Someone wrote in to ask …
Does it take more than average knowledge of computers to succeed in the travel business? I am basically familiar with the Internet and can set up new files, that is about it. Also, I am 65 years old and not really into the high-tech world.
Not to worry. The simple answer to the question is “No, it doesn’t require any more advanced computer skills than the ones you already have.”
The slightly more complicated answer is “It depends somewhat on what you want to do.”
Some people believe that being a travel agent means learning how to use a GDS (or CRS as it used to be called). These were/are specialized computer programs that use a very unfriendly user interface and required learning a lot of arcane codes to make requests and interpret the response.
The GDS can be a powerful tool, but the good news is that you can have a long and lucrative career as a home-based travel agent without going anywhere near a GDS. There may come a time in your career when a GDS makes sense, but that point is almost certainly not when you are starting out.
You see, the GDS is most useful for writing airline tickets and for a variety of reasons, which I explain in the course, selling airline tickets is not a great idea for most home-based travel agents — except under very specific circumstances.
However, there is more good news. GDS vendors have been making their products more user-friendly. It is now possible to get GDS capability with a point-and-click interface that is pretty easy to learn.
As far as the Internet goes, it will be your friend throughout your career. Many host agencies and suppliers offer simple point-and-click interfaces to make many bookings easy. Not all of them, but most of them.
Where things get slightly more complicated is when you want to use specialized software for CRM (customer relations management) or email marketing, or launch your own website or start a YouTube channel. This sort of thing requires a certain amount of technical expertise. You can choose to acquire it yourself or hire people who already have it.
Once again, there is help at hand. Many suppliers (the cruise lines have been pioneers in this regard) offer web-based tools that let you store your client data and craft personalized emails and promotions to them. There are also easy-to-use web-based CRM services that are free to agents; they make their money with supplier advertising.
Some hosts offer to provide you with a website and there are third-party vendors who offer a similar service. These things are pretty straightforward, although they may present some challenges for the truly tech-challenged. On the other hand, the value of these sorts of sites is debatable and you are probably not putting yourself at any great disadvantage if you don’t have them.
A simple website, using a WordPress platform, will be unique to you and doesn’t necessarily require you to become a programming whiz. You can find someone to set it up for you through a service like eLance (which I use regularly) or oDesk (with which I have had some “issues”).
So the bottom line is: Relax. You’ll do just fine.
And as far as being 65 goes, join the club!
Being a home-based travel agent is an excellent retirement avocation, whether you choose to do it on a full- or part-time basis.
My completely unscientific observation is that a significant percentage of home-basers are seniors who have a wonderful built in market in their fellow retirees who have the time and money to indulge their taste for travel.
Some other questions I’ve answered . . .