How to Become a Travel Agent

How to Become a Travel Agent

What Is a Travel Agent?

If you have ever had difficulties organizing a holiday or choosing a destination, you will have likely considered going to a travel agent.

There has been a considerable rise in demand for travel agents due to the insecurity surrounding the tourist industry. Organizing a holiday is also more difficult than it used to be, partly due to the extra choice available.

A travel agent finds the best prices for some of the most attractive holiday destinations around the world.

They advise people when booking their holidays,and can help get all the correct documentation together.

Due to this increased demand for travel agents, more people are considering a potential career in the industry.

You can either work for a travel agency or be self-employed as a travel advisor. There are more and more travel-agent positions becoming available on the job market.

In this article we will discuss what a travel agent does on a daily basis, and how much you can expect to earn.

In addition, we will outline the key steps to becoming a travel agent, how long it takes and the skills you need to master to be successful in this role.

What Does a Travel Agent Do?

A travel agent’s role is as much about the holiday destination as the customer. They are required to secure holidays and advertise those available.

They must understand the client to pick and choose the right holiday. Some travel agents work in the global market, while others concentrate on local holiday packages.

Let's take a look at the main tasks of a travel agent.

Holiday Location

Where an agent’s customers choose to go is often determined by a travel agent’s knowledge of a certain area.

A good agent does their research on the availability of accommodation, the variety of activities and the best travel routes to a location.

If an agent does not do their research or is not clued-up about the most popular travel destinations, they cannot advise their clients.

A travel agent must be able to offer recommendations or alternatives to their clients. A family could come to an agent with a vacation suggestion that might be out of their desired price range.

In this circumstance, a good agent can highlight similar alternatives that are more reasonably priced or find cheaper deals in the same location.

Vacation Packages

The holiday location is only a minor part of the price of a vacation.

A travel agent must find the most cost-suitable options available for their clients. Holiday packages often include everything under one price.

The flights, the accommodation and its inclusivity, and the inclusion of any day trips are some of the fundamental parts of a holiday package.

If a couple wants to book for a month's cruise, it is the travel agent’s responsibility to find the best package available. The couple may want the cruise line to visit certain locations, or a particular number of places.

It is up to the travel agent to identify the holiday package that fits most closely with a client’s requests.

Safety and Security

The verification of documents has never been so complicated. A travel agent must be well-informed regarding what documents people need for their vacation.

They must also provide assurance that everything is booked in advance and that all arrangements have been secured for the holiday-goers arriving at their location.

Choosing a safe location is important as well. A family does not want to turn up at a hotel that feels unsafe.

A travel agent must check reviews thoroughly and highlight which areas are not suitable for clients.

Forming good relationships with holiday reps is a key part of a travel agent’s job. Having these strong connections will assure the safety of those visiting a particular holiday location.

How appealing a location looks depends on how well a travel agent can advertise it to potential customers.

Some locations have a temporary appeal, only popular for certain times of the year because of good weather or availabilty of snow, for example.

In these cases, a travel agent must be aware of the seasons when a location is popular. They must advertise this effectively at the right time.

Travel agents must also make people aware of offers or changes in flight prices. There may be a spike in tourist popularity in a certain city. A travel agent needs to find out how they can advertise this better to capitalize on the change in popularity.

Public Relations

Communication is one of the most essential skills for a travel agent. They must be in contact with hotel managers, airport staff, holiday reps and the customers themselves.

Keeping in touch with everyone to make sure that the clients have the best possible experience is key for an agent’s business.

The better relations a travel agent has and the more contacts they have access to, the easier it will be to find offers and unique vacation packages.

This is also a great way for travel agents to get insight into the reputation of certain locations. They can gather reviews quickly and get a feel for what is suitable and popular.

How Much Do Travel Agents Earn?

On average a travel agent in the US earns up to $58,000 annually. The salary depends on what state you live in and how you work as a travel agent.

According to national figures, travel agents in Virginia earn the highest wages. They earn 27% more than travel agents in any other state.

Self-employed travel agents may also have better salaries. However, this is dependent upon their skill and networking abilities.

If an agent has wealthy clients who take expensive vacations, it is likely that the agent’s earnings will be higher than someone who has middle-income clients.

Tips are also a factor in a travel agent’s earnings. If a holiday goes well and lives up to expectations, you may receive added financial rewards from your client or the agency you work for.

There are also different careers within the travel industry. For instance, you can train to become a reservation specialist who focuses on one element of the industry.

These types of specialist roles can bring greater financial rewards than generic travel-agent positions.

How to Become a Travel Agent
How to Become a Travel Agent

Key Steps to Becoming a Travel Agent

These steps are aimed at complete beginners. If you’re already looking at a career as a travel agent, it is likely that you have already worked through some of these steps.

Training and Education

The best place to start is through either an apprenticeship pathway or a travel-related degree.

Look for internships or voluntary positions at travel agencies. These will not pay great wages to start with, but they will provide you with the best insight into the industry.

A degree in tourism, travel management and even events management will give you the right skills to be successful.

During these types of degrees, you will learn how to organize the intricacies of a vacation for other people. You can also begin to think about how you can do this on your own.

If you want to take that extra training step to be successfully self-employed, you may even want to think about a degree in a business-related field. Combining these skills will give you an edge over other travel agents.

Certifications and Licenses

If you take the education route, your first certificate to achieve is your degree certificate. A 1st or a 2:1 will really help you stand out.

In the US the licensing laws surrounding the sale of travel are not as strict as they are in the UK or Canada. However, you will still need to purchase a license in the US.

In the states of California, Florida, Iowa, Washington and Hawaii, you need to meet the ‘seller of travel’ requirements.

