Do you need a travel agent? If you're spending too much time checking rates and dates, or you need to plan a complex trip to a new location, you may benefit from the services of a travel professional, according to Nancy Dunnan, editor of TravelSmartNewsletter.com. If you travel often, or your employees do, then an in-house travel agent may be the answer. An in-house travel agent would allow you to pull all of your travel information and expenses together.
An in-house travel specialist needs to have the qualities that make any employee great. A good program for employee onboarding will help your new hire get acclimated to the rest of the team and more quickly learn your company's protocols and preferences.
Hiring someone who already has travel experience and connections can pay off quickly; a more experienced travel pro can quickly ferret out the best deals and instinctively knows the best ways to approach booking a trip. Finding an experienced travel agent can be more difficult than just hitting up your local agency, however. You’ll want to train them using the same employee onboarding techniques standard employees receive so they feel like they’re part of the team and can acclimate quickly.
You'll pay a little more for someone with experience, but consider this—who do you want booking your first trip to Hong Kong? Do you want someone with proven industry experience or a recent college grad who has never been out of the country?
A travel agent should be adept at working with incoming guests as well, particularly if you frequently have visitors or clients arriving from other countries. Visa laws can be complex, and in many cases someone on your end needs to work with the visitor to complete the visa process. You'll often need to find hotels and entertainment possibilities for visitors, so having a travel person to handle the details will free you up to actually work with your guests.
Your ideal travel employee will keep impeccable records, be able to research new destinations and provide you with information about Visas and paperwork requirements, local customs and the best way to get around when you reach your destination. Look for a team player who is willing to learn and understand your needs and style; discretion is an important quality as well, particularly if you are in a competitive line of work. Your travel employee will be privy to not only corporate information and travel schedules, but to personal details like identification, credit card numbers and other private bits of information.
With the strong planning skills needed to coordinate a diverse group of travelers and itineraries, your ideal in-house travel pro could work with other departments needing these skills. Human resources, public relations and event planning all require the same or a very similar skill set. Use the same criterion that you would for choosing a top-notch executive assistant, and you'll be able to find someone suitable to fill the role. Finding office space within the same general area as one of these departments will help your new employee feel like part of the team, even if they do more solitary work.
So, do you need an in-house travel agent? It depends on you. If you do a lot of traveling -- or your employees do -- then hiring a travel pro can be an important cost and time saving measure for your business.