Travel agents assess individual's and business people's needs to help them make the best possible travel arrangements. An agent may specialize by type of travel, such as leisure or business, or destination, such as Europe or Africa. Travel agents also promote travel packages on behalf of cruise lines, resorts and specialty travel groups.
Travel agents held about 105,300 jobs in 2008.
About 76% of all travel agents worked for travel arrangement and reservation services and about 60% worked for travel agencies. Approximately 17% were self-employed.
In order to become a travel agent one must have, at least, a high school diploma or the equivalent. Increasingly, because of the use of computers and technology, employers prefer job candidates who have received vocational training. Some aspiring travel agents choose to get a bachelor's degree in travel and tourism, although programs that offer this coursework are few. Some employers look for job candidates who have taken college courses in computer science, foreign languages, geography and world history.
Travel agents must take continuing education classes in order to satisfy clients who, due to the Internet, are well-informed and expect expert advice. The Travel Institute offers experienced agents courses that lead to the Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) designations.
The Institute also offers marketing and sales skills development programs and destination specialist programs.
To be a successful travel agent one must be well-organized, accurate, detail-oriented, professional and courteous. Good writing and interpersonal skills as well as sales ability are also necessary.
Before becoming travel agents, many in this field begin by working as receptionists or reservation clerks in travel agencies. Many travel agents start their own businesses. Those that do generally have prior experience working at an established agency.
Employment of travel agents is expected to see little or no increase or decline in employment through 2018. The lack of growth can be explained by the fact that travelers are increasingly using the Internet to plan their trips while the lack of decline might be explained by the use of agents by travelers who are planning exotic trips and the need to replace agents who retire or leave their jobs.
Travel agents earned a median annual salary of $30,790 in 2009.
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much travel agents currently earn in your city.
A Day in a Travel Agent's Life
On a typical day a travel agent will:
- give advice on destinations
- make arrangements for transportation, hotel accommodations, car rentals, tours, and recreation
- advise on weather conditions, restaurants, tourist attractions, and recreation
- provide information on customs regulations, required papers (passports, visas, and certificates of vaccination), and currency exchange rates to international travelers
- consult published and computer-based sources for information on departure and arrival times, fares, and hotel ratings and accommodations
- visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants to evaluate comfort, cleanliness, and quality of food and service
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Travel Agents, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm (visited December 8, 2010).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Travel Agents, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/41-3041.00 (visited December 8, 2010).