Travel Agent Career Facts
Many travel agents work at agencies, tourism bureaus, cruise lines, resorts and other large companies. Others are self employed and work either from home or a small rental office space. Wherever you work, you will put in at least 40 hours during the week as a full time agent, and if you work for yourself, expect to be on called at all hours of the day and night. Since your clients will be traveling in different time zones, if they experience a problem that they need your help to solve, they may be contacting you in the middle of the night. Also be aware that your peak times will be on the weekends, in the summer and on holidays. So don’t expect to work a typical Monday through Friday 9 to 5 job if you are a self employed travel agent.
On any given day, you will be helping people plan and book trips for both business and pleasure. Sometimes you will be helping an engaged couple plan their honeymoon while other times you will be organizing an educational trip for school age children while still other times you will be assisting corporate clients who need to attend meetings or conferences. As a result you will need to know lots of information about a wide variety of destinations, including possible places to lodge, different restaurants, various tours and activities available in the region, etc. You will also need to be able to make flight arrangements that meet your clients’ specifications. Sometimes that will mean finding the least expensive fare while other times that will mean booking a flight at a convenient time for the client. Once your client has arrived at his destination, you will also need to make sure he has a rental car or some other mode of transportation to get to his hotel. Don’t be surprised if you are asked about the typical weather in a given locale at a particular time of year.
In addition, your international clients will expect you to have a working knowledge of visa and passport regulations as well as exchanges rates, vaccination requirements, and social customs for the country where they are traveling. Since it is not really possible for you to memorize all this information, you will need to be really good at researching this information in books and on the Internet as well as on travel agent related computer software programs.
Most full time travel agents earn between $25,000 to $35,000 per year. Part-time workers generally earn an hourly wage of about $15 per hour. Depending on whether you work for a company or for yourself, you may or may not have benefits like sick leave or paid vacations.
You will need to have excellent communication skills in order to be a travel agent. Not only will a major part of your job be talking to people in order to make travel arrangements but you also may need to market yourself and your travel services through cold calls or other oral presentations. It also helps to have some sales ability and writing skills.
You will benefit from educating yourself by taking some of the classes offered by The Travel Institute. Ultimately you can shoot for becoming either a Certified Travel Counselor or Certified Travel Associate. In addition, you should consider specializing in a particular travel area like a specific area of the world like Europe or island destinations or a group like retired people or students because it can make you an expert in a particular travel specialty and can ultimately mean more money in your pocket as a travel agent.