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Only travel agents get paid to tell people where to go

Yes it is “Tis the season” for attending holiday events and gatherings. If your schedule resembles mine days and evenings in November and December tend to book up fast.

Frequently I show up early (some folks consider this a character flaw) and only recognize a few familiar faces. I’ll either go into the defensive mode avoiding contact until someone seeks me out. Or I will on the offensive introduce myself and try to be conversational.

In situations like these we all try to work through the typical socially acceptable small talk. Pleasant and hospitable we navigate through the mine field then comes THE QUESTION-“What do you do for work or what career field are you in?”

This used to frighten me but now I’ll smile and enthusiastically state “I get paid to tell people where to go!” You can just imagine the looks that I receive from this statement.

I can tell from the bewildered stare that I need to expand on my explanation. So I proceed with “I’m a CTC, that’s what qualifies me to tell people where to go.”

Shooting blanks again as that blank deer in the headlight expression only intensifies. I can tell that the dots are not being connected. I continue with “A CTC is a Certified Travel Consultant. This is an educational program for travel agents that award the professional CTC credential. I also help people plan great vacations”

Receiving a positive nod of understanding I proceed with “In the travel industry the CTC designation is equivalent with that of a CPA or MBA”. Now judging by the expression I know that my message has been received. Typically the following response is “Doesn’t everyone book everything on-line these days? I thought travel agents disappeared”

“No not at all,” I add. ”Two amazing deals were found online. One is a dream come true. The other one is a nightmare. Do you know which one is which?

Meekly my new acquaintance replies “No I don’t.”

“Have you ever planned a vacation and experienced problem after problem?” I followed with.

“Yes!” she exclaimed so I followed with “A CTC works with you to make sure that doesn’t happen and that together you craft the best possible vacation.”

To help clarify this concept I shared a recent experience with her. A Tribune reader emailed and asked for a New York City hotel referral.

There were two ladies, traveling alone on their first time sojourn to the city and they needed some assistance.

I gladly recommended a couple of moderately priced Times Squares hotels to them. They thanked me and moved on.

I could have blown them off as this was not a sales situation and I wouldn’t earn a commission but I did what I thought was the right thing. I told them where to go.

Many of my colleagues would disagree with my actions but I don’t. Who knows these ladies may want me to help organize a group tour back to the Big Apple so this was not time wasted. I look at it as time invested.

Much to my surprise a few months later these gals sent me a post card from their NYC hotel thanking me for my help. This made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. It made be glad and proud to be a travel agent, a CTC. These remarks struck home and we now proceeded to discuss her past and upcoming travel plans. I tried to steer the conversation away from travel but my new acquaintance would not let it go. All my new friend wanted to talk about was travel.

She did leave with my business card along with new perspectives on the role of a Certified Travel Consultant (CTC) and travel agents.

The fine folks at Briggs Library have invited me to talk about travel this January. I’ll share my thoughts about Caribbean “No Passport” required travel to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.

The dates are Tuesday Jan. 5 at the Chesapeake branch and in Ironton on Jan 7th. Destination Weddings and Honeymoons will be the topics in Ironton on Jan. 19 and Chesapeake on Jan. 26. All presentations start at 6 p.m. Light snacks and travel prizes will be provided.

Got travel questions? Contact thetravelprofessor@gmail.com.