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Travel Agent Career Guide

Although employment of travel agents is predicted to decrease over the coming years, the industry can still offer many exciting opportunities for travel and for self-employment. Travel agents need only a high school diploma. Some employers employers may prefer travel agents with addition education. However, travel agents receive on the job training once they are hired.

We could’ve come up with 50 reasons why you should be a travel agent, that’s how rewarding and unique this career path is!

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Travel Agent Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Travel Agent Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Travel Agent field.
IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33880Travel CoordinatorFemale45 $37,000Williamston, NY01/01/2010
33685Travel AgentFemale35 $25,000campbell hall, NY01/01/2010
33644Corporate Travel CounselorFemale34 $40,000Cary, IL01/01/2010
33505Corporate Travel AgentFemale37 $34,240chelsea, MA01/01/2010
33315Travel AgentFemale38 $37,000houston, TX01/01/2010

Overview

What a travel agents does

Travel agents provide assistance to individuals or businesses when they are planning trips or vacations. Travel agents can work for tour operators, credit card companies, package holiday operators, cruise lines, independent travel agents or for corporate businesses who travel a lot. Their typical duties and responsibilities will vary slightly depending on who they work for. However, travel agents can expect to do tasks such as the following:

  • Responding quickly and efficiently to customer queries and complaints
  • Promoting and marketing the business that they work for or their own business. This includes preparing promotional materials and displays
  • Keeping up to date with, and providing advice about, visas or passports
  • Maintaining statistical and financial records and ensuring budgets are managed
  • Selling holidays and insurance to customers
  • Working as part of a team to meet profit and/or sales targets

Why they are needed

Travel agents are useful to any holiday planners or business. With travel getting more and more complicated, travel agents are needed to help holiday makers plan the trip of their lifetime. Travel agents save people time, money and stress, whilst helping them to find exciting and new adventures to go on. They also help contribute to the tourism industry, which before COVID-19  was the second fastest growing industry in the world.

Pros and cons of a career as a travel agent:

Pros:

  • It is a job that offers lots of variety as you can decide what part of the world you want to become an ‘expert’ in
  • It is a rewarding career as you get to help many people find the holiday of a lifetime
  • It is a career that can offer many travel opportunities
  • Discounted travel opportunities for family and friends holiday
  • There is minimal educational requirements needed to become a travel agent, making it an accessible career
  • There are opportunities to work full time, part time or to be self-employed and become your own boss

Cons:

  • It is a demanding job as clients may need help 24/7, and travel agents need to be available to meet these needs
  • It can be a stressful job. Travel agents must stay up to date with travel information, be available to clients at most hours and work with difficult clients/clients that are hard to please
  • There is a lack of job and income security. For example, during the recent pandemic lots of travel agents will have had a loss of earnings or lost their jobs. In the coming years, this is expected to get worse with a decline in employment of travel agents predicted
  • Like any sales roles, travel agents can have a bad reputation for being pushy and sleazy (don’t let this put you off though, become a travel agent to prove them wrong!)

Employability

Job market

Although an appealing career due to the amazing travel opportunities and the opportunity to be self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of travel agents is projected to decline 26 percent from 2019 to 2029. This employment decline is expected due to the increased use of the internet to research and book vacations.

However, many people find travel planning a frustrating and tiresome experience. This may then lead to an increasing number of people turning to travel agents to help filter through the numerous options and give personal recommendations.

Job prospects will be higher for travel agents who have extensive knowledge and specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travellers, such as corporate travellers, student travelling or travellers with special interests.

Career paths

The career path to becoming a travel agents begins at school, as a high school diploma is typically the minimum requirement to becoming a travel agent. However, many employers prefer travel agents to have a college degree or to have taken classes related to the travel industry. The classes can be taken at community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations. Classes usually focus on reservations systems, marketing, and regulations regarding international travel.

High school graduates wanting to enter the industry might take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test to demonstrate their competence. The test has no eligibility requirements and is administered by The Travel Institute.

The Travel Institute also provides training and professional certification for experienced travel agents. There are different levels of certification offer, depending on a travel agent’s experience. If they have limited experience, they can become a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) which requires them to complete a series of classes and exams. For travel agents with at least 5 years of experience, they can achieve the Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) certification. Both of these certifications require continuing education each year to maintain certification.

Furthermore, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers four levels of certification for travel agents wanting to go into the cruise industry: Certified (CCC), Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). Each level requires a certain amount of training and product knowledge.

Once hired, travel agents will receive some on-the-job training. This training will focus on the computer systems that are used in the industry.  Some agencies prefer travel agents with firsthand experience visiting a country and will especially prefer travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers (e.g., corporate travellers, gap year travellers or cruise travellers).

Example Job Titles for Travel Agent

Below is a list of common job titles in the Travel Agent field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for travel agents in America was $40,660 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,420. The highest paid industries were the travel arrangement and reservation services, where the average annual salary was $40,260.

Autonomy and Flexibility

The autonomy and flexibility of a travel agent can be high. This is because many travel agents are self-employed and can therefore chose the clients they want to work with and their hours. However, it is important to remember that being a travel agent can be a 24/7 job, so the hours choose you.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an estate agent based on average annual salary and jobs available were:

  1. Alaska, where the average annual salary was $35,231
  2. Nevada, where the average annual salary was $30,323
  3. North Dakota, where the average annual salary was $29,515
  4. Hawaii, where the average annual salary was $35,285
  5. Illinois, where the average annual salary was $32,568

The worst states, according to Zippia, were Tennessee, Minnesota, Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas.

