My journey as a travel agent began at Qantas Holidays in 2001 – a pivotal year in world history & in travel. We were thrown into the deep end within a week of joining, taking up to a hundred calls a day. We spoke to travel agents & the direct public and helped them to put together package holidays around Australia & the world. We were expected to be an expert on everything – not only on the airfares to every destination, but on tiny details every hotel & tour that we sold.
We hardly ever spoke to the same customer more than once and had to deal with any call that made its way to our line. While we quoted & sold a lot of holidays, most calls were more about servicing existing itineraries. We made changes to existing quotes & bookings made by other consultants, as well as taking the time to solve any issues that came across our desks. My favourite part of the process was always in putting together interesting itineraries & making sure that my clients were happy with the packages that I had to offer.
In my three month appraisal at Qantas Holidays, I was told that maybe I wasn’t right for the job (more than 17 years later, this still makes me laugh). Initially I took this as a harsh criticism, but quickly turned it into motivation. I wasn’t being told that I didn’t know what I was doing or that I was bad at the job. The real issue was that I wasn’t closing each call quickly enough and wasn’t able to take the maximum number of calls every day. Even this early in my career, I had realised the value of having a chat & getting to know more about each client. I couldn’t quite understand how taking more calls meant more money. Surely it made more sense to take a little more time to really understand what each caller wanted? I had to find a balance that suited both my bosses & my clients.
Spending the first two years as a Domestic Reservations Consultant meant that I really got to know our country – from a travel consultant’s perspective & also a traveller. I took myself off to Cairns & Port Douglas a couple of times, getting out to Alice Springs, Ayers Rock & Broome, and experiencing the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide. I was also lucky to be sent to explore the wonders of South Australia (twice) & to experience the beauty of the Whitsunday Islands as a reward. Seeing more of our beautiful country meant I was able to sell these destinations with more confidence, knowing that my clients would have a similarly fabulous time as I had.
When I graduated to International Reservations, I was once again expected to be an expert on destinations that I had never even thought of visiting. Most of our international packages were to Bali, Thailand, other parts of Asia & around the South Pacific, with only a handful of enquiries to the destinations that I had visited myself. I loved getting calls about extensive travel in Europe, Canada & America, but was out of my depth everywhere else. Flop & drop beach holidays have never been my thing, so I had to once again become an expert in holidays that I knew nothing about.
I studied our brochures from cover to cover, and read notes about each hotel that I sold. It made my day when I was able to give callers the idea that I knew what I was talking about, even when I hadn’t experienced the destinations myself. My reward came in a trip to Fiji to visit as many resorts as possible in 8 days. Seeing these very popular resorts for myself reinforced everything that I had taught myself, proving to me that I needed to keep learning something new from every booking that I made.
In my five years as a wholesale reservations consultant, I became really efficient at getting through service calls quickly & resolving issues with minimum fuss. This allowed me to take more time to have a conversation when putting packages together for travel agents & more importantly the direct public. I took this time to maximise my knowledge & to hone my skills across the board, building a great foundation for a successful future as your Personal Travel Manager!
I still think that planning your holiday is half the fun! I do the hard work – you get to countdown to your escape to an amazing destination (or two). I will never know everything about every destination or experience, but I surround myself with actual experts who do & I know where to turn if you have a challenge for me.
I’d love to hear from you if you want to chat about your holiday plans, or even to find out all about your favourite holidays of all times. I’m always learning & love to share! :) Christie