Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips.
What they do
Travel agents offer advice on destinations, plan trip itineraries, and make travel arrangements for clients.
They typically do the following:
- Arrange travel for business and vacation customers
- Determine customers’ needs and preferences, such as schedules and costs
- Plan and arrange tour packages, excursions, and day trips
- Find fare and schedule information
- Calculate total travel costs
- Book reservations for travel, hotels, rental cars, and special events, such as tours and excursions
- Describe trips to clients and give details on required documents, such as passports and visas
- Give advice about local weather conditions, customs, and attractions
- Make alternative booking arrangements if changes arise before or during the trip
Travel agents sort through vast amounts of information to find the best possible trip arrangements for travelers. In addition, resorts and specialty groups use travel agents to promote vacation packages to their clients.
Travel agents also may visit destinations to get firsthand experience so that they can make recommendations to clients or colleagues. They may visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants to evaluate the comfort, cleanliness, and quality of the establishment. However, most of their time is spent talking with clients, promoting tours, and contacting airlines and hotels to make travel accommodations. Travel agents use a reservation system called a Global Distribution System (GDS) to access travel information and make reservations with travel suppliers such as airlines or hotels.
The following are examples of types of travel agents:
Leisure travel agents sell vacation packages to the general public. They are responsible for arranging trip itineraries based on clients’ interests and budget. Leisure travel agents increasingly are focusing on a specific type of travel, such as adventure tours. Some may cater to a specific group of people, such as senior citizens or single people.
Corporate travel agents primarily make travel arrangements for businesses. They book travel accommodations for an organization’s employees who are traveling to conduct business or attend conferences.
They typically work in offices, but some work remotely because much of their time is spent on the phone and the computer. In some cases, busy offices or call centers may be noisy and crowded. Agents may face stress during travel emergencies or unanticipated schedule changes.
Most travel agents work full time. Some work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate customers’ schedule changes and last-minute needs.
How to become a Travel Agent
A high school diploma typically is required for someone to become a travel agent. However, many employers prefer additional formal training. Good communication and computer skills are essential.
Employers generally require candidates to have at least a high school diploma, but may prefer those who have a college degree or who have taken classes related to the travel industry. Many community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations offer technical training or continuing education classes in professional travel planning. Classes usually focus on reservations systems, marketing, and regulations regarding international travel. In addition, some colleges offer degrees in travel and tourism.
Employers in the travel industry always give some on-the-job training on the computer systems that are used in the industry. For example, a travel agent could be trained to work with a reservation system used by several airlines.
A good way to demonstrate competence for high school graduates with limited experience is to take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test. The test has no eligibility requirements and is administered by The Travel Institute.
The Travel Institute also provides training and professional certification opportunities for experienced travel agents. Different levels of certification are offered, depending on a travel agent’s experience. Travel agents with limited experience can become a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) after completing a series of classes and exams. For those with at least 5 years of experience, the more highly advanced Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) certification can be achieved. Both the CTA and CTC require continuing education each year to maintain certification.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers four levels of certification: Certified (CCC), Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). Each level requires a certain amount of training and product knowledge.
Some states require agents to have a business license to sell travel services. Requirements among states vary greatly. Contact individual state licensing agencies for more information.
The median annual wage for travel agents was $40,660 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,420.
Employment of travel agents is projected to decline 26 percent from 2019 to 2029.
The ability of travelers to use the Internet to research vacations and book their own trips is expected to continue to suppress demand for travel agents. An increasing amount of travel is also expected to be booked on mobile devices.
Similar Job Titles
Auto Travel Counselor, Beach Expert, Corporate Travel Consultant, Destination Specialist, International Travel Consultant, Tour Coordinator, Tour Counselor, Travel Agent, Travel Consultant, Travel Counselor
Customs Broker, Loan Officer, Travel Guide, Advertising Sales Agent, Executive Secretary and Executive Administrative Assistant
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Society of Travel Agents - ASTA is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public. Expand your world.
- Cruise Lines International Association - CLIA is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, providing a unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community.
- The Travel Institute - A non-profit, independent organization, The Travel Institute collaborates with industry leaders to create and deliver relevant, meaningful and rigorous coursework and travel professional education.
- Western Association of Travel Agencies - WESTA, a member owned and managed marketing cooperative, is operated for the sole purpose of generating increased revenues for its membership through a broad spectrum of programs run in partnership with a selected group of premier travel partners.
Magazines and Publications
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For people who want some personal help reaching their destination, the first step is to call a travel agent. Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and admission to entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips. Travel agents sort through vast amounts of information to find the best arrangements for travelers. They find fare and scheduling information, calculate travel costs, and book reservations for everything from extended multi-country tours to short excursions nearby. Agents also provide information about required documents, local weather conditions, customs and attractions. Corporate travel agents specialize in making travel arrangements for businesses. Most travel agents work full time in offices but some work remotely, since so much of their work is done by phone and computer. Agents in call centers or large offices may work in noisy, crowded conditions. Dealing with travel emergencies and last-minute schedule changes can be difficult. Typically travel agents require a high school diploma, but many employers prefer additional formal training.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org