What they are, and as a protagonist.
By Pat Gulley
I’m a retired travel agent who has spent 40 years in the travel industry. I worked for two airlines and was a retail travel agent doing leisure and corporate when both were mandatory, but stayed in leisure when the business split. I also worked for a wholesaler. What’s the difference? Basically, the way travel is sold.
Corporate travel agents book business travelers: rarely more than an airline ticket, hotel and rental car. These are very fast bookings completed by the end of a call, and ready immediately to take another call. Airline reservations departments worked that way too. Many women with families like corporate because there are few worries to take home at night. Large corporate travel agencies were among the first to allow their agents to work from home, as long as they already had a home computer.
Wholesale travel companies create tours and packages, price them and then sell them to retail travel agents. Wholesalers publish those fabulous tour books travel agents hand out. At one time, many only sold through retail agencies, now they all have websites and you can buy direct. Whether to buy direct or contact a retail agency is a discussion for another blog. Would it interest you?
Leisure travel agents book vacations; everything from a short weekend jaunt to a long combination of tours or a ninety-day world cruise. At one time airline tickets were the backbone of their profits, but all that stopped when the airlines cut out commissions.
Needless to say, with my background it can’t be a stretch to see why the protagonist of my unsold novel is a travel agent. And since I worked for a world agency not a small mama/pop, I added in the problems that any ‘branch’ office has trying to make quotas and deal with problems when head office is thousands of miles away. Then introduce murder when downsizing is announced.
Travel agencies are governed by an organization called IATA. Its rules and regulations govern the operations of agencies and the qualifications of the agents, which includes who may or may not be a manager. If you deal with a travel agency, be sure they are members of IATA and the individual agent has an IATAN card.
I’ve read destination mysteries where the protagonist leads a tour and calls themselves a travel agent, when the description implies a tour escort. Escorts are hired by wholesalers to guide their tours and require certification too. An escort doesn’t have to have been a travel agent, but it sure helps. People who organize a travel group often called themselves the escort, but a more accurate title is group leader or coordinator.
Imagine my surprise when a literary agent’s rejection indicated that she didn’t think anyone but a diehard mystery reader would be interested in my protagonist because a travel agent wasn’t very interesting unless she was leading a tour to some exotic or interesting destination. Hmmm. We’re not supposed to argue with them no matter what they say, but the assumption that anyone can open a ‘shop’ and sell travel is a bad one. Or that the selling of travel doesn’t have as many fun, interesting or weird stories that a yarn, gift, doll, ceramics, or book store would have.
So, would a travel agent protagonist interest you? Are there travel related questions you’d like me to try and answer? NO, not where to find cheap airfares or hotels! My company closed 75 percent of its branch offices at the end of 2001 after the twin towers fell on our twin towers.