If you had a mild or extreme obsession with the PC game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? as a kid, you’ll no doubt remember this scene.
In a nutshell, you played a detective who ventured across the globe in an attempt to hunt down Carmen Sandiego and her ridiculous henchmen. It was the most riveting game of the ’90s and my knowledge of the world increased by about six. Six what, you may ask? You may not ask.
Anywho, that gal with the pointy blonde locks in the top left corner – chilling in the screen of an OG flip phone – was your travel agent in the game, and honestly, she was the coolest. You’d just give her a buzz, she’d tap away at some keys while giving you a sassy one-liner (“where you off to today, jet-setter?”) and bam – you’d be off to India or wherever Carmen and her mates were being their naughty, criminal selves.
Which brings me to my actual point. Now that it’s 2018, a time when flip phones and CD-ROM games have been replaced by the internet, where do travel agents stand? If we can book our own flights and do our own research, what’s the need?
I spoke to Holly, a travel agent from Flight Centre, to get the low-down on what it is they usually do during a regular day at the office. Turns out, shockingly, that it usually consists of work. (And getting paid to stay in luxe hotels.)
Holly explains, “You come into the office at about 8-8:30 in the morning, and you have a meeting to plan out the day and also get a download of what’s happening in the travel industry.”
Okay, so far so normal. I mean, besides the wildly early start (there’s an 8am?).
“You might get an update from an airline about what’s changed, or information about a new destination. A tourism board, airline or hotel partners may come in and give a product update which helps us in recommending their product. They can also give us special offers and deals to share with our customers.”
It all makes sense, as that’s probably definitely 100% how going through a travel agent can get you a cheaper price at a hotel rather than doing it yourself.
Holly continues, “You might have a new client come in who knows exactly what they want and book on the spot or it could be a longer process, with a backwards and forwards situation for a while.”
“Then you go through the options and they might book on the spot or it could be a backwards and forwards situation for a while.”
Obviously, this means that there’s a level of unpredictability that travel agents prepare for – they could be organising a run-of-the-mill trip to Perth (to do, stuff?), or they could be sending clients on an around-the-world trip complete with business class, worldwide airport lounge access and, rumour has it, you get a choice to wear a crown or tiara if you book through a travel agent.*
*That rumour was me. I started it.
Now naturally, to be able to book heckers trips like around-the-world jaunts, travel agents need to be pretty damn knowledgeable about the world – geography, time zones, what countries allow for you to step outside the airport without getting tackled by airport security, the works.
So while it may seem like clients can just stroll on it, you pick a couple of countries willy nilly and then off they go, extensive research goes into every trip and if you’re talking to a travel agent, you best believe they know their stuff.
Holly also explains that in between the unforeseeable shenanigans that go on in any given day, she squeezes in standard administrative work and workplace banter found in every ~hip~ office across Melbs – pretty stock-standard. However, there’s another responsibility of a travel agent that legit makes it sound like they’re Melissa McCarthy in Spy (but, cool).
“Our job doesn’t end once the customer has booked and left on their holiday – they can email you while they’re away – if they want you to change their flight or make any changes to their itinerary as they go.
“Also, we need to keep up to date with travel warnings and if there’s an emergency, you’ll action it. So say, ‘Oh my god there’s been a hurricane in Hong Kong‘, then you’ll figure out how to get that person home to safety.”
I have a sudden urge to purchase one of those headsets and scream urgently into the mic while I instruct strangers to avoid a natural disaster. I’m sure it’s not as hectic as that but a boy can dream.
In all seriousness though, the amount of times I’ve booked my own holiday and it’s ended in a complete trainwreck is astounding – I should not be allowed out of my house by myself. It’d just feel good to be covered and let someone else handle it, ya know?
When travel agents aren’t saving humanity from the impending Ice Age one flight change at a time, Holly says they’re sent on trips across Australia and overseas to check out various hotels and destinations, which honestly is the work perk to trump all work perks.
Game over everyone, go home. If you don’t get paid to travel then I’m sorry, your job sucks.
The peeps over at Flight Centre also cop discounted travel (which you know, makes sense), free health services and financial planning consults so you can be wise with your cashola and avoid spending $500 on temporary tattoos. If you’re one of those overachievers, they also offer un-capped commission so you know there are travel agents bloody raking it in.
If you do wanna get around the travel industry, Flight Centre is rolling out some jobs here. Or, if you don’t think you’re up to scratch just yet, you can hone your skills at the Flight Centre Travel Academy.