How To Become a Travel Agent (With Helpful Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 8, 2022 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated July 8, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

woman working as a travel agent

Despite the popularity of automated booking systems for vacations, travel agents are still in demand for trips that require thoughtful planning and expertise. Travel agents ensure travel plans, such as activities and costs, receive a personalized touch while often providing clients with the best value for their money.

In this article, we explain what a travel agent does and how to become one, and we answer some common questions about this career path.

What do travel agents do?

Travel agents help clients make travel arrangements or explore different travel package options. They may suggest accommodations or destinations, and they can help clients arrange a travel itinerary. A travel agent can also book flights, hotels and reservations.

Before travel agents can make appropriate travel arrangements, they must learn important information about their clients, including budget, schedule, ideal vacation and preferred method of travel. For example, a travel agent who learns that a client is afraid of flying may suggest a cruise instead.

Read more: Learn About Being a Travel Agent

How to become a travel agent in 4 steps

Becoming a travel agent requires a certain level of education and training, and some may need to obtain certifications before they can begin working. Follow these steps if you're considering a career as a travel agent:

1. Get formal training

Most travel agents need at least a high school diploma, but some college education can help you gain essential knowledge in areas such as tourism, best business practices, international affairs and marketing. You’ll need comprehensive knowledge—either firsthand or through a degree program—in these areas to provide your clients with travel plans and advice.

You could also pursue a travel agent certification to show your expertise to clients and potential travel agency employers. For example, The Travel Institute offers the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test, which you can take to demonstrate your skills and qualifications as an accomplished travel agent.

After a few years of experience, you can take additional exams with The Travel Institute or similar organizations to earn more advanced certifications, such as becoming a Certified Travel Associate (CTA).

Read more: Impress Employers With Travel Agent Certifications

2. Develop your interpersonal skills

Part of a travel agent's success depends on the ability to interact with others, whether it's done by phone calls, emails or in-person meetings. Effective communication and interpersonal skills will help you gain and retain loyal clients, which is especially important if you plan to work independently and not for an agency.

Developing your soft skills so you can follow up on questions or communicate changes in a timely manner will also help you more easily negotiate with hotels and similar businesses to get the best deals for your clients.

Related: 11 Ways To Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

3. Research planning and budgeting techniques

As a travel agent, your clients depend on you to help them save the most money possible while they travel. This is why it's useful to research deals on local hotels, cruises, flights or events that may be offering special prices.

If you work for an agency, you'll likely receive on-the-job training that shows how to quickly find the best deals for clients and make the best reservations for their value. It may be useful to get this experience before starting your own business.

Related: How To Become a Travel Agent From Home

4. Grow your travel industry knowledge

Vacation spots and your clients' itinerary priorities will change over time, so it's useful to keep a current and growing knowledge of new developments in the field. It can also help to continue taking courses specifically designed to help you gain a deeper understanding of the tourism industry.

In addition to the TAP test, The Travel Institute offers courses in subjects like geography and itinerary planning that equip you with the knowledge to plan memorable trips for your clients. These courses can be especially useful if you plan to specialize in one area of travel.

Related: How To Write a Resume as a Travel Agent

Travel agent FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions on becoming a travel agent:

How much money do travel agents make?

Travel agents earn an average of $57,968 per year plus $150 in daily tips, but this figure can vary depending on education, location and experience level. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Additional travel agent certifications may also make it easier to negotiate for a higher salary.

Related: ​​11 of the Best Travel Jobs in 2021 (With Salaries)

What’s the job outlook for travel agents?

Jobs for travel agents based in the United States are expected to grow 5% between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although this is slower than the average for all occupations. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily affected the industry with a decrease in travel job postings and an overall slowdown in tourism.

Despite this, an average of about 7,500 travel agent openings are projected each year over the decade.

Do travel agents work for themselves?

Some travel agents work for travel agencies, but others become highly specialized in their area of expertise and start their own businesses. If you decide to work for yourself, consider choosing a unique specialty to stand out among competitors in the field.

Related: 49 Travel Agency Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

What skills are required for travel agents?

Soft skills, such as written and verbal communication, can help you find good deals while planning trips and booking flights and hotels. Time management skills are also essential in this career since you'll likely be working with multiple clients or itineraries at once.

Related: Travel Agent Skills: Definition and Examples

Do I need to specialize in any area of travel?

While it's not necessarily required, it can give you a competitive advantage if you choose a particular specialty as a travel agent. For example, you could focus on planning trips for one geographic area, or you could specialize in a certain type of vacation. Gaining expertise in a specific area can also help you build a loyal client base.

What are the typical duties of a travel agent?

Common daily responsibilities for a travel agent can include:

  • Negotiating hotel rates for clients

  • Helping clients create trip plans

  • Determining travel costs and helping the client look for ways to save money

  • Advising clients on activities in the area they're visiting

Related: 15 Legitimate Jobs You Can Do From Home

Jobs similar to a travel agent

If you're interested in working in the travel industry but not necessarily becoming a travel agent, there are similar career options. Here are a few related jobs to explore:

  • Travel consultant

  • Tour manager

  • Tour guide

  • Travel writer

  • Hotel manager

  • Hospitality manager

  • Event planner

Related: 21 Jobs for Hospitality and Tourism Management

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