January 30, 2019

How to Become a Travel Agent

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Travel agents who are knowledgeable and helpful can help travelers save time, money, and stress on their vacation plans.

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Travel agents should have a knack for finding the best available prices, know the best places to visit in popular and unpopular vacation destinations, know the customs, and understand the currency in various areas.

Travel agents work hard, but many work from the comfort of their own home. You must be comfortable with a computer and with dealing with people on a daily basis in order to be successful.

Just what does it take to become a travel agent? Keep reading to find out important details.

The Requirements to Become a Travel Agent

You don't need a bachelor's degree in order to become a travel agent, but it wouldn't hurt your chances of approval if you did. At the very least, you should have an associate degree from a junior college or enroll in a certificate program that will give you the necessary tools to be successful as a travel agent.

Once you start working as a travel agent, you can earn more certification that helps you stand out in the industry. They include:

  • Certified Travel Associate (CTA): After 12 months in the travel industry, you can enroll in the Travel Institute's CTA courses. This includes 15 modules and a final exam. You must complete your studies within 12 months of enrolling. Upon passing the exam, you'll earn your CTA

  • Certified Travel Counselor (CTC): After you have five years of experience in the travel industry and have your CTA certification, you can take the CTC coursework and final exam. You will also be required to write a white paper on a travel-related topic to earn certification. Once you earn your CTC certification, you must enroll in at least 10 hours of continuing education per year.

Even if you don't choose to become certified using one of the above options, continuing education is always suggested, especially in the travel industry. This will help you stay on top of any important travel information as well as changes in technology. This will help you stay as competitive as possible, especially in today's age of the internet, where anyone can find much of the travel information they need themselves.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Travel Agent?
Because there are no set study courses, exams, or time spent as an intern, there isn't a set amount of time it takes.

Some travel agents can make it right out of high school while others have to take time getting experience in traveling, using technology, and understanding the terminology. The more knowledge and experience you have before entering the field, the easier the transition may be for you.

The Steps to Becoming a Travel Agent

The first step in becoming a travel agent is to know your state's requirements. Many states don't require anything, while others require travel agents to have a license or certification. Check with your state before you proceed.

Once you know what you have to achieve for your state, you can take the following steps:

  1. Have at least a high school diploma
  2. Take some travel courses
  3. Assess and work on your communication skills
  4. Make sure you are tech-savvy
  5. Travel as much as you can
  6. Choose your specialty
  7. Find a host agency

Have at least a high school diploma: No matter what state you live in, you'll need a high school diploma to get started as a travel agent. That's not the only education you'll need, but it's the most important.

Take some travel courses: You don't have to satisfy a certain number of hours or sit for any exams at this point. You just need to make sure you have extensive knowledge of travel destinations around the world as well as understand technology and the importance of customer service.

Assess and work on your communication skills: As a travel agent, you'll need excellent interpersonal skills as well as exceptional writing skills. You want your future clients to view you as a valuable resource. This means being able to communicate verbally and in written form.

Make sure you are tech-savvy: You'll want to be comfortable with technology. As we stated above, there are specific travel agent software programs you'll need to understand how to use. These programs are continually changing, which is why continuing education is crucial.

Travel as much as you can: There's no experience that can replace personal experience. If you can come to your clients with firsthand knowledge of a specific destination, they will be more likely to view you as the "expert" in that area than someone reading from a computer screen.

Choose your specialty: Because the internet has created some tough competition, today it's important to have a "niche." You can focus on one geographic area (Disney World, for example), or you can focus on one type of travel (cruises, for example). Your niche will set you apart from the thousands of other travel agents trying to make it in today's competitive world.

Find a host agency: Unless you plan to work for yourself right off the bat, finding a host agency is crucial. This agency will take you under their wing, let you use their software, and possibly provide you with leads to help you build your clientele.

How to Become a Travