What is a Travel Agent, a Travel Consultant, a Travel Advisor?
By Maria João Galvão
Who am I? What should I call my profession? In today’s travel industry, there is much concern about applying the appropriate title to the right profession. We all seek acceptance and acknowledgment and have a certain pride in our title. Of course we view these attributes as society portrays and ranks them, not from within ourselves or how we feel about our profession. We want credibility and a certain status in the industry, regardless of the industry, travel or otherwise.
The following is my opinion based on the travel industry and the root of the words themselves: agent, consultant, and advisor:
Agent: In the 1500’s it meant “representative.” In view of this, I consider travel agents as representatives of the companies they work for. I would expect them to be salaried and with a possible bonus structure according to sales performance. Agents are practically extinct because of online travel sales. A traveler can make their own arrangements and often thinks there is an additional cost to pay to use a travel agent. The fee and pay structure of travel agents is varied and upfront. You should always ask about their fee structure if you are concerned. Agents are usually employed by larger corporations, airlines, and cruise lines.
Consultant: This word comes from consult, Consultare, to counsel. As such, I consider travel consultants as researchers and listeners, able to devise a comprehensive plan for a complex trip. They are puzzle solvers, able to creatively make any trip possible. They will work with companies that have a commissionable structure as well as smaller local companies that might not have commission available for consultants. Consultants are self employed and get remunerated by commissions, fees, and gifts from clients.
Advisor: This word is from the Latin vis meaning to see, and later in the 1500’s from Old French avismeaning opinion. So an advisor is someone who gives you an opinion that you don’t see. You seek an advisor for their expertise and to enlighten you or provide you with a perspective you might not readily see. In this case, a travel advisor is a person who stays on top of all things travel and is able to advise a traveler of the documents required, vaccinations needed, and possible health and safety conditions at the chosen destination, as well as how to approach travel companies for needed changes, and/or refunds. Travel advisors may have a fee structure or not, depending on how they structure their business. They may be paid on commission or by a fee charged to the client.
So what am I really?! Well… I am an Agent for travelers who have chosen their trip and look for help to book their chosen vacation. I book travel. I do not have a fee for this, I book with companies that pay commission. This does not cost the traveler any more than if they book the travel online by themselves.
I am a Consultant for travelers who want to extend their vacations beyond a cruise or a tour. I independently map out their vacations, arrange trains, car rentals, hotels, museum, and show tickets, fishing trips, ski trips, hiking trips . . . you name it. I have done it all. This requires many hours and weeks of research and planning. I have a fee structure for this service that can be applied to the traveler’s trips under some restrictions.
I am a Travel Advisor for first time travelers who don’t know what is available to them for a vacation, cruise, tour, or independent travel. I also advise seasoned travelers in a variety of needs. Some need to renew their passports, apply for visas, or get vaccines. Many need advice on weather at their desired destination. I usually do not require payment for this service. Most travelers requiring this attention are typically clients who are booking travel with me, so I am happy to include my advice for free as a perk even though it requires many hours of constant reading and attending classes to keep up to date on travel issues.
What do I call myself? I’m a Travel Consultant, and here's why:
I am an adventurous traveler. I am a researcher. I am a problem solver. I am a last-minute traveler. I love puzzles. I love maps. I love people. I love culture. I love food. I love history. I love art. I love architecture.
So much to see and share in this amazing world! I thrive on building new and different itineraries that connect cultures and gastronomy, as well as building healthy bridges between people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. This is my forte, and this is what I am passionate about.
My biggest achievement is to build and create unforgettable memories for travelers. I want my clients to feel exhilarated about their vacations and come home with many stories to tell their friends and family and memories that will last throughout their lives.