It's everybody dream job - travel the world and get paid while you are at it. Sure, there are lots of travel bloggers who tell you it is easy to become an Instagram phenomenon, a blogger or a Social Media Influencer. Don't get your hopes up - the field is horribly crowded and you'd have to be extremely good to stand out from the pack and get noticed.
No, the jobs we are talking about are there for the picking for anyone who has the right frame of mind: dedication, people skills, geographical knowledge and a few other skills particular to the position.
On the road - how to become a tour leader
It is simple - find a tour company you want to work for, learn about their tours and apply. Skills you need are strong communication skills, be outgoing, have a great memory and a sense of humor, be enthusiastic about your destination, know how to improvise and be punctual. Most of all you have to know how to deal with all kinds of people and be prepared to be available 24/7. Finally, remember you have be legally able to work for the company you choose, so applying for a UK-based company while you do not have a work permit for the UK is a non-starter. Once you land the job however you get to travel and see places while getting paid (a little) to do so.
In the office - reservation agent or Travel Adviser?
Allow me to make the distinction between a travel adviser and a reservation agent.
A reservation agent's job is an entry level position for someone who works 9 to 5 in a call centre, answers people's questions, enters data in to a reservation system and gets paid a basic salary. While the pay is low, a huge reward is to be able to travel on trips they cannot necessarily afford.
A travel adviser is someone who makes booking travel a career and has a strong passion for both travel and helping people. (S)he gives it her/his all. Part of the compensation package is based on the sales you do in the form of commission paid by tour companies. Getting to travel is a reward as well as a professional investment.
How to become a reservation agent
So how do you become a reservation agent? Be sure to have excellent customer service skills and telephone manners, along with basic computer skills. Choose between retail (you deal with travellers) or wholesale (you deal with travel agents).
How to become a Travel Adviser
In addition to the skills you need as a reservation agent, to become a Travel Adviser you also need strong communication skills, the ability to prioritize and improvise, cope with pressure at busy times (very often!) and work (often alone) for long hours. You need excellent geographical knowledge and love the type of trips you sell. You also need to be able to market yourself and the trips you love. But most of all, you need to have travel experience. I do not have any formal training in the travel industry (I hold a BA in plant and soil sciences) but I do have over 100 countries under my belt. That is what in any other business would be called "capital". This personal experience is why people book with me and trust my judgement.
Do I need an education in travel?
Let's just say it doesn't hurt and lots of people complete a travel and tourism course prior to entering the travel business. If I were to hire someone (and sorry, at the moment I am not), I would be looking for any type of education which shows me you have the stamina to learn. Show me you have the ability to learn the skills I look for as in the adventure travel business most learning is done on the job and in the field.
Are you in it for the money?
If you are hoping to make big bucks in travel you will be disappointed. Most jobs pay little and you do them because you are passionate about travel and people. As in any other industry, compensation improves with experience.
What are entry level jobs
There are plenty of companies who hire staff to answer phones and sell travel without having to have much experience. Flight Centre is said to only hire reservation agents without any industry experience at all. People with some travel or industry experience can apply to become a reservation agent with Intrepid Travel or G-Adventures. G-Adventures is also a good company for Canadians to start off as a tour leader.
Once you are safely in the travel business you will find all kinds of jobs open to you. Most people take a path where their pay improves and their responsibilities escalate. You may go from reservation agent to product development to Travel Adviser to agency owner or manager.
How did I get to where I am?
After completing my BA in Plant and Soil Sciences I started to realize travel was my passion. And plants don't talk much nor do they travel (at least not voluntarily). So, after having spent time travelling the world, I applied for a job as a tour leader, then flowed in to the position of office grunt at the same company and eventually was hired as a travel consultant. Twenty two years and a few companies and countries later I realized there were no adventure travel specialists left in Ontario and I decided to start my own business. This is how Adventure Coordinators was born. Thanks in a large part to my loyal following of clients as well as to hard work, dedication and investing in myself and my business, Adventure Coordinators has been successful beyond belief.