Work environment

The largest employers of travel agents in the United States were travel arrangement and reservation services, they employed 72% of all travel agents. 17% of travel agents in the United States were self-employed workers.

Travel agents are most likely to work in offices but some may work remotely because much of their time is spent on the phone and the computer. Agents may face stress during travel emergencies or unanticipated schedule changes.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Travel Agent careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Travel Agent career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Travel Agent.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

In accordance to the Holland code, travel agents will be enterprising and conventional. This is because these types of people tend to like structure and  order and tend to be detail-oriented and organized. But, they will also have a preference to being adventurous and enthusiastic and therefore tend to have a natural ability to lead others and be persuasive.

There has been no exploration as to what personality traits will make a successful travel agent. However, it could be assumed that they will be score high on extraversion, as this will give them the skills to confidently interact with clients. They will also probably be open to experience, as this will give them an enthusiasm from travelling and going on adventures. Finally, travel agents will most likely have to be conscientious, as this will help them to keep paperwork organized and meet deadlines.

Accomplishment and mastery

Travel agents learn many skills through on the job training and through experience. They use these skills to help others and make their dreams come true. Therefore, there may be a high sense of accomplishment and mastery. On top of this, travel agents will continue to develop their skills and knowledge throughout their career.

Meaning and contribution

Although the work of a travel agent won’t change the world, it still holds a lot of meaning and contribution. Travel agents help holiday makers spend their hard earned cash on trips of a lifetime. Whether is for weddings, honeymoons or first holidays together, these trips create wonderful memories and provide people with happiness and fulfilment. Therefore, the work of a travel agent is incredibly meaningful and makes a huge contribution to the lives of many.

Life fit

Most travel agents work normal full time hours, meaning it can provide a great life fit. However, some travel agents may work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate customers’ schedule changes and last-minute needs. Part time work is also available, making a career as a travel agent a flexible one.

Who will thrive in this career?

Firstly, those with the ability to sell services will thrive in this career, as a travel agent is essentially a sales person. Those willing to learn and understand different countries and travel opportunities will thrive, as clients want travel agents to be knowledgable and to book the best possible places for their budget.

A high level of enthusiasm for travelling is essential to thrive as a travel agent. This is partly because an enthusiasm for travel will encourage you to learn more and advance your skills, but also because enthusiasm is contagious and will reflect on the client. People skills are also essential to thriving as a travel agent. You need to be able to relate to people, to empathize with them and to build a professional relationship with them.

Who will struggle in this career?

Those with poor people skills, or those who do not like interacting with people all day, will struggle with being an estate agent. This is because estate agents must be highly engaging and friendly in order to sell holidays. Similarly, those who cannot think on their feet or remain calm in stressful situations may struggle as an estate agent, as schedules can go wrong and will need to be sorted out quickly.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as a genuine passion for travel, travel agents need skills and talents such as:

  • Customer service skills, as travel agents will spend most of their time on the phone to customers and must therefore be able to provide excellent customer service
  •  Verbal communication skills, as travel agents will need to communicate schedules and pricing to customers in a clear and concise way
  • Sales skills, as the main responsibility of a travel agent is to sell holidays to clients at a competitive rate
  • Attention to detail, as travel agents must analyse all holidays to check that every detail is ok for the client
  • Active listening skills, as this is essential to understanding what the client is looking for

Education

A high school diploma is typically the minimum requirement to becoming a travel agent. However, many employers prefer travel agents to have a college degree or to have taken classes related to the travel industry. The classes can be taken at community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations. Classes usually focus on reservations systems, marketing, and regulations regarding international travel.

High school graduates wanting to enter the industry might want to take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test, as this demonstrates their competence, even though they have minimal experience. The test has no eligibility requirements and is administered by The Travel Institute.

Certifications

The Travel Institute provides training and professional certification for experienced travel agents. There are different levels of certification offer, depending on a travel agent’s experience. If they have limited experience, they can become a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) which requires them to comple a series of classes and exams. For travel agents with at least 5 years of experience, they can achieve the Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) certification. Both of these certifications require continuing education each year to maintain certification.

Furthermore, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers four levels of certification for travel agents wanting to go into the cruise industry: Certified (CCC), Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). Each level requires a certain amount of training and product knowledge.

Once hired, travel agents will receive some on-the-job training. This training will focus on the computer systems that are used in the industry.  Some agencies prefer travel agents with firsthand experience visiting a country. These agencies especially prefer travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers, such as groups with a special interest or corporate travelers. Finally, to increase job prospects, travel agents should specialize in specific destinations or a particular types of travellers (e.g., corporate travellers, gap year travellers or cruise travellers).

How to Become

Summary

Although employment is predicted to decrease over the coming years, a career as an estate agent is one that offers many exciting opportunities for travel and for self-employment.

Immediate action

If becoming an estate agent is something that appeals to you, then we recommend getting in some travel experience! It is also worth looking at institutions near you that will offer courses or classes in travel.

Education and learning

To become a travel agent, you will need a high school diploma. Some employers prefer to hire travel agents with addition education, such as college courses or a degree.

Skill development

Once hired, travel agents receive on the job training and will continue to develop and progress their skills throughout their career.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Travel Agent careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

IDJob TitleGenderAgeEarningsCity & StateDate
33880Travel CoordinatorFemale45 $37,000Williamston, NY01/01/2010
33685Travel AgentFemale35 $25,000campbell hall, NY01/01/2010
33644Corporate Travel CounselorFemale34 $40,000Cary, IL01/01/2010
33505Corporate Travel AgentFemale37 $34,240chelsea, MA01/01/2010
33315Travel AgentFemale38 $37,000houston, TX01/01/2010

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