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An International Woman

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

From Scottish clerk to becoming An International Woman

In 1954 I was finished with my commercial education featuring Shorthand, Typing, Book-keeping, French and financial economics. I was considered all grown up and on my own to make all my own decisions now.

A career choice at 16 of an apprenticeship in a prestigious hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland led to my adventurous life as a Certified Travel Consultant.

The move to the Roxburghe Hotel to live and work starting the apprenticeship in Hotel Management came at an opportune time for me as my mother had remarried and moved to England. I now had a new home and could remain in Edinburgh.

This new life was very formal learning all the protocol for the titled aristocratic clientele who patronized the Roxburghe Hotel. Management staff did not use first names with each other, and I had to remember how to address a Duke or a Bishop, never use colloquialisms and always use correct English or, occasionally French.

Female Management staff all wore black…. skirts, suits – no slacks ever, only white blouses, no jewelry except a watch, modest hair styles and minimal makeup. All behaviour should be as reserved and conservative as possible. Male Management staff wore morning suits.

Day time was used to learn all about hospitality including everything to do with dining. Mornings were conferring with the Chef and composing and typing menus in French. Learning which wine choices for which menu choices, distinguishing which glasses, knives, plates etc. were used for which function and where they were placed on the dining table. Afternoon meant taking inventory; Linen, silver: trays, pitchers, tea and coffee services, cutlery and ice buckets, china, crystal, glassware: white wine, red wine, sherry, port, liqueur, cocktail, water, whiskey. Damages were assessed and applied to expenses. Wines, cheeses and all liquors were checked for restocking, reordering.

Many hours were spent familiarizing all the types of wines, spirits, beers, liquor, teas, coffees, cheeses, breads, styles of breakfasts and different courses for lunch or dinner.

Evening hours were spent book-keeping (tabulating) by hand - no calculators. Huge sheets of ledgers were used to write in all the room, dining and bar charges which were entered with pen and ink in pounds, shillings and pence. £.s.d. Totalling, balancing and auditing every evening went on sometimes well into the night.

I had long hours of work every day and very low wages, with not much time off, mostly in the afternoons. I did get to eat lots of wonderful food in the private management dining room and management staff had daily maid service in our suite of rooms. Our servers and maids were newly hired trainees. In having breakfast in bed meant helping them learn that part of their job.

As the youngest member of all the employees and being alone meant I was subject to being either tutored, mentored or mothered by everyone from the Hotel Manager, the Assistant Manager to the head receptionist and even the Head Porter (Bell Captain). My every action and gesture was noted and critiqued – especially any of my acquaintances.

Fellow employees became familiar mostly at Christmas when we had the annual Christmas Party. There was no recognition of birthdays or achievements. No pay raises, no bonuses - BUT - a beautiful home in the very best part of Edinburgh with room and board and excellent training.

After three years at the Roxburghe Hotel on Charlotte Square Edinburgh it was therefore remarkable that a young American man, who asked for me at the Front Desk, was allowed to socialize with me.

This training served very well in a career in Hotel Accounting and Travel Agency Accounting. I had no idea at the time, but this was a steppingstone to my becoming a Certified Travel Consultant.

Positions in hotel management in the U.S.A required further education in the use of Tabulating Bookkeeping Machines with NCR. I took these classes and they lead to different bookkeeping machine courses in the travel and tourism industry.

This is when I realized that if I got a job in a travel agency, or with an airline, I would get discounted air fares which would help me be able to return to Britain to see my family more frequently.

At my first application for work the Travel Agency owner did not laugh at me when I told her I thought I would make a good agent because I had travelled a lot.

Instead, based on my clerical qualifications, I got a position with that Agency as the International Association of Travel Agency Accounting and Financial Manager – more classes and courses with each of the different Airlines ensued. I spent 5 weeks at the American Airlines Campus in Dallas to learn the Sabre system which allows the tabulation and reporting of ticket sales to I.A.T.A. which must be done weekly.

After 5 years of verified airline ticket writing and planning trip itineraries for clients as a qualified I.A.T.A. travel agent I could start to take the classes to become a Certified Travel Consultant. A two-year course with I.A.T.A. instruction is required to be able to take the necessary exams – and if you pass – you become a Certified Travel Consultant.

Travel Agent designation C.T.C., D.S.

Certified Travel Consultant & Destination Specialist Specialties: Art Exhibits, Britain, Hawaii, Cruising, Ski Resorts, Rail Travel.

Being a Travel Agent means being very experienced in Travel Planning and Travel requirements, Geography and logistics, international currency, Foreign Affairs, Languages, Cultural Events, Cultural Diversity and diplomatic protocol. All of which also makes an International Women.

Travel Agents Familiarization Trips allow agents to learn about a destination, its features and benefits to sell to clients.

‘FamTrip’ Destinations can be a cruise, a trip on an airline, a hotel stay, a resort stay, a ski weekend, a rail trip, a coach tour, a city tour, a museum tour, an art exhibit a foreign visit or a combination of all of these things.

During my tenure as a Travel Agent I was lucky enough to take very many of these trips and I learned a lot.

When we are on a ‘Fam Trip’ a Travel agent represents the host cruise line or airline and must behave appropriately, graciously and dress conservatively. We also act as ambassadors for the U.S.A. when visiting foreign countries and interacting with tourism employees.

It did not take me long to learn what makes a really good travel agent and it is not having ‘travelled a lot’. It is a mature individual, usually with a huge client list who sits in front of a PC, off by herself with a cup of coffee and possibly a cigarette - not necessarily a CTC, but with 20+ years of experience - that is the best, find her and keep her (or him).

Abercrombie & Kent

Kenya Safari

A Travel Agent is qualified to call herself an International Woman, especially when she is foreign born, has lived in foreign countries and has travelled extensively all over the world.

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