To obtain these requirements, an individual must register with the appropriate travel-agency program. They may also need to take preliminary tests and pay extra fees.

The reason behind this is that travel-agency work is popular in these states. These procedures ensure that all business is done legitimately.

Experience

Experienced travel agents will be able to point clients towards the right deals. They will also be able to help clients book seasonal vacations and Christmas holidays.

Taking on voluntary positions and working your way up in an agency will help you get the right experience to build your own business.

Research is one of the key skill sets needed for success as a travel agent. You must be willing to spend a good amount of time researching vacations when you are not at work.

Listening to other travel agents and finding out how they research vacations is a great way of getting practical experience.

Finding Clients

The most successful travel agents have clients who are reliable and come to them for all their holidays.

You can do well as a travel agent with one-off customers, but you will make more money in the long run with clients who come with more vacation requests.

Having strong communication skills and being inquisitive is a great way to build the right relationships.

Keeping clients around is the challenge. Being clear and offering them great deals on their vacations will encourage repeat business.

Understanding their needs and desires is also an essential part of keeping the right clients.

Over time you will begin to know exactly what they want from their holidays. At this point, you will be approaching them rather than the other way around.

Specialization

When you begin your career as a travel agent, it is likely that you will be advertising general vacations to the public.

However, as you gain more experience and as your clientele changes, you can specialize in a certain area of travel.

This may lead you towards focusing on one area of the tourist industry. For example, you could become an accommodation expert.

You may also choose to focus on one tourist location or a particular type of holiday. There are many travel agents who only focus on cruise lines, and they are very successful.

Specialization is the final step in your career success. You’ll feel that you can begin to specialize when you have the right experience and the right relationships in place.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Travel Agent?

There are no specific timeframes in becoming a successful travel agent. You can begin your career as a travel agent as soon as you leave education and take a more vocational route.

This type of path will require you to take up internships at smaller travel agencies to gain the right experience. You may also need to take voluntary positions if any are available.

You will achieve your goal of becoming a travel agent much quicker with this route and can do so in as little as a year if you land the right job opportunities.

However, this pathway will start with a lower pay. If you want to specialize or become more knowledgeable later in your career, you may have to take extra courses or even a degree.

The degree route is the longer pathway to becoming a successful travel agent. A bachelor’s degree in areas such as tourism or events management will take at least three years to complete.

Bear in mind that the degree does not guarantee you a job. You will still have to find the right opportunities and get through the interviews to become a travel agent.

However, having a degree to hand will serve you well in the interviews and in your long-term career plans. You can specialize much easier and have a better idea of how to build your own business.

Typically, this route can take around four years but may take longer if you choose to take on a master’s degree or even a PhD.

The best way to gain success as a travel agent is to integrate both pathways. Get the right education but ensure that you search for the right training and job opportunities to get relevant experience.

If you can do all of this during your degree program, you will look impressive to the right travel agencies. You will also have all the skills in place to set up your own business.

Top Skills to Master

Communication and Persuasion

Whether you are talking to airlines, hotel managers, first-time customers or returning clients, you need to be able to extract all the correct information.

Understanding what is on offer and what people want is entirely determined by how you go about getting this information.

You must also be able to convince people to take on vacation packages. Persuading people that what you are offering is good will be a challenge, but it will lead to your success as a travel agent.

Research Skills

You need to know the most popular destinations at any one time and what is available now.

The best travel agents know the most attractive tourist destinations long before the client or customer.

You must also be able to offer a range of options to clients. They may not like your first suggestion of a hotel or an area, and in this case you need other plans available.

Networking Abilities

Talking to other travel agents and holiday managers is one of the best ways to find out what is popular.

You need to be able to keep the right relationships going while also building new ones. If you avoid or do not like talking to people in your industry, you will find it very difficult to succeed as a travel agent.

Organization

Keeping on top of all the bookings you make for your clients can be stressful. It is in your own interest to be organized.

You will also meet a range of challenging clients, from families to business personnel. Being organized will help you identify the best solutions for them.

Patience

A good travel agent needs to be patient. No matter what you offer your clients, they reserve the right to reject your ideas.

This is especially challenging if you spend a lot of hours outside of work researching the best vacations.

The rejection of a holiday cannot be taken personally. You must be willing to go away and begin the work again.

The most successful travel agents are willing to do the work even in the reality that it may not guarantee a booking or the commission that comes with it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I Get Free Vacations?

This is dependent upon what type of travel agent you want to become and where you work.

If you are a generic travel agent who has just started in their career, it is unlikely that you will have the option of free vacations.

However, if you have specialized as a holiday representative and need to conduct research into a string of hotel packages, you could have access to free vacations.

Even if you do not get free vacations, your research will give you the strongest idea of what the cheapest and best holidays are. You will have more knowledge than most people.

What if I Change My Mind During My Career Path?

This is not uncommon, and it is not something that is restricted to a career as a travel agent. After years of work, you may find that you are not suited to being a travel agent.

If this is the case, do not be disheartened. The skills you need to be successful as a travel agent are also transferable to many other positions of work.

Business representatives, sales managers and project administrators all need the same skills as a good travel agent.

It is also worth mentioning that the degrees you take to become a travel agent are useful elsewhere. Events management could lead you to success in the hospitality industry.

The best thing to do is keep on track and do the work with diligence. You may not arrive at your initial goal, but you will lead yourself toward success.

Final Thoughts

Demand for travel agents is increasing, and travel agencies are becoming more accessible with the rise in self-employment and independent businesses.

Becoming a travel agent is, therefore, an attractive and lucrative prospect.

As the tourist industry is once again finding its feet, your career as a travel agent may be a bright, rewarding one. Follow these steps outlined in this article and invest in the necessary skills to make a success of your dream.


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