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Reservations Manager

What does a Reservations Manager do?

Reservations managers are front-line professionals who facilitate the promotion, sales and bookings of a company’s products and services. They are employed by travel agencies, tour operators, transportation companies, hotel chains and car rental agencies. They usually work over the telephone or online, and occasionally face to face, depending on the company. All bookings (or reservations) go into a computer reservations system.

A reservations manager is responsible for:

  • providing travel information, itineraries and prices, including airline tickets, coach bookings, accommodation, day tours, car hire, transfers and travel insurance
  • using selling techniques to promote packages and insurance; handling client complaints or concerns
  • counselling clients on terms and conditions of travel
  • making reservations and sending out confirmation notices
  • processing payments and refunds.

It is important that reservations managers have comprehensive product information about what they are selling in order to answer client enquiries accurately.


What qualifications do I need?

There is no formal qualification required to become a reservations manager, though employers generally prefer hiring staff with a tourism diploma or a related qualification. Some reservations managers start by working at a travel agency and receive on-the-job training, and are sometimes required to write an exam at the end of their first year of employment and training. Opportunities for on-the-job training are fairly limited, with most companies employing people with some training and experience. A National Senior Certificate is usually a prerequisite for studying travel and tourism courses. It is important to receive training at a THETA-accredited institution and be licensed by the Travel Agents Board. Reservations managers also need certification from the International Air Transport Association to be able to issue international airline tickets.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Geography
• Tourism
• Hospitality Studies
• Computer Applications Technology


Where can I study?

False Bay TVET College
National Certificate: Tourism N4-N6

University of Johannesburg
National Diploma: Tourism Management

Durban University of Technology
National Diploma: Tourism Management

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Tourism Management

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Tourism Management

Advanced Programme: Tourism, Travel and Hospitality

University of the Western Cape
Bachelor of Arts: Tourism

North-West University
Bachelor of Commerce: Tourism Management

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Technology: Tourism Management

Northlink FET College
Certificate: Travel and Tourism

Boland FET College
National Certificate: Tourism

Where can I get more info?

Association of SA Travel Agents – www.asata.co.za
Tourism Business Council – www.tbcsa.travel
South African Tourism Board – www.satour.info
Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa – www.fedhasa.co.za


Interview with a Reservations Manager

Karen Muller | RESERVATIONS MANAGER | Beachcomber Tours

Karen Muller | RESERVATIONS MANAGER | Beachcomber Tours


Why the travel industry?
From a young age I wanted to travel, and visiting every country on earth was my dream. Initially I thought about being an air hostess or a tour guide, but life took me in a slightly different direction and I ended up working for Beachcomber Tours, a wholesale tour operator.

What exactly do you do?
I deal solely with travel agents. We put together tailor-made packages to Mauritius and Seychelles, with air tickets, airport transfers and hotel accommodation.

What training did you do?
I started off doing a three-year diploma at a Technikon, but I didn’t finish my third year. At the time, some of the subjects seemed to have little relevance to what I wanted to do, although if I had to study those today, I’d find them far more interesting as I would be able to apply them to my daily life/work. I then did a one-year diploma through Damelin. The subjects were more condensed and I felt they were focused on working in a travel agency or operator, or even at an airline. I would also recommend a course in airline reservation systems like Galileo or Amadeus to those wanting to get ahead in the travel industry.

What do you enjoy most?
The holidays! We go to Mauritius once a year for a refresher. All the other travel opportunities. My ultimate holiday being skiing in Europe!

Anything you don’t like?
Unhappy clients – we don’t have many but it is a fact of life that things can go wrong. Some people are understanding, but others aren’t and they will blame you for anything and everything.

Hurdles you’ve overcome?
Learning to see the bigger picture. It’s important to figure out which battles are worth fighting and which ones aren’t, and also not to take things too personally. It’s hard to remove yourself emotionally when clients are upset, as you try so hard every day to deliver the best service you can.

Career highlight to date?
It’s an ongoing highlight!

Experience or training?
Depends on which avenue you choose as there are different requirements for each. For our line of work, I believe a one-year (max two-year) travel diploma is sufficient to give you a foot in the door. Experience is key – you learn 90% of the job on the job. A good grounding in the basics will help.

Which traits are required?
Someone with a lot of patience. You must have a deep desire to make other people happy; remember that they are putting their dreams and a lot of money and trust in your hands and this is not something to be taken lightly. If you can see the bright side in almost every situation, are goal orientated, and an accurate worker who can foresee problems before they arise, this would be a challenging and satisfying career.