The path to becoming a AAA travel advisor is paved with adventure
Throughout the ages, women have traveled the world. In fact, women have always planned travel for themselves, their families, businesses and communities. However, the travel industry has not always recognized women travelers as an influential customer segment or critical part of the workforce. Fast forward to today and it’s clear that the economic and social changes of the 20th Century changed everything for women in travel. No one has had a better view to witness these changes than travel agents.
Today, change is underway. Women now represent the majority (54%) of the global tourism workforce and hold leadership roles in all facets of the industry. Women travelers, especially solo female travelers, are recognized as a major force among consumers. And, the title of travel agent is currently undergoing a transition to travel advisor to better reflect the role.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we caught up with the AAA Washington Travel team to ask them how women’s travel and travel careers have changed — tapping into their perspectives as both travelers and industry professionals. From career opportunities to new travel trends, here’s what excites them most about careers in travel.
Jennifer Lindsley, AAA Washington Operations Supervisor – Spokane
- First Travel Industry Job: Member Travel Counselor (MTC) at AAA Washington
- First Travel Experience: Proud daughter of an Air Force veteran who grew up moving every 3-4 years, including living in the United Kingdom.
- Bucket List Trip: Argentina
- Most Memorable Travel Experience: Solo trip to Paris and London
- What’s New in Women’s Travel: The rising prevalence of girls trips that encompass diverse groups, including specialized clubs and friends that travel together annually. More women traveling solo than ever before, to all destinations. At one time, solo travelers were penalized with a single supplement, but that’s changing as demand rises for solo accommodations.
- Technology’s Biggest Impact: Too often, the internet takes the role of the enemy of the brick-and-mortar travel agency. However, it’s the second most valuable tool for successful sales. The first is the travel agent’s expertise and how we use that expertise to customize every aspect of a trip for each customer.
- Travel Career Advice: If you can, travel. Experience destinations, food, and cultures outside your neighborhood. Being successful in this industry requires being interested in travel but also having patience with others as human beings. With travel, people experience a wide range of emotions. Not all travel is for happy reasons. Sadness and anxiety are also part of travel.
“People who are not in the travel industry may think of the travel agent and advisor being a dusty old obsolete job, but that’s due to a lack of understanding. Thanks to the internet, people have access to almost unlimited information, so there’s a sense that customers don’t really need travel agents. That’s only half the story. Our role is to provide expert advice based on each individual customer’s needs and goals, really get to know each person, then do the legwork planning trips that match their goals. It’s highly customized travel provided by a trusted advisor. The internet enables all of this, but doesn’t replace the personal insights and unique expertise that a travel agent provides.” — Jennifer Lindsley
Victoria Ramirez, AAA Washington Store Manager – Bremerton
- First Travel Industry Job: High school internship with a local travel agent. Following graduation, the manager offered her a full-time role.
- First Travel Experience: Road trips up the California coast in a VW camper. First solo flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles
- Bucket List Trip: Mediterranean cruise
- Most Memorable Travel Experience: Lived in Germany as a military spouse and hopped on a train with her two toddlers to visit France for the weekend.
- What’s New in Women’s Travel: Women have always traveled the world, but it wasn’t cost effective – or economically feasible – for most women to travel. So, travel experiences and products weren’t designed or made for solo female travelers. Now, women travel the world, and the travel industry sees female travelers as a vital and important customer segment. Travel products have changed to meet increasing demand from women travelers.
- Technology’s Biggest Impact: Literally, the introduction of computers and travel software programs. Previously, all tickets were handwritten and based on a printed guide of flight routes and prices. All prices were the same, regardless of airline. Travel agents often took orders over the phone and wrote the ticket. Needless to say, losing a paper ticket was a complex problem.
- Travel Career Advice: AAA has the best path for anyone wanting to break into the travel industry, with entry-level positions where you can learn everything you need to know. It’s a career that opens many doors.
“When I was growing up, if you had flown, it was like, wow, you were on a plane. As a child, I was probably one of the few kids in my class who had flown. And now you don’t think twice. You get on a plane and take it for granted. Today, travel offers so many opportunities — and those opportunities are open to everyone.” — Victoria Ramirez
Vernetta Williams, AAA Washington Travel Agent – Tukwila
- First Travel Industry Job: Member Travel Counselor (MTC) at AAA Washington. Previously, worked in banking while attending evening classes in a travel education program.
