Travel agents assist travelers in making the best decisions when it comes to planning their vacations and other types of trips. They work with travelers to determine which type of trip will suit them best. They accomplish this by asking their clients questions about their travel desires and needs, budgets, and timelines. They design travel plans they feel will meet these criteria and then make all the preparations and arrangements for the client. They may book their clients on cruises or tours. They may organize group travel situations or plan trips for individuals and families.
In order to plan the trip, travel agents read through travel information from published or computerized sources such as maps, official guides, and tariff books. They locate information regarding departure and arrival times, economical fares, car rentals, and hotel ratings and accommodations. They make airline, hotel, and car rental reservations for their clients. They supply their clients with detailed itineraries, take deposits based on the cost of the trip, and schedule special accommodations to fit the particular needs of a client. They give their clients all the information they need to prepare for the trip, including information about customs regulations, passports, visas, immunization requirements, and currency exchange rates.
Travel agents, first and foremost, must have a passion for travel. Beyond this, they must have excellent communications skills that allow them to clearly convey their passion to clients. They should have a pleasant personality and a neat appearance. They also need to be well-organized, accurate, and detail-oriented.
Travel agents with minimal experience usually earn $825 to $1,800 per month, while those with at least 3 years of experience earn $1,500 to $2,825 per month. Benefits may include paid vacations, holidays, sick leave, health insurance, pension, profit-sharing, annual bonus, or commission. After 1 year, agents usually become eligible for travel discounts such as reduced airfare and reduced costs for hotels, car rentals, tours, and cruises.
Training and Education
Those interested in becoming a travel agent should have at least a high school diploma as this is the typical minimum requirement. Travel training and college education can be very advantageous. Some vocational schools offer 3 to 12 week courses that prepare students for the occupation. Students can also find training at public adult education programs, community colleges, and universities. Travel correspondence courses through the Institute of Certified Travel Agents can lead to certification as a certified travel agent and can be a huge advantage. College courses in computer science, geography, foreign languages, history, accounting, and business management can also help applicants secure positions.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of hosts and hostesses is expected to decline. The travel industry is becoming more and more consolidated, and more people are utilizing online travel services to plan their trips. This decline will be tempered somewhat by the projected increase in household income and tourism spending. Because so many are drawn to the occupation, keen competition for available positions is predicted.
To learn more about beomcing a travel agent, please visit our section on Trave Agent Schools for more information.