make their money by referring and they are ruthless. They will act like their posts are about destinations, but they are predatory in disguise. I’ve seen it in so many travel groups before moderators step in and promptly take those ads down.
These multi-level marketing agencies are often very vague about what they’re actually doing. The agents often advertise themselves as “traveling the world for free” and will only speak with you through private message. When you do message them, they stress how much money they’re making and how you can, too. But there’s always a catch – you pay a “small” start-up fee of $200 and an additional $45 a month, for starters. They make money by referring agents to be on their “downline”, under them on the pyramid scheme. These agents are rarely trained and I’ve heard horror stories about the giant mistakes that are made when they actually book trips.
I take my career very seriously. Few things frustrate me more then people who turn my actual career path into a scam. I don’t blame the agents; they had a dream – just like I did – and fell into the wrong hands because they didn’t know any better. I blame the corporations that profit off of them.
Tips for Aspiring Travel Agents
If you’re looking to join a travel agency, know that a real agency will never make you pay a monthly fee other than nominal costs (i.e.: I pay for my supplies and email account). Travel agencies aim to sell travel. Any referring done by travel agents may result in a small referral credit, like in any other job. The point is not to profit off of fellow agents sales. A good agency owner will spend time training you and want to be successful. An agency will likely keep a percentage of your commission, but this is on par with any other sales job in the world.
Worried about falling for a scam? Ask questions. Travel Agents are a lot more than “free vacations.” Although there are perks, it takes effort to find them. A real agent will tell you that, and likely never encourage you to become a travel agent unless you know what you are getting in to. People think the job is super easy, until they see you dealing with clients at 3 AM and spending money out of your own pocket to keep a client happy.
If you’re wanting to become a travel agent, I recommend jumping in full time at an office – AAA or Liberty Travel/Flight Centre are both great examples. I am home-based as a part-time travel agent with another full-time job in travel. My clients are enough to hopefully sustain me for a full-time remote job as a travel agent one day, but it has taken years to get to this level. Like any other career, you won’t be successful without first putting the work in. Anyone who tells you any different is lying.
About Danielle: Danielle Miess lives in Philadelphia with her two cats. She’s a travel agent for Starstuff Travel by day and sometimes extroverted/sometimes excited at night. Follow Danielle’s Destinations on Facebook and Instagram!