This might be the most popular question I get asked. I guess people assume that the reason I decided to start a travel business is so I could travel for free. The answer in a nutshell is: No!
There are a lot of perks in this business; free travel doesn’t happen to be one of them. We do get offers for FAM trips and cruises (FAM = familiarization); but we still pay a reduced fare for those trips and cruises, plus taxes and fees and transportation to and from the departure/arrival point. We may “earn” a cruise with some of our cruise lines, by completing hours/weeks/months of training online – but again, we have to pay taxes and port fees, as well as transportation to and from the ship and all excursions, etc., while onboard. So, no, we don’t get to travel FREE (i.e., nothing out-of-pocket).
We do, however, get some pretty cool perks: we’re invited to ship visits where we can tour the ship and enjoy a nice lunch in the Main Dining Room with others in our industry, while we learn what’s new with that cruise line or ship. We’re invited to Trade Industry luncheons, seminars, and Trade Shows where we learn more about our travel suppliers. We get invitations to fun receptions and parties sponsored by various travel partners. These “perks” are great fun, help us build and foster relationships with our suppliers and others in our field, and are informational. They are definitely one of the parts of my business that I enjoy.
But, no: we don’t get to travel for free.
Actually, the only times we use the word “FREE” is when we refer to the number of unpaid hours we spend studying and taking exams to be certified as a professional travel advisor, learning about all of the suppliers, their promotions and how to book with them, how to operate and market our business, and basically, how to be a small business owner (some of that training is free, but anything beyond the basics has an expense). Or the number of unpaid hours we spend researching, quoting, refining and booking travel for our clients. Our suppliers only pay us for booking travel – if the client doesn’t book, all those hours are unpaid. Or the “free” gifts we leave for our clients in their cabin or hotel rooms. Or the months we go “salary free” because we don’t get paid until our clients travel. That means, if you book for 2021, we do the work now but don’t see a commission until you’ve completed your travel.
When I re-read this, I think “WOW! Why would anyone want to go into the travel business?” But the truth is, most of the professional Travel Advisors I know start their business because of their passion for travel; they want to share the adventures, the experiences, the memories with everyone. There’s so much to see and experience in this great big world! “It’s a big world out there. Go explore!”
Do you book your own travel -- or do you use a Travel Professional? If you don't use a professional, why not? Let us know in the comments section below!
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