How to Become a Travel Agent

If you like planning trips and excursions and think you would enjoy making money helping others do the same, you may be wondering how to become a travel agent.

Education/Training

The minimum educational requirement for becoming a travel agent is a high school diploma. But if you want to put yourself ahead of the competition, you should consider getting additional education at either a vocational school or a degree in travel and tourism from a college or university. However, since not many institutions of higher learning offer degree programs in this particular subject area, you may have to settle for taking classes or working toward a different degree in business, foreign languages, geography, world history, or computer science.

You should also think about taking continuing educations classes from the Travel Institute that will allow to earn your either a Certified Travel Associate or Certified Travel Counselor designation. In addition, you will be able to participate in their sales and marketing skills development programs as well as their destination specialist program.

Employment Outlook

Approximately 100,000 travel agents are currently employed in the United States, and the projected growth for the next few years is around 1% or around another 1,000 jobs. About two-thirds work for travel agencies, and the rest either work for themselves or for other types of companies like resorts, cruise lines, tourism bureaus, large corporations, or other specialty travel groups. The median salary for travel agents is around $25,000-$30,000 per year. Part time travel agents earn about $15 an hour.

Job Duties

On any given day, a travel agent will give advice to people about various destinations, make arrangements for transportation, hotel accommodations, tours, and recreation activities, discuss weather conditions, tourist attractions and various restaurants, give information to international travelers about customs regulations, currency exchange rates, local traditions, and required paperwork (visas, passports, and vaccination certifications), evaluate locations for comfort, quality, cleanliness, and service as well as collect payments. In addition, travel agents often have to troubleshoot problems like missed flights, changes of reservations, and tour cancellations.

Additionally, having selling and computer skills as well as patience, attention to detail, as well as the ability to multi-task will benefit you as a travel agent. Sometimes you will need to give presentations, so having good public speaking abilities can be useful. You also should keep up with market trends by reading travel related publications and attending trade meetings and conventions.

As a travel agent, you’ll spend most of your time at your desk talking on the phone, completing paperwork, researching, and making reservations on your computer. Full time travel agents will work about 40 hours per week, but the work week may include some nights and weekends, and your busiest time will be probably be during holidays and in the summer months.

Tips

Travel agents assess individual’s and business people’s needs to help them make the best possible travel arrangements. As an agent, you may specialize in certain travel like trips to Scandinavia, the Polynesian Islands, or Australia. You can also specialize in particular groups like youth educational trips, retirement tours, or church excursions to the Holy Land. By doing so you will be perceived as someone who has a particular area of expertise. 

The more you know, the better travel agent you will be and the more customers will appreciate you and the services you offer.