Travel Agents have a professional obligation to book their customers’ travel requests. But what happens when that request conflicts with the agent’s own moral convictions?

For example, how should the Travel Agent – who is opposed to sex tourism on moral grounds – consult when he suspects his or her client to be a potential “sex tourist”, who may be going to some developing nation in order to satiate his or her sexual desires?

Or, to use a less controversial scenario, what happens when a customer requests to book a tour that the Travel Agent believes is guilty of animal cruelty or has some far-reaching negative impact on the local environment?

With talk of the “end of animal tourism” currently circulating travel agencies across the country, with tigers recently seized from a popular Thai Buddhist temple popular with Aussie travellers, perhaps now is the time to voice these concerns.

This article is not intended to answer this question, but rather to spark debate as to whether Travel Agents should let their own moral opinions stand in the way of their vocational duty, or whether they should always do what is requested of them, even if that means disregarding their own moral convictions.

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Unfortunately this scenario pops up from time to time in the day-to-day life of the Travel Agent. And thus, it is of interest to the wider industry on how best to approach matters such as this in the workplace.

Some may argue that there is no such debate. Those that take this side argue that as Travel Agents are employed purely for the services they can provide to the customer, i.e., to book their holiday, this is their primary and exclusive role.

Therefore, what the agent thinks morally about his customer’s travels is irrelevant and should never interfere with their duties as an agent.

Proponents of this argument claim that the Travel Agent has one sole duty as an agent: to book travel. Nothing more, nothing less.

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However, another side of this debate argues that it is also our “duty” to educate our customers in what we believe to be gross misconduct.

To use the animal cruelty example, perhaps it is up to us to explain to the customer the conditions that such animals are kept in, and persuade them not to book a specific tour that keeps animals in these kinds of conditions? Perhaps there is another tour that is more animal friendly that the agent can book?

In this way, we are able to fulfil our obligations as a Travel Agent, and still respect our own moral convictions. Proponents of this view claim that Travel Agents are not just there to book travel, but are there to educate our customers on the realities of the industry.

Yet, regardless of where one positions themselves in this debate, the economic reality of the industry – and of the job – is that the Travel Agent has a personal financial incentive in booking any customer, and some agents may still book the customer in order to earn more commission.

Travel Agents rely on customer bookings to supplement their own income; less bookings results in less income, it really is that simple. Sure, agents can indeed refuse to book customers, but it is only to their own detriment.

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But this seems to be changing for the better.

Thankfully things are starting to change, with more and more Travel Agents doing the right thing and refusing to book their customers on tours that violate animal rights and instead choosing companies that are true eco suppliers.

It definitely still is early days, but the future is looking much better than what it did ten or even just five years ago.

Hopefully we can get to the stage when booking a tour for a customer raises no moral outrage.

What do you think about this issue? How should one approach and deal with this dilemma in the workplace?