A travel agency is a private retailer or public service that provides travel and tourism related services to the public on behalf of suppliers such as activities, airlines, car rentals, cruise lines, hotels, railways, travel insurance, and package tours. In addition to dealing with ordinary tourists, most travel agencies have a separate department devoted to making travel arrangements for business travelers; some travel agencies specialize in commercial and business travel only. There are also travel agencies that serve as general sales agents for foreign travel companies, allowing them to have offices in countries other than where their headquarters are located.
What You Will Be Doing
A travel agent assists individuals or groups of persons in planning and booking travel. This can include facilitating ticket purchases for transportation, reserving accommodations, and renting cars. Travel agents can also assist people in booking vacation packages, tours, and visits to specific locations of interest. Agents typically make money by earning commissions for booking these arrangements from the providers themselves.
One of the main tools at a travel agent's disposal is permissions that allow them to access in real-time variable data. Agents typically work with individuals to help design custom trips, which may include multiple destinations, transportation modes, and sightseeing plans. The agent may also be able to recommend packaged tours that help consumers in this planning stage. While the career field of a travel agent has been somewhat compromised by the advent of self-booking websites, there are still many travel agents who do very well. Agents must be flexible and able to offer a variety of concierge services. By providing this customer services which travel websites cannot, an agent can still flourish.
Beyond this aptitude for customer service, general travel knowledge, and computer skills, there are a few formal education requirements for this job. Therefore, programs in vocational schools and community colleges related to the career do exist and may be helpful. (Copyright 2018 PayScale.com)
Travel Agent Tasks
- Respond to incoming requests and conduct research on travel planning and itinerary customization.
- Draft service contracts for group travel.
- Build rapport with individual customers to secure new clients and maintain a consistent customer base.
- Provide counseling and support for customer requests, and review documents for accuracy.
How to Become a Travel Agent
A high school diploma typically is required for someone to become a travel agent. However, many employers prefer additional formal training. Good communication and computer skills are essential.
Employers generally require candidates to have at least a high school diploma, but may prefer those who have a college degree or who have taken classes related to the travel industry. Many community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations offer technical training or continuing education classes in professional travel planning. Classes usually focus on reservations systems, marketing, and regulations regarding international travel. In addition, some colleges offer degrees in travel and tourism.
Employers in the travel industry always give some on-the-job training on the computer systems that are used in the industry. For example, a travel agent could be trained to work with a reservation system used by several airlines.
What You Can Earn
What You Can Charge
What You Need to Succeed
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
A good way to demonstrate competence for high school graduates with limited experience is to take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test. The test has no eligibility requirements and is administered by The Travel Institute.
The Travel Institute also provides training and professional certification opportunities for experienced travel agents. Different levels of certification are offered, depending on a travel agent’s experience. Travel agents with limited experience can become a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) after completing a series of classes and exams. For those with at least 5 years of experience, the more highly advanced Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) certification can be achieved. Both the CTA and CTC require continuing education each year to maintain certification.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers four levels of certification: Certified (CCC), Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). Each level requires a certain amount of training and product knowledge.
Some states require agents to have a business license to sell travel services. Requirements among states vary greatly. Contact individual state licensing agencies for more information.
Some agencies prefer travel agents with firsthand experience visiting a country. These agencies especially prefer travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers, such as groups with a special interest or corporate travelers.
Adventurousness. Travel agencies that specialize in exotic destinations or particular types of travel, such as adventure travel or ecotourism, may prefer to hire travel agents who share these interests.
Communication skills. Travel agents must listen to customers, understand their travel needs, and offer appropriate travel advice and information.
Customer-service skills. When customers need to make last-minute changes in their travel arrangements, travel agents must be able to respond to questions and complaints in a friendly and professional manner.
Detail oriented. Travel agents must pay attention to details in order to ensure that the reservations they make match travelers’ needs. They must make reservations at the correct dates, times, and locations to meet travelers’ schedules.
Organizational skills. Travel agents often work on itineraries for many customers at once. Keeping client information in order and ensuring that bills and receipts are processed in a timely manner is essential.
Sales skills. Travel agents must be able to persuade clients to buy transportation, lodging, or tours. Sometimes they might need to persuade tour operators, airline staff, or others to take care of their clients’ special needs. Earnings for many travel agents depend on commissions and service fees.
Other Services You Can Offer
Where to Begin
Swam by Foursquare