Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Make tourism your dream destination
The travel industry is one place where you get paid to see the world, writes Usha Albuquerque

Do you love travelling? Do you find yourself often dreaming about exciting adventures in exotic locations? Do you wish you could become a crorepati, so that you can travel the world? Well then`85 how about getting paid to travel?

As the hot summer months unfold and holiday plans get made,`A0more and more people are getting away to cooler climes, and looking at different fun holiday options. Go skiing in the Alps, river rafting in the Himalayas is exciting and bungee jumping the new hot favourite! Have money, will travel – this is more true now than ever before. And with it are holidays packaged with adventure and fun!

Travel and tourism is probably the world’s largest industry. And not just for pleasure – business too. And that’s what’s bringing in the business for the tourism industry. What’s more - today the travel industry covers a wide range of facilities to attract travellers, from specialised tours and packages, to transport, food, adventure, gifts and souvenirs.

Travel truths

Travel management essentially deals with providing services for people who are travelling away from home, either for business or on a holiday. Travel agencies plan and sell trips to individuals or group travellers. At every level, the work involves dealing directly with people. You also need to stay in touch with airline, railway, road, shipping and transport company staff, passport and visa officials, suppliers, hotel personnel and various other agents.

There are a variety of different jobs in the travel industry.

Travel agents book passages for surface and air transport, arrange hotel reservations or other accommodation, hire cars and coaches, etc. In a nutshell, they are responsible for the clients’ comfortable travel and stay arrangements.

Travel managers are primarily concerned with administration of the agency and sourcing out new locations and convenient travel packages.

Marketing includes advertising and promoting agency services to existing and potential clients to procure business for the company.

Ticketing: A major part of the work is conducted from behind the counter. It involves helping clients plan itineraries, working out travel routes, providing information on destinations, selling tickets, arranging visas, making stay reservations, etc.

Tour operators deal specifically in travel and destination management. They put together and sell package holidays. These include offering special-interest packages ranging from archaeology to golf, wildlife, and even astrology. Today, adventure tours are popular—-river rafting, trekking tours, heli-skiing, wind surfing and other such sports are a major attraction for tourists, eager to absorb the latest thrills. Some tour operators specialise in adventure or other special interest tours, and work the entire itinerary accordingly.

Tourist guides play an important role in any travel agency. They accompany tourists to their destinations, provide them with detailed information about the locations, take care of all their needs there and organise various activities in these locations.

Checking in

While training in travel and tourism is helpful, it is not absolutely necessary. After graduation you can join a travel agency without any formal training, and learn on the job. However, to enhance career prospects, it is advisable to have some qualifications, whether in tourism or in the area of hospitality.

The minimum eligibility for admission to travel and tourism courses at the undergraduate level is plus two.

A postgraduate course in travel management after graduation in any subject, will provide you with managerial and administrative training for work in the industry. Fluency in at least one foreign language can be an added advantage.

Tourist guides are expected to have a thorough knowledge of the social, political and cultural aspects of the country, in addition to in-depth knowledge of the destination within a particular region.

Course clues

Various institutions around the country offer courses in different aspects of travel and tourism. Several large travel agencies also offer short-term training programmes, and tend to absorb most of the candidates. Moreover, one can also gain these qualifications through correspondence courses.

The Indian Institute of Travel and Tourism Management with centres in New Delhi and Gwalior is a premier institution for education and training in tourism. It offers basic courses in air travel, fares and ticketing, as well as travel agency and tour operation management courses for graduates. Universities like Kurukshetra University and Aligarh Muslim University offer several PG courses in travel management and for tourist guides. IGNOU offers a distance learning programme in travel and tourism.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) along with the Universal Federation of Travel Agents (UFTAA) offer international travel agents training programmes at authorised training centres.

Tourist guides must undergo short-term training for regional, state and local level courses, respectively. On completion of training there is a test after which they are issued identity cards —red, yellow or green — depending on the course undertaken — which  must be renewed regularly. Specialisation in the history of art and architecture, geography, archaeology or related subjects is an asset.

Skill set

So, if you have a genuine interest in travel, this could certainly be a worthwhile career option. A passion for travel, awareness of people, places and areas of interest, and of local customs and cuisines would give you the base on which to build a fascinating career. Some organising ability, good interpersonal skills, and a friendly and amicable temperament and appearance will also go a long way in this profession. As this is a highly competitive field, it is an advantage to have access to a wide range of information and data on transportation and destinations, be good at planning and time management, as well as resourceful and adaptable.Proficiency with the computer, and a willingness to work hard and on weekends and holidays is also required

Tour operators and tourist guides need to be friendly and sociable and be able to relate to tourists and their needs.

Room for more

Most jobs in this industry are with travel agencies, or travel departments of organizations or hotels in metros and large cities. Many travel agents also look forward to establishing their own agencies once they have gained experience and recognition in this field.

The Government and state tourism departments also recruit personnel for their tourism offices in India and abroad and for tour guides at places of interest.

With the entry of international and private airlines there is an increasing demand for ground handling jobs too.

With almost 35 million Indian traveling within the country, 5 million going abroad each year and about 3 million foreign travellers visiting the country, travel and tourism offers an extremely bright future. Rated as one of the most important activities of the 21st century, the industry already has the capacity to absorb about 30,000 trained personnel in its various activities. This is likely to increase in the coming years with the government’s encouragement and thrust of its activities.

So, if you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, get ready to pack your bags and take off to an exciting future.

Training talk

Diploma courses in travel and tourism are available at:

  • IITM, New Delhi, Gwalior & Bhubaneshwar

  • College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi

  • YWCA, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi

  • Kuoni Academy, New Delhi

  • Skyline Business School, New Delhi

  • SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

  • Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai

  • Trade Wings Institute of travel Management, New Delhi & Mumbai

  • Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

  • Institute for Travel and Future Trends, PTU, Chandigarh.

  • Kurukshetra University

  • University of Lucknow

(The list is not exhaustive)

— The writer is a noted career expert