The industry of travel and tourism has grown significantly during the past 20 years as the number of international travelers has grown significantly. As many people travel for business and pleasure, the demand for qualified travel agents has increased tremendously. To increase your chances of success in this career, it is advisable that you receive professional training or certification. Travel agents must be knowledgeable in all aspects the travel industry as they provide the best travel arrangements to people through researching options, deals, and packages.
Travel agents collect and sort through information to offer clients advice for destinations as well as make arrangements for transportation, hotel accommodations, transportation, car rentals, conventions, recreational activities and tours. Travel agents also promote travel packages with destination resort and specialty travel promotions to their clients.
Travel agents make reservations for air, boat, train, or car transportation, recommend and reserve hotels, and provide clients with tour packages. Travel agents also investigate local cultures, attractions, travel requirements, and local currency to prepare and provide information to clients for when they reach their destination. Travel agents must also ensure international travelers have passports, visas, and certificates of vaccination Travel agents also must prepare their clients with knowledge regarding customs regulations, travel advisories, weather conditions, currency exchange rates, local ordinances and customs, attractions, and exhibitions upon reaching the traveler’s destination. Travel agents also often must accommodate unexpected developments, adjust itineraries, and book alternative arrangements for traveler’s in the event of trip changes.
Travel agents use many computer based sources to retrieve information necessary to provide clients with departure and arrival times, quality hotel accommodations, group discounts, and related fares. Many travel agents travel to resorts, restaurants, and hotels to ascertain the cleanliness, quality, and comfort of hotels and restaurants to assure their recommendations are accurate. Travel agents may specialize specific demographic groups, destinations, or regions. Travel agents who work within tour and travel companies may assist in the development, arrangement, marketing, and sale of the company’s travel and tour services. These agents may market the travel and tour services via the Internet, direct mail, or telemarketing or by making presentations to groups, advertising displays, or creating company sponsored trips.
A career as a travel agent is often a rewarding experience. Many travel agents have the unique benefit of not only assisting people as they travel but also receiving reduced rates for transportation and lodging. Individuals interested in a career as a travel agent must have inherent personality traits in addition to experience in the field attained through educational and work experiences. Travel agents must be detail oriented, organized and possess strong communication and computer skills. Travel agents must be able to manage stress as they deal with travel emergencies and scheduling issues. Travel agents also must be highly motivated and often work more than 40 hours at a desk making travel arrangements, promoting tours, completing paperwork, and meeting with clients. Travel agents who are self employed often work longer hours from their homes.
Individuals with an interest in a career as a travel agent may prepare while in high school. Students who participate in courses like history, world studies, foreign language, business communications, and English prepare for future careers as travel agents. Additionally, students may work as a reservations clerk within a hotel or receptionist within a travel agency during summers and other vacations to gain hands on experiences in the field. Some students may begin entry level employment within a travel agency upon obtaining a high school diploma or G.E.D. Entry level jobs allow students the ability to learn the skills necessary to assist travel agents, find the best travel deals, prices, and packages, and work their way up to travel agent positions. Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have attained a college level degree within travel agency management, hospitality, or tourism. High school graduates may advance career and educational goals by enrolling in certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor degree programs which provide the training and education necessary for work as qualified travel agents. Most certificate programs consist of two week to 10 month long educational experience with courses in: travel and the travel profession, technology, geography basics, domestic air travel, accommodations, cruises, international travel, ground travel, tours, specialized sales, marketing, making a sale, home based agents, money matters, computer reservation systems, and business communications. Students who complete a certificate program may advance to entry level jobs within travel agencies or to higher degree programs.
