10 Ways to Fail as a Travel Agent

One of the best tools for success is learning from other’s mistakes. There are hundreds of success stories or articles about “how to be a travel agent.” But what about the travel agents who fail? Why do some agents flourish and others flop?

We asked industry experts what they have observed working with agents throughout the past 40 years. Here is what they had to say:

1. How to Fail: Turn away opportunities

How to succeed: Take advantage of educational opportunities. Whether that be workshops for agents, or your neighbor wants a booking for a trip you’ve never planned, take every opportunity that comes your way.

Richard Branson once said, “If someone asks you to do something, say ‘yes’ then go figure out how to do it.”

2. How to Fail: Depend 100% on one marketing outlet

How to succeed: Social media is a great way to market your business, but it shouldn’t be the only way you market. Take advantage of every available outlet. If you have a website, learn how to utilize AdWords to be the first travel agent in your area people find when they search Google. Start a blog to organically rank higher in Google searches. Contact your suppliers and ask if they offer any promotional assistance. Make it easy for people to find you. Everybody is a prospect, and every prospect is a potential client.

3. How to Fail: Never ask for advice from long-established agents or vendors

How to succeed: King Solomon said “there is nothing new under the sun”. These folks have seen it all. Find yourself a mentor and listen!

Don’t go to trade shows and merely collect trinkets. Agents who do this at trade shows display a lack of professionalism to vendors and fellow agents. Rather, ask each representative about the best ways for you to promote their product.

4. How to Fail: Compete on price

How to succeed: Someone will always have a cheaper price. You get what you pay for. Do your homework, make your recommendation and demonstrate your value.

5. How to Fail: Minimize your efforts

How to succeed: Remember the old sales adage: Anything will work, if you do. You can go door-to-door in your neighborhood and ask people to buy from you. That’s not the most efficient or professional method, but it will work. The point is, the more people you come in contact with the more sales you’re likely to make.

6. How to Fail: Work for free

How to succeed: It is tempting to give up your commissions/fees for family members. Which is better: Take the money you deserve or ask for financial assistance because you didn’t?

7. How to Fail: Don’t work for free

How to succeed: That’s not a contradiction. Holding community seminars on travel-related subjects promotes you and your agency as experts. In general, “the educator gets the business.”

8. How to Fail: Ignore thereasons for your previous career success

How to succeed: Travel is an exciting business, but it IS a business. The same things that made you successful in your prior career will help you. Example: Teachers tend to do well in travel, not because they know geography, but because they know the learning process is long and very gradual – almost imperceptible in the beginning. A well-rounded travel agent is a good agent. Remember to bring all your experience to the table and never stop learning.

9. How to Fail: Ignore selling airline tickets

How to succeed: Agents who send their clients to the airline website or an OTA open themselves up to competition from companies that are adept at tracking cookies. The minute your clients search for prices to Paris, they will be bombarded with special hotel, tour and cruise rates.

10. How to Fail: Wait for group business to come your way

How to succeed: Actually, speculative group business is more profitable than unsolicited group business. Customers who call you have most likely already called the airlines and at least one other agent. However, creating an Ikebana trip (Japanese art of flower arrangements) and promoting it through your local florist will generate business organically and produce higher margins.


“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

Failure is the best teacher. There’s no quicker way to learn than from each other’s experiences. So, stay connected! Sign up with Sky Bird and then join Sky Bird’s Fare Insiders Facebook page. You can connect with other agents and get “insider” information on special fares and promotions!

Have any additional tips or advice to add? Le   ave them in the comments!

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