Travel agents provide travel arrangement services for both vacationing and corporate clients. They study their client’s needs and wants to determine the best routes and forms of travel available, as well as lodging and rental transportation. They arrange for packages for tours, special excursions and day travel for both individuals and groups. Studying fare and schedule information, they calculate total trip costs. Scheduling reservations for transportation, lodging, special events and excursions, and rental transportation for the destination all fall into their purview. Lists of necessary travel documents, such as visas and passports are provided to their clients, plus local customs and weather.
Requirements and Qualifications
Travel agents spend most of their time working in an office, either on the phone or the computer. Offices and call centers may be busy, noisy and crowded. Travel emergencies or last minute changes to schedules can be very trying and stressful. Most travel agents work full time with longer hours during busy travel times and when assisting customers with crises. Nearly 80% of all travel agents work in the reservation services and travel arrangement sector, with another 14% being self employed. Among qualities you may want to develop while in school are adventurousness, communications, being detail oriented and organizational and sales skills.
There are some colleges that offer degrees in tourism and travel, but many agents are able to find educational opportunities such as continuing education courses or technical training at community and vocational colleges in professional planning of travel. Coursework may include becoming familiar with reservation systems, marketing and international travel law.
Steps to Become a Travel Agent
After finishing your educational program, you may want to explore additional training offerings from industry associations. Certifications offered by the International Airline Transport Association’s Training and Development Institute and The Travel Institute provide a leg up in a hiring position, showing that you’ve studied the industry standards. Some states also require business licensing prior to your being able to sell travel services.
Not ready to take on the world yet? Maybe you’re just not quite confident that booking customers to Brazilian zipline tours is what you want to base your future on. Either way, there are several similar career paths for you to explore! Here’s a bit more information about them:
- Are you awesome with information? Information clerks are the clerical and administrative support who maintain records, enter data and information and answer client’s concerns or questions.
- Love to throw really big parties? Meeting, convention and event planners meet with clients to plan, invite bids for services, examine event sites for suitability and ensure that all goes well with the event.
- Are you good at anticipating your supervisor’s needs? Secretaries and administrative assistants assist supervisors with filing, writing correspondence, making appointments, organizing information and providing additional help as needed.
The average pay for a travel agent was $31,870 per year as of May 2010. Most travel agents work regular full time hours, though during busy travel times or when clients require schedule changes hours can be more erratic or longer.
Opportunities for travel agents are expected to grow as fast as the average for all career paths, 10% for travel agents versus 14% for all careers over the next ten years. Customers who want a custom tour arranged, specialty tours or business travel will continue to drive demand despite many customers choosing to book their own travel through internet sites.