Popularity of Online Travel Agencies Growing
- Travel and tourism are among the biggest industries worldwide, and more than 80 percent of the travel sold in the United States is now purchased online. With more consumers using the Internet to plan their vacation getaways, online travel agencies have been growing in popularity, helping to increase business in the travel industry overall. Aside from booking travel packages, many travelers go online in search of travel reviews before making a final decision about their choices. Reports show that more travelers who have traditionally booked trips offline are checking out vacation destinations, as well as travel and hotel rates, online.
Working With a Known Travel Agency
- The travel industry is a busy industry; therefore, many online travel agencies are working with established host agencies, which can provide marketing materials, along with experience in knowing what travelers are looking for. Being part of an affiliate program can help to increase an agency’s bookings and sales. Like other businesses putting up websites, going online allows travel agencies to reach a wider market of travel consumers.
Advantages to Consumers and Travel Agencies Both
- Online travel agencies use automated processes to reduce costs and increase profitability, in addition to improving efficiency. While there are a variety of software tools available to assist businesses in saving time and selling more travel, online travel agencies offer several advantages to consumers. Would-be travelers have access to airlines, cruise lines, railways, hotels, tours and car rental companies all from a single source, allowing them to check out current travel discounts from the comfort of their own homes. Consumers can also benefit from special offers and promotions often offered online.
Consumers Need to Know What They Are Buying
- Booking travel online can save consumers money, but you need to do your homework first. Before purchasing a travel package online, a consumer should be sure to read all the fine print. A dream vacation might not turn out to be what you are expecting. That’s why you need to know exactly what expenses are included in a package before buying. Frequently, hotel stays and some attractions are the only items included. Even so, the package may still be a good deal, but travelers need to know up front what other expenses will be involved. Consumers should always read reviews about any online travel agencies, from which they are considering purchasing. In many cases, comments made by other people who have purchased travel packages from the company can be read online. Consumers can also find out how a certain company has been rated by others.
- DELETE THE PRESENT. When traveling back in time, it’s very important to eliminate any evidence of the present. The place you choose must be historically pristine. No modern technology. No current fashions or hairstyles. Nothing out of place chronologically. The more a place looks like it did when it was, the better you’ll be able to time travel to it.
- VISIT ETERNAL PLACES. You can easily travel back millions of years if you do it in geological time. Visit such epic sites as the Grand Canyon, where you can actually see the eons layer by layer. Count the rings on the trees in the great redwood stands of the Pacific northwest. Venture into a cool cave in Luray Caverns in Virginia or Kartchner Caverns in Arizona. Visit a retreating glacier or see the effects of one when you visit the Great Lakes.
- “THE PAST IS A PLACE” — GO THERE. Some places where people lived centuries ago remain virtually unchanged. So strong is the historical pull of these places that you can be instantly transported back in time just by being there.
One of these places I really love is Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. This former Shaker community is preserved the way it was in the early nineteenth century without any hokey tourist touches. One of the best things about this place is that every night they close the gates to the outside world. No one is left inside except those who’ve arranged ahead of time to stay. You sleep in one of the Shaker dormitories (men and women were celibate and slept separately), eat in the communal dining hall and roam the green commons to your heart’s content. If you manage to avoid other visitors — and that’s easy to do, since only a few stay over — you can easily travel back in time and visualize the community the way it was more than 100 years ago.
If you want to travel back to the days when buffalo roamed free in the Wild West, you can’t do better than to visit Custer State Park in South Dakota. You’ll see bison herds on the open range. With no references to the present to distract you, it’s easy to travel back to the time before the railroad came and the bison were virtually exterminated.
One of the most evocative places I’ve ever time traveled to is Bodie, California. Situated just east of the Sierra Nevadas, Bodie was a booming mining town in the late 1800’s. Now it’s a ghost town that’s been left in a state of “arrested decay.” One of the things that makes Bodie such a special place is the fact that so much is still there. Dishes remain on kitchen tables, coffins are on display at the mortuary, and mail still waits to be picked up in post office boxes. The town appears to have been frozen in time, just waiting for its residents to return. Bodie is in a very remote area — don’t even think about visiting it in the winter — but it’s a must-see for the serious time traveler.
See “Resources” below for more ideas.
- STAY IN HISTORIC HOMES. I get chills just thinking about the Stephen Daniels House in Salem, Massachusetts. Built in 1667, the Daniels house is actually older than The House of the Seven Gables, which is in the same town. The big difference is that you can stay overnight in the Stephen Daniels House, which we did. The age of the house, its authenticity in every detail, and the fact that it’s in the town famous for the witch trials of 1692, made it an especially evocative trip to the past.
Try the Monroe Method of Astro Travel
- Find a quiet place for your astro travel, preferably a place in which you will not be disturbed. You may need something to keep your body warm, like a comforter.
- Be sure that your clothing is comfortable. You may want to take off your glasses, if you wear them, and shoes.
- Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down.
- Relax. Mentally check your body for tense areas and consciously release the tension. Inhale and exhale slowly to help your body relax.
- Try to reach a sleepy state, also called the hypnogogic state. One way to do this is to focus on an image, like a flickering candle flame. If other images begin to appear in your mind then you are in a hypnogogic state.
- Take this state to a deeper level called “condition B.” Observe the space in front of your closed eyelids. You may suddenly see light patterns. When they disappear you are in condition B.
- Deepen condition B to “condition C.” In condition C, you lose awareness of your body and any sensory stimulation.
- Experience a state of vibrations. With a deeper experience of condition C, you will get to “condition D” in which your body begins to tingle then vibrate. This is a sign that you are ready to astro travel.
- Practice releasing a part of your etheric body, like your hand. While focusing on leaving your body, lift your etheric hand towards a close object and push it through. Return your etheric hand to your physical hand.
- Separate your etheric body from your physical body. You can try to “lift out” of your body by imagining yourself getting lighter, or you can “roll out,” as if rolling out of bed. When you find yourself out of your physical body, you can move around by just thinking about where you want to go.
- Learn more about astro travel by reading “Mastering Astral Projection: 90-day Guide to Out-Of-Body Experience” by Robert Bruce (see Resources below).
It’s a new travel industry – more independent, less competitive and accessible to newcomers. Job opportunities exist. That is, if you can find your niche and work hard from home.
Change is under way in the travel industry. Brick-and-mortar storefronts are becoming relics as independent consultants replace traditional travel agencies. You can thrive in this new home-based world. Knowledge, expertise and research are key. But ultimately, it’s about service – at both ends of the travel dollar.
eHow spoke with Dan Smith, the Pacific Northwest Chapter director of the National Association of Career Travel Agents, about selling travel packages, getting credentialed, finding customers and working from home.
Maybe someone has a great circle of relationships and people are always coming to them and they say, “Why shouldn’t I get paid for doing all this research? I like doing it, but I could be making money.” A lot of people get into their 50s and say, “You know maybe I’ll just start this as a part-time thing.” Some are very successful at it. They can balance more than one life simultaneously. … If you have a family reunion and you have an affinity with travel, you will start talking to hotels, you will talk to airlines, resorts, maybe transportation systems.
The School Route
There are some travel schools out there. I don’t think that’s a good place to get training necessarily. That’s how a lot of people have started, but then they were able to go into a brick-and-mortar and file brochures, write tickets. There are few places to do that these days because so many brick-and-mortars are no longer available. “When I left the airline, I thought I knew travel. I knew nothing about travel,” Smith said. “I knew how to get people on and off airplanes. It’s a totally different world.”
Knowing What You Sell
It’s learning about a place and being effective in communicating about the place. … I have a wholesale business, which means a customer and/or another travel agent will call me and say, “What do you know about Costa Rica?” I have a guy I work with in Costa Rica. I send him a profile and budget. Here’s the time frames, what the clients are thinking of doing. He will come back with an itinerary. Then I go back to the client and say, “Here is what we can do.” … Part of the reason it works is because I am doing the boutique smaller properties, as opposed to the mega-properties. And when you are going to destinations, people aren’t looking for the brass and glass. They want to experience a place. So I’m on both sides of the street. I am a seller and I am also a resource to the other travel agents. Then I turn around and say to somebody else, “I need information on how to get a ground operator in Naples that’s not going to take advantage of people.” … That’s part of how we interact and support each other.
Getting it Right
Find the honest, reputable organizations that will support you. Because if you don’t put those pieces together and it falls apart you better be prepared to make it a positive. Until you’ve had to do that it’s overwhelming. I had a guy this last week where the hotel dates got messed up. That shouldn’t be his problem. Even though it cost me money to fix it, I still retained the guy as a client. That’s part of developing clientele. If it’s a new experience, even if it doesn’t result in a sale, it’s still a good learning experience.
The Value of Credentials
Travel professionals can earn a slew of credentials to enhance their reputation, such as certification from the Cruise Lines International Association, which is important if you want to specialize in cruise packages.
But there are also “card mills,” where you can plop down “$50, $100 or $500, and mysteriously you are a travel agent. It becomes like a Ponzi pyramid thing. These card mills open up and they give people cards that supposedly have value. But those people aren’t selling anything.
The most important credential is an ID card from the International Airlines Travel Agent Network. IATAN is universally known as the independent organization that says you’ve met particular criteria.
That’s the question every business is trying to answer. There’s no silver bullet, and everybody has their own style. “I do mailers, I do emails, I do trade shows, I do consumer shows,” Smith says. “It takes a lot of energy to garner people around. It’s about relationships and referrals.”
A Competitive Landscape
The philosophy among the majority is there’s enough business out there. In the brick-and-mortar days it was far more competitive. In today’s world we are all in the same place. Some of us have a different niche. Some years are better than others. The point being it’s a support system. How do we help everybody be successful? How do we help everybody improve their bottom line without losing the relationships? Any kind of healthy business is a relationship. “In travel, if you don’t approach it as a relationship, you have one-time sales and that’s it. It needs to be referrals, it needs to be repetitive,” Smith says. Those are the things that sustain you through the ebb and flow of the economy. If your mentality is only bottom-line, then all that stuff is a waste of time. You can’t be in travel today as an independent and expect it to be only about the dollars.
In the ’90s there were 34,000 travel agents primarily in brick-and-mortars across the U.S. Now there are 14,000, and probably 80 percent are independent contractors. … And that’s part of the reason NACTA has become successful — because most of the vendors, the wholesalers, the cruise lines, they can’t find these people without brick and mortar. It becomes very isolating when you come out of an office environment.
Coexisting with Orbitz and Expedia
There’s a place for Orbitz and Expedia for the bottom-line-focused customer. But the cheapest price is not always the best price. If you’re going to London, you can get the cheapest price online for, say, $600, but you will make three stops and it will take one-and-a-half days to get there. “I’m talking about the value of your time,” Smith says.
- Create your travel itinerary. Determine the dates and time you’d like to leave London by train for France. Also, decide what your final destination city will be to determine whether or not you need to catch a connecting train. Once you have your itinerary planned you can move on to booking your trip.
- Decide what seat is right for you. Eurostar has three classes, ranked highest to lowest in cost: Business First Class, Leisure First Class, and Standard Class. All seats on Eurostar must be booked in advance to secure a reservation. Both types of first class seats are identical and offer meals and beverages with the main difference being ticket flexibility. Standard Class is more affordable, but does not provide meals or beverages. You can request your exact seat, based on availability, by viewing the seating plan on the Eurostar website.
- Book your trip on the Eurostar from London to Lille or Paris, France. The easiest and cheapest way to buy tickets is online at the Eurostar website. Your tickets can be printed off of your PC or you can pick them up at the station before your departure. Tickets can only be mailed to a United Kingdom, French or Belgian address. You can also book by calling Eurostar directly where you can speak to a travel representative. The Eurostar telephone number can be found on its website. Tickets can booked up to four months prior to departure.
- Book your trip from Lille or Paris to your next location, if needed. If you are going beyond Paris or Lille, it is easiest to buy your tickets in advance from Rail Europe. Type in your departure and arrival location with your requested dates and a list of options will appear. Tickets will be mailed to you or you can print them in the form of an E-ticket. You can also have a Rail Europe agent help you by calling the toll free number provided on its website. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also purchase tickets the day of your travel. However, seating availability is not guaranteed. If it’s imperative that you catch a specific train, it is always recommended to book a reservation in advance.
Working from home is becoming more popular in the Internet age. One business that can be run from a home office is a travel agency. Only relatively simple pieces of equipment such as a computer and a telephone are needed. While travel agents are no longer licensed, many states do require travel agents to be registered and some also require them to pay bonds or satisfy other conditions. Even in states that do not require registration, airlines, hotels and other vendors may refuse to do business with unregistered agents.
- Make a commitment to becoming an agent. Register as a travel agent with a travel authority. This can be done by contacting The Travel Institute, ASTA, ARC and CLIA, all of whom offer professional travel designations.
- Set up an office at home. This should be a quiet area where you can do your research for trips, make phone calls and meet with clients.
- Register through a host agency. Host agencies are not necessary but can help you find clients, charities and other groups. They also give you a forum to book your airline and hotel tickets for relatively low, flat fees. Registering for an agency relieves much of the pressure on individual agents by offering them support.
- Practice by booking trips for your friends and family. Treat these individuals as real customers, thereby working on your customer service skills. If a good job is done, ask them to refer you to their friends.
- Market yourself. The best marketing can be done in your local community through posters, flyers and word of mouth. Hang signs are your local gym and supermarket. Tell your friends about your new business as well as make business cards to distribute.