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travel: Someone's Got To Do It

KELLY BRACCI, aged 21, has been a travel adviser at the Going Places' Eastcheap branch in London for three years

What qualifications do you have?

At college I did A-levels in German and Music, plus GCSEs in Travel & Tourism, and also in Spanish.

How does your working day begin?

We start work at 8.45am, and for the first quarter hour we have a team talk about what's going on - any promotions, things like that, and from the moment the door opens anything can happen.

Who is the perfect customer?

People think the perfect customer is someone who'd done their homework and walks in and says "I want that holiday", but in fact it doesn't matter if you don't know where you want to go, as long as you're enthusiastic and open to ideas.

But doesn't that leave you open to sell me what you want to push, rather than something I want to buy?

We're owned by Airtours [Britain's second-biggest tour operator], and so if it's right for you, we'll offer you an Airtours holiday, but obviously it's not right for every customer - we'll sell you what we think's right for you.

How do you deal with timewasters?

At the end of the day, nobody's a timewaster. If they don't book at once, they can always come back next week or next year. You have to treat everybody the same. Sometimes you think you can read somebody, but they often turn out to be different by the end of the conversation.

Do many customers end up saying: "I can get a better deal from Lunn Poly down the road?"

Sometimes they say: "I've got a quote from elsewhere", and if it's lower, then we'll see if we can do anything for them. Generally, though, our prices are pretty much the same.

Some say the future of travel agencies is with call centres, or the Internet. What can you offer, that those don't?

From the customer's point of view, if you've got any problems you know who to deal with. We speak to the operators as well, and can often identify possible problems before they happen.

This week in Travel Weekly [the trade journal], there are ads offering scheduled flights to the Caribbean for pounds 139 return - but only if you are a travel agent. Do people take the job just to get some great holidays?

That's what everyone thinks, but it's not true really. We get the chance to join travel clubs, and there are some amazing bargains advertised, but a lot of them are "going next week" offers and we just can't get the time off at short notice.

Also, a lot of people think that as a travel agent you get lost of free holidays - you don't.

What about those so-called "educationals", where agents are taken to a particular destination by tour operators - how much actual education is involved?

Lots. I went skiing for the first time in March this year, to Andorra for four nights with Panorama. I learned a great deal from the trip - before then, it was hard for me to sell skiing. And when you get back to the shop, you can tell everyone else about it as well.

Where do you go from here?

There are opportunities to move up in the company. I don't think I'd like to work abroad, but if you start off as a travel adviser, you can move up in the shop or go to head office.

The party question: at a party, you reveal your job as a travel agent. What is the question that people invariably ask?

How much is it going to cost for them to get wherever it is they want to go? Or, do I know of any late deals around?

How do I sign up?

Visit your local Going Places shop [there are more than 700 around Britain] and pick up an application form.

The bottom line: Going Places says it is difficult to quote a specific starting salary for travel advisers: however, says the company. "last year our top travel advisers earned pounds 18,000"