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Travel Agency Careers

Career Description

Travel Agents plan and sell transportation and accommodations for travel agency customers. Determine destination, modes of transportation, travel dates, costs, and accommodations required.

Common Work Tasks

  • Offer advice on destinations and make arrangements for transportation, hotel accommodations, car rentals, and tours for clients
  • Advise travelers about their destinations, such as the weather conditions, local ordinances and customs, attractions, and exhibitions
  • Provide information on customs regulations,  required papers (passports, visas, and certificates of vaccination), travel advisories, and currency exchange rates
  • Use a variety of published and computer-based sources for information on departure and arrival times, fares, quality of hotel accommodations, and group discounts
  • Visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants themselves to evaluate the comfort, cleanliness, and the quality of specific hotels and restaurants so that they can base recommendations on their own experiences or those of colleagues or clients
  • Promote tour and travel services using telemarketing, direct mail, and the Internet
  • Make presentations to social and special-interest groups, arrange advertising displays, and suggest company-sponsored trips to business managers
  • Provide customized service and planning for complex itineraries to remote or multiple destinations

Other Job Titles

Travel Agents are also known by other titles, including:

  • Tour Operators
  • Travel Experts
  • Cruise Ship Directors
  • Vacation Salespersons
  • Travel Counselors

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
 
The minimum requirement for those interested in becoming a travel agent is a high school diploma or equivalent; although many travel agencies prefer applicants who have a college degree and business or travel experience. Much of the training is provided on the job, a significant part of which consists of instruction on how to use reservation systems.

Training specific to becoming a travel agent is available at the many vocational schools that offer full-time travel agent programs leading to a postsecondary vocational award. Travel agent courses also are offered in public adult education programs, online, and in community colleges. These programs teach students about cruise lines and sales techniques and how to use the reservations systems. They also provide general information about travel destinations. A few colleges offer bachelor’s or master’s degrees in travel and tourism. Some employers prefer agents who have backgrounds in computer science, geography, communication, foreign languages,  or world history, because these backgrounds suggest an existing interest in travel and culture and help agents develop a rapport with clients.

Certification and Licensure
 
The National Business Travel Association offers three types of designations for corporate travel professionals—Corporate Travel Expert, Certified Corporate Travel Executive, and Global Leadership Professional.

Experienced travel agents can take advanced self-study or group-study courses from the Travel Institute,  leading to the Certified Travel Counselor designation.

Experience
     
Travel agents must be well-organized, accurate, and detail-oriented in order to compile information from various sources and to plan and organize their clients’  travel itineraries. Agents also must be professional and courteous when dealing with travel representatives and clients. Other desirable qualifications include good writing and interpersonal skills and sales abilities.

Personal travel experience is an asset because knowledge about a city or foreign country often helps influence a client’s travel plans. Business experience or training increasingly is important because agents need to know how to run a business profitably. As the Internet has become an important tool for making travel arrangements, more travel agencies use websites to provide their services to clients. This trend has increased the importance of computer skills in this occupation.

Salary

The median annual salary for a Travel Agent is $30,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $47,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $18,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of travel agents are:

  • Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services- $32,060
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises- $37,790
  • Employment Services- $35,750
  • Scheduled Air Transportation- $35,550
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services - $33,430

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  1%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 1,000
  • Employment 2006 : 101,000
  • Employment 2016:  102,000
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