Students interested in career as a travel agent may gain skills necessary for employment through vocational, public education, community, online, or college programs. Many vocational schools offer full-time travel agent programs. Travel agent courses also are offered in public adult education programs, online, and in community colleges.Students who enroll in a two year associate’s degree program in travel and tourism operations learn communication and decision making skills through core general education courses and specialized training necessary for work as a travel agent. Courses for students seeking an associates degree include: customer relations, business writing, sales techniques for travel and tourism, reservation planning, ship, locomotive, plane, and car travel, geography, marketing, and travel industry forms and procedures for ticketing and reservations. Graduates from a two year degree wishing to advance their careers, bachelors and master’s degrees are also offered in travel, tourism, business administration or hospitality. Many bachelor and master’s level programs in this field include internships, which may be completed in a travel agency office. Students who complete a two year associates degree program may advance to higher degrees or work within travel agencies as assistant travel agents or entry level travel agents.
Students who enroll in a bachelor degree program in hospitality and tourism offer students diverse opportunities to expand knowledge and training necessary for work as travel agents. Core courses are generally geared toward expanding communication skills necessary for increasing relations with the public and help students cultivate decision making skills and expand problem solving skills. In addition to core courses, specialized courses in the field of hospitality and tourism instill the knowledge necessary for future career success. Courses for students seeking an bachelor degree include: legalities affecting the travel industry, travel and tourism marketing, travel and tourism for special interest groups, human resources management, business writing, sales techniques for travel and tourism, reservation planning, ship locomotive, plane and car travel, customer relations, and research methods. Most bachelor degree programs require student to complete an internship within a travel agency to gain hands on experiences necessary for educational and professional advancement. Upon completion of a bachelor degree program in hospitality and tourism, graduates may gain employment in the travel and tourism industry as travel agents, personal cruise consultants, travel writers, travel agency supervisors, and corporate travel managers. Some graduates advance to master degree programs within the business discipline combined with a concentration in travel and hospitality.
Students who advance to master degree programs generally must pursue a Master Of Business with a concentration in travel and tourism. Courses like financial accounting, leadership and organizational behavior, strategic management, managerial economics and globalization, financial management, quantitative methods, marketing management, and law, ethics, and corporate governance are focused on business provide students with the knowledge necessary to base future career success. Specialized courses like strategic planning in hospitality and tourism, international tourism development and policy, air travel operations, impacts of tourism, travel agency operations and tours, management of tourism enterprises, e-Tourism, management of the hospitality industry, marketing services, tourism policy, planning, and development, and chain management and franchising. Graduates from a master’s degree program are generally qualified to work as upper level executives within travel agencies, hotels, airlines, resorts, and other businesses in the travel and tourism sector. Some graduates upon earning work experience and required funds may open self owned travel businesses.
Graduates from any degree program may advance their skills and propel career goals by continuing education and receiving certification through various organizations. Travel agents are required to stay abreast of advancing technology as it changes and may do so by continuing education through courses, seminars, and workshops to remain informed of industry and technological changes. The Airlines Reporting Corporation, The International Association of Travel Agents, the National Business Travel Association, and the International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN) accredit travel agencies and travel agents that are financially sound and have at least one experienced manager. Membership in IATAN provides travel agencies with an added benefit of access to ticketing systems and travel agency codes. Many agents voluntarily certify through the above associations and earn a Certified Travel Counselor accreditation.
Earnings, job prospects and employment stability for travel agents are largely related to the economy. Factors like economic downturns and international crises may cause a decline in the demand for travel agents. The U.S. Bureau Of Labor and Statistics predicts growth for specialized travel services, particularly for agents who provide clients with luxury, exotic, or customized trips or those who market their services to specific ethnic, age, or special interest groups. In addition, as many international visitors travel to the U.S., agents who market, organize, and sell tours to international clients are expected to be in demand.. Agents who specialize in specific destinations, luxury travel, or particular types of travelers, such as ethnic groups or groups with a special interest or hobby, should have the best chance for success. Salaries for travel agents vary and are based upon experience, geographic location, size of agency, and sales ability. Earnings for travel agents who own their own businesses are based upon commissions and fees charged to clients for services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that median annual wages for travel agents range from $23,940 to $38,390. Established agents generally have higher earnings than less experienced agents. Travel servicing corporations often have increased salaries and greater benefits than those who work with in leisure travel.