- First Travel Experience: Disney World and Disneyland, plus summer road trips to visit family across the country
- Bucket List Trip: Africa, especially Kenya, and an African ancestry tour
- Most Memorable Travel Experience: First trip to Europe – a river cruise down the Danube
- What’s New in Women’s Travel: Girls trips and solo female leisure travelers are on the rise. Women are traveling extensively, both solo and in groups, more than ever before.
- Technology’s Biggest Impact: The airline ticketing system, and airfares in general, have become more complex. Deregulation, online sales and heightened competition offer travelers more choices, but have also made it more challenging to book desirable flights that work from a budget, comfort and timing perspective. This is where a travel agent can really help.
- Travel Career Advice: Invest in continuing education and learning opportunities. Seek out an employer that offers entry-level training for newcomers and advancement opportunities for those with a couple of years’ experience. This industry offers room for you to grow personally and professionally while doing something you love.
“Travel can be life changing. I’m afraid to fly, which may sound unusual for a travel agent. Travel has made me step out of my comfort zone and try new things. My first European trip, a river cruise, was also my first time leaving the country after several years working in travel. It was an amazing trip and certainly worth overcoming any fears I may have had about the flight.” — Vernetta Williams
Connie Weiss-Dwyer, AAA Washington Senior Manager of Operations – Seattle
- First Travel Industry Job: Employee #13 at Horizon Airlines
- First Travel Experience: Family camping trips in the Pacific Northwest
- Bucket List Trip: Seeing the fall colors at their peak in the Northeast
- Most Memorable Travel Experience: Sarajevo, Bosnia
- What’s New in Women’s Travel: The rise in technology to keep parents, kids and families connected during business travel. Life balance means different things for each of us but being a parent and trying to balance home and work responsibilities while traveling on business has become much easier with today’s technology.
- Technology’s Biggest Impact: Technology has automated many processes, which frees up time to focus on relationship-building and providing customers with tailor-made, personal advice. Technology has also increased the ease of travel for the traveler. No more guidebooks and paper tickets or waiting for information! It’s all at your fingertips.
- Travel Career Advice: Where you begin is just the beginning. Do not limit yourself. Be curious, work hard and embrace change. Seek out learning and training opportunities.
“While many industries are close to gender parity among the workforce, when you reach the leadership level it’s still predominantly male, but not at AAA Washington. We have a diverse travel leadership team that’s majority female. In addition, the travel industry has career opportunities for everyone, including here at AAA Washington. Whether it be on the product side, the finance and accounting side, the technology side or helping AAA members create their dream vacation as a travel advisor, there are ample opportunities for advancement, and strong leaders and mentors to support you on your career journey.” — Connie Weiss-Dwyer
Mary Ehlert, AAA Washington Travel Agent – Tukwila
- First Travel Industry Job: Member Travel Counselor (MTC) at AAA Washington
- First Travel Experience: Magical trips with adventurous grandparents around the world. Taught English in China and Vietnam.
- Bucket List Trip: Borneo
- Most Memorable Travel Experience: Botswana
- What’s New in Women’s Travel: Growing popularity of women-only tours. There is a broad selection of group tours available, and a strong demand among women who have the financial freedom and desire to travel to just about anywhere. Demand is surging for tours, cruises and other travel experiences for women solo travelers as well as women-only group trips.
- Technology’s Biggest Impact: Better tools, such as user-friendly overlays and changes to the formats of the technology software used to book everything from hotel rooms to airline tickets. At one time, travel agents learned the cryptic version of software programs, which had their own language that required a certain order and format. While the technology today is more complex than in the early days of Worldsplan, Saber and Apollo, it takes less time to learn and is more intuitive.
- Travel Career Advice: Take every opportunity you have to travel. Whether it’s traveling within the U.S. or a different country, when you read the news about a place you’ve been to, you care more, and that makes you a better citizen of the world.
“Never underestimate the value of experiencing the world through travel. Some of the most impactful opportunities I’ve had were travel-related, including spending an extended amount of time in Asia. I was there just long enough to gain a better understanding of the lens these communities saw the world through, and that perspective changed me. Having a glimpse of another culture, while you’re outside your own culture, helps you to understand, value and appreciate it more clearly.” — Mary Ehlert
To learn more about career opportunities at AAA Washington, click here.
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