Almost everyone who travels has at one time or another booked a flight or accommodation through a travel agent. Central to this process and widely used in Australia, but often invisible to the customer, is the booking software Galileo.

Yvonne Lennard, who is a Galileo specialist, teaches tourism and other students at La Trobe Business School about how to access and use the system. Yvonne explains: ‘While the system is complicated, anyone can do it. We see a lot of our students pick it up very quickly and in a very intuitive manner. Funnily enough, for students who are extremely technical, navigating the Galileo interface sometimes proves to be harder for them, mainly because of preconceived ideas they may have when it comes to navigating software platforms’.

The Galileo system is one of three operating systems for travel agents used globally. To use the connected database, travel agents use a set of command lines that resemble shorthand, to look up airline codes and travel dates. ‘Learning how to navigate the system is similar to learning a language, really,’ Yvonne Lennard comments. ‘All it takes is practice and common sense.’

Yvonne has been delivering a subject in the Galileo software at La Trobe Business School for over ten years. Students are tested through an online examination and a live examination. When they pass without any issues, they receive a certificate that makes a significant difference in the travel industry, enabling graduates to hit the ground running: ‘In this course, students have to learn about every aspect of making a booking. For their live examinations, we use a simulation system that works with real time flight data. To pass, students have to process a realistic and complicated booking where they have to book space for extra luggage, find a hotel, and book tickets and special meals for fictional customers. If they eventually opt to work in the travel industry, they can skip the training entirely. Even when they go to Europe, where most companies use Amadeus, a similar booking system, they only need one training day. The two systems are so similar that a certificate will make a difference, no matter where you go.’

The classes themselves are very hands-on: ‘The students love that [practical] side of it. At university, a lot of courses tend to be heavily theory-based, so for students to work with something so hands-on, Galileo can be an exciting thing.’ Yvonne says. For her, that practical approach was one of the main reasons why she ended up in the travel business. ‘I studied Health Science, but sometimes things were a bit too dry for my liking. I tumbled into the travel business after managing a Flight Centre store. When a training centre for Galileo was set up in Melbourne, I was approached to become a trainer. I was immediately fascinated, and have been training people ever since.’

In December last year, Yvonne Lennard was presented with a teaching award at the Travelport Forum, after being nominated by her students. ‘The experience was enormously rewarding, and it’s nice to receive that validation. Being a teacher isn’t just understanding the system: it’s understanding how students approach it when accessing it for the first time, and knowing how best to convey knowledge to them.‘

When asked if she thinks the system is facing trouble with the growth of on-line sites like booking.com, Yvonne is a positive thinker: ‘Booking through a travel agent will always provide a customer with the kind of ease you will never get from internet bookings. Airline websites can be hard to navigate, and when you have to book flights, accommodation and rental cars while wading through visa regulations, things can easily become overwhelming. What happens quite often, is that people don’t realise they need certain documents in order to travel, like insurance papers, or specific visas. When they realise this too late, they end up paying twice as much to get it processed quickly. A travel agent can save you all that trouble for little extra cost. The booking systems are definitely changing, but I have faith that the travel industry will change with it.’

For LBS tourism students, having skills with Galileo clearly enhances their employability on graduation.