By Matt Castell @MattCastell18 Jan 2016One of the first airfares I ever sold was to Tashkent, Uzbekistan.“Ohhhh, yeah Tashkent… Lovely time of year to visit” I said. (While frantically figuring out how to spell Tashkent, Googling where it was and how the heck I was going to get my client there) This was back the in the day when fare sheets and good ol’ Galileo was the ONLY way to book international airfares. So don’t get all snarky on me with your new fandangle point and click GDS’s. Anyways – I managed to bumble my way through the consultation and sent this lovely Uzbek girl home on a Malaysian/Uzbekistan Airline combo. Yay me. But you see, this was also before there was a lot more choice for the discerning traveller. Zuji was just finding it’s feet as an online booking engine, Skyscanner wasn’t even a pipe dream yet and Guy Sebastian was crooning his way towards a showdown with Shannon Noll. Nowadays our clients will know more about what they want than we do before even walking through our doors. They’ve probably read dozens of Tripadvisor reviews, bookmarked a few travel blogs and gotten advice from friends on Facebook who’ve already been – like, twice already. So how do WE as professional Travel Agents overcome this obstacle when all the notice we’re given to prepare is a simple statement like “We’re just after some info on Nepal”? You know the airport code is KTM. You’re pretty sure they worship dogs during some sort of festival there. And you watched Everest last month (and balled your eyes out). Good start, but what happens whey they ask if they should be worried about altitude sickness on the way to base camp? What about if it’s safe to go at the moment because of the earthquake last year? You look around frantically expecting your Manager to save you, but they’re on lunch. You’re on your own on this one. What can you do…? Back to basics… Build rapport, ask them some questions and get excited. You’re not only about to book and amazing trip for new clients – you’re going to learn about a new destination! Customers won’t normally expect every Travel Agent to know the answers to all of their questions right away – but they do expect us to have the tools and resources to get them. So in this case, I would pick up the phone and call my trusty Intrepid Travel Rep. There’s a great chance that they may have been to Nepal and can answer your questions first-hand. If not, they will know someone in their company who has and will get on the case for you. Who knows – maybe they’re in the area and may offer to pop in for a chat with your new customers as well. This kind of service is what sets us apart from faceless booking agencies. During this time you might have even found a fantastic tour that suits their dates and have printed an itinerary and fact sheet straight from the operators website. This will cover things like medical queries, visa requirements, cultural nuances and the rest. So to be a great Travel Agent you don’t have KNOW everything – but you do have to KNOW HOW to find the answers. Get friendly with your Reps, learn your way around your suppliers’ websites and don’t be afraid to tell your client “I’m not sure, but I’d love to help you find the answer”. What has been your biggest challenge as a Travel Agent during your career? Other stories you may like “Travel Agents aren’t going anywhere anytime soon”: Travellers Choice Last night at dinner: “I got screwed booking travel online” The 2017 Avis Travel Agent Scholarship goes to… a TravelManager!