Travel agents assist clients with travel arrangements. This may include helping the client to choose and research a destination as well as booking tickets and reservations. A love of travel, and some experience visiting other parts of the world, is fundamental requirements for success in this field. In addition, travel agents must be adept salespeople, possess superb computer skills, and be able to communicate effectively. With proper training and depth of experience, travel agents can enjoy success in a fiercely competitive field.
Most travel jobs require or strongly prefer candidates with a degree or certificate in travel, hospitality, or a related field. Check out the programs below which offer free information:
Travel Agent Job Responsibilities
Travel agents are mainly responsible for researching and booking travel arrangements for their clients. These travel arrangements may be a honeymoon, family vacation, or business trip. Regardless of the client’s reason for traveling, the travel agent should be able to offer advice on the destination and be knowledgeable about making transportation and accommodation recommendations.
These professionals should be able to provide their clients with a wealth of information regarding their destination. Data such as expected weather conditions, travel advisories, and documentation requirements should be part of the information provided to customers. Travel agents must keep abreast of developments in foreign countries that may influence travel arrangements or may make a particular destination unsafe for travel.
The work of a travel agent is sometimes stressful as last minute itinerary changes come up while a client is on their trip. Similarly, a travel agent can expect to be very busy during certain times of the year like summer vacation and the holiday season. People entering this profession should be able to cope with multiple deadlines and be able to remain calm in a stressful situation.
Travel agents must constantly be learning in order to keep up with technological advances and the offerings of resorts, tour operators, and transportation companies around the world. Much of this learning is accomplished on the Internet, however, many travel companies also publish materials that are sent out regularly to travel agents.
Much of the work of travel agents is completed on a computer or the telephone. Sitting at a desk for long periods of time is required and any travel agent must be possessed of a friendly, professional demeanor. Sales skills are especially important and as a travel agent becomes more experienced, they may decide to take on a management role or start their own agency.
Travel Agent Training and Education Requirements
The basic requirement to become a travel agent is usually the completion of a course at a vocational school or community college. Usually a certificate or an associate degree is enough to obtain an entry-level position as a travel agent. Some agents begin their career as an assistant to a travel agent or as a receptionist in a travel agency.
There are a few four year universities that offer a bachelor’s degree program in travel and hospitality. The more education a travel agent obtains, the greater their opportunities will be for advancement and better salary. It is also useful for travel agents to receive some education in other areas like history, geography, and business. History and geography knowledge will help the agent research destinations for their clients and help them make better informed recommendations. Business acumen is important if the agent wants to take on a management role or run their own agency.
Travel Agent Salary and Wages
Several factors will influence the salary a travel agent will earn. Their ability to sell effectively may be single most important factor, but other things like their location will also dictate their rate of pay. The better the reputation and experience of the travel agent, the better salary they can generally command. Likewise, a larger travel agency will likely pay more than a smaller one will.
Most travel agents will earn between $24,000 and $38,000 annually. In some markets, travel agents may earn as much as $48,000. An agent employed part time can expect a smaller salary. Agents may also receive compensation in the form of bonuses and incentives. One of the major benefits travel agents receive is the opportunity to travel at reduced rates.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Travel Agent Certifications
There is no formal certification process, however, travel agents who have a degree will have a much better chance of success. Those agents who choose to start their own agency must gain approval from agencies such as International Airlines Travel Agency Network before beginning operations. In order to gain this approval, they typically must have had experience as an agent at an established agency.
Travel Agent Professional Associations
The American Society of Travel Agents is the largest such organization in the world. Their main role is to advocate for travel professionals and the travel industry. The association holds annual trade shows at which travel professionals may exchange ideas and learn about technological developments. The association’s mission is to facilitate the sale of travel products and membership in this organization signals the experience and professionalism of the travel agent.