A travel agent acts as a travel advisor, working with clients to plan trips and make reservations. They serve as travel consultants, helping both business and pleasure travelers plan routes, schedules and accommodations. The successful travel agent must be sincerely interested in assisting people get the most from their travel experience with the least inconvenience, the fewest complications and the lowest expense.
Some travel agencies give preference to applicants possessing a certificate or an associate’s degree in management, but others require a degree in business, management or liberal arts. There are a number of colleges offering online bachelor’s degrees in these areas, making it easy for aspiring travel agents to obtain the proper qualifications.
A high school diploma or an equivalent certification is usually the minimum requirement to qualify for an entry-level travel agent position, but there are college majors that can prepare you for a more advanced career as a travel agent.
New hire airline reservation and ticketing agents are frequently required to attend official company training programs where they are taught such skills as ticketing procedures, relevant computer software, reservation procedures and passenger itinerary planning. Travel clerks working for automobile clubs, bus lines and railroads are generally trained via in-house classes as well.
A travel consultant will have entirely different tasks than an airline travel agent involved in booking. The basic information a travel agent must gather from clients include:
Other travel agent job duties include describing tour packages and promotional travel incentives offered by various travel carriers, booking trips via computer and collecting payment for the transportation and accommodation reservations.
Travel agents can include ticketing agents, passenger booking clerks, reservation clerks, airport service agents, ticket clerks and ticket sellers. They can work in independent agencies or for large hotels chains or airlines, and might be stationed in an office, airport or train or bus station. Some agents work in storefronts and deal with clients face-to-face; others operate solely through phone, fax and Internet contact.
Though some travel agent positions are being replaced by “ticket-less travel” options, not all travel-related passenger services can ever be fully automated. Many travelers prefer to forego the frustrating effort of arranging their own travel details, choosing instead to collaborate with an experienced travel expert who is adept at solving problems. The role of the travel agent will continue to exist in the foreseeable future, but competition is expected to be strong.
Figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the median annual salary of travel agents was about $30,000, with a range running from less than $20,000 to a high of more than $46,000. These salary figures are often supplemented by bonuses and with free travel, which is a significant draw to some people.