A travel agent works on behalf of their clients, planning and organising trips away for business or leisure purposes. Their role involves booking travel and accommodation, pricing up travel packages according to their client's preferred dates of travel and budget, and helping with clients' travel issues.
Travel agents work with operators and airlines to secure the best possible rate according to their client's preferences. They also provide advice on destinations, means of travel, and suitable excursions.
When hiring a travel agent, you need to be sure that individuals demonstrate the necessary skills and abilities to be successful in their role. This article explores what travel agents do daily and what soft skills and technical abilities individuals should possess to carry out their role effectively.
What should a travel agent be able to do?
The critical tasks of a travel agent are related to the organisation and booking of travel. This includes speaking to clients to determine their requirements. Travel agents need to understand their client's preferences on dates for travel, destinations, modes of transport, and any special requirements or adjustments required for their client's trip.
From there, clients research, organise, and plan their client's itineraries, including any excursions, and provide an estimate of the travel costs.
If the client agrees to the travel, travel agents confirm bookings, raise invoices, and collect and process payments for travel. If necessary, travel agents will also liaise with any 3rd party travel operators to ensure their client's travel arrangements are finalised, printing or emailing travel documentation as required.
An essential part of a travel agent's role is to document and maintain records around their client's travel arrangements, updating as required, so there is a written log of all conversations between their client and any third-party vendors or tour operators.
Travel agents should also make their clients aware of any local customs, or specific country travel requirements, ensuring their clients are aware of any additional travel documentation such as visas they need to gain before travel.
Skills to look for in a travel agent
There are several essential skills that all travel agents should possess to succeed in their role. These skills are used to ensure that travel agents provide the best service possible to their clients, catering to their travel needs and ensuring that their travel experience meets their expectations and exceeds them.
Effective listening skills: for a travel agent to plan clients' travel based on their needs, they need first to listen to and understand their clients' needs and wants. Being able to focus on what their client is telling them, asking follow-up questions to gain further information and ensure they have gained all the information they need.
Problem-solving: travel agents need to effectively solve problems by taking the information they have from their clients and developing proposed solutions that they can present to their clients based on their travel requirements.
Writing skills: having the skill to write concise documentation and communications that effectively conveys the key messages as relevant to the audience.
Critical thinking: being able to think critically when faced with a situation or task by logically analysing information to reach the best outcome. From this, the ability to identify patterns or relationships between information and use these inferences in decision making.
Microsoft Office suite: the ability to use all applications within the Microsoft office suits confidently. Many travel agents use Word, Powerpoint, or Excel to research or present information to clients.
Useful abilities for a travel agent
There are many abilities that effective travel agents draw to be successful in their role. These abilities include those that relate to client interaction and the administration and research elements of the role.
Critical thinking ability: through problem-solving and analysing a situation or information, and thinking of the outcome that best meets the client's needs. This is important if the client's original requirements are unable to be met.
Numeracy: being comfortable using numerical data and information to resolve a problem or calculate costs when preparing invoices. Being comfortable working with numerical data and applying basic mathematical principles ensures that clients get the best deal and are given the correct pricing information.
Written expression: being able to fully express an idea through the written word and present it in a format appropriate for the audience they are communicating with.
Reading comprehension: the ability to read and understand passages of information and then make decisions based on this information. Reading comprehension is a crucial ability used when travel agents research travel for their clients.
Innovation: having the ability and confidence to think of alternative solutions to problems or think outside of the box when researching or planning client travel.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a travel agent?
You can use many assessments to help you identify the candidates who possess the necessary soft skills required to be a travel agent. Some of these tests include:
Communication skills test: this test focuses on an individual's communication skills, that is, their active listening, reading, writing, and verbal communication skills. The test takes the form of scenario-based questions with a choice of answers. Individuals select which solutions they believe to be the most appropriate given the situation.
Decision-making skills test: a test that determines an individual's ability to make decisions through analysing and critically evaluating information to solve problems or reach a favourable outcome in a given situation. The decision-making test places candidates in different situations where they need to select which of the outcomes given is how they would respond in real life.
Interpersonal skills test: the interpersonal skills test evaluates an individual's ability to communicate effectively and maintain a productive working environment even in conflict situations. Individuals' social abilities are also assessed in the text in the context of a work environment.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a travel agent?
The technical or aptitude tests that you can use as part of your recruitment process for travel agents include:
Logical reasoning test: designed to assess whether candidates can use their logical reasoning abilities to solve complex problems. Also, the test assesses whether individuals can analyse situations and determine the best course of action given the information or situation.
Numerical reasoning test: providing further information on how well candidates can deal with numerical data to solve problems. Also, whether they can use basic mathematical principles and concepts such as fractions or percentages in calculations.
Verbal reasoning test: a test that enables you to determine whether candidates can read, understand and analyse written information. Then use what they have learned from this information to solve problems or make inferences to help solve problems or provide options for alternative situations.
Microsoft PowerPoint test: this test focuses on a candidate's proficiency in using the Microsoft Powerpoint application to make presentations or documents to share with the clients. Also, whether individuals can use the many functions within PowerPoint to create documents that engage their audience but convey information in an alternative format.
Our recommended test battery for a travel agent
Based on the skills, abilities, and attributes required to be a successful and effective travel agent, we recommend the following test battery:
Interpersonal skills: a timed test that presents candidates with situations where they need to determine the most effective way to interact with others. The test will help identify candidates who have superior social skills in the workplace.
Decision Making: this test is a series of scenario-based questions requiring candidates to think about how they would react in the given situation. This is also a test of an individual's analytical and critical thinking abilities.
Verbal reasoning: determining a candidate's verbal reasoning ability. This is a timed test where individuals need to use their understanding of reading comprehension to answer the question, selecting the correct answer from the list provided.
Microsoft PowerPoint: determining whether candidates are comfortable using Microsoft PowerPoint and its many functions. Candidates need to choose the correct answer from the list given.
For more information on hiring a travel agent, check out Picked's guide on travel agent tests.