The sky’s the limit in Tourism!

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Tourism is a fast-growing industry in South Africa dealing with “everything from 5-star luxury accommodation to caravan and camping sites, from high-adventure activities to romantic getaways” (www.unisa.ac.za/counselling ). 

Candice Breuninger, a travel agent at the Flight Centre travel agency in Canal Walk, said her job involves booking flights for students and adults, accommodation and transfers to hotels and hostel accommodation (cheaper accommodation). She organises car rentals, insurance and student cards. Travel arrangements for clients are based on their budgets, needs and tastes.

Excellent customer service is an integral aspect of the job. She said “regular” clients’ often visit the travel agency after they have been on a trip, to share their experiences.

Corporate and Leisure Travel

Zaida Sawyer, a travel agent at Club Travel in Cape Town, said they have corporate and leisure divisions. The leisure division deals with individuals and families, helping them to plan itineraries, flights and accommodation. The corporate division assists companies in areas such as flights, accommodations and car hire. Some self-employed travel agents meet with business managers to suggest promotions such as company-sponsored trips (www.seben.za.net ).

A travel agent should have a Grade 12 certificate with subjects including maths and geography. Breuninger took travel and tourism as a subject up till Grade 12. Training for a travel agent might start with in-house training on airline systems and destinations. Flight Centre provides regular ongoing training. Sawyer said to become a travel agent you need to have a certificate in tourism obtained from THETA-accredited universities, technikons or FET colleges. Michelle Jacobs of  Wynberg Travel said you also need to learn about the products of tour operators.

Personal qualities

Personal qualities required for a travel agent include enjoying working with people; having a patient, pleasant personality; a good general knowledge and a wide experience of travel; good communication skills; being persistent, responsible and methodical; having a good memory and being keen to learn (www.seben.za.net ).

Sawyer said normal Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) work conditions apply for a travel agent such as medical aid contributions and 15 working days per annum. She works from 8.30am to 5pm. Breuninger works from 9am to 5pm or 7pm as they work in Canal Walk mall. A portion of Flight Travel’s agents’ medical aid is paid.

Job perks

There are several job perks, according to Sawyer, such as educational trips abroad and airfare courses. As for career growth prospects, she said you could “work yourself up to marketing and sales.”  If you wanted to own a travel agency, however, you would need “big capital to own the company”. Another Flight Travel agent said you could work for yourself “if you have a large enough client base”.

Breuninger said travel agents may move to event planning, become a team leader, or join a destinations company developing and selling holiday or touring packages. It seems the sky’s the limit – “you could even become a managing director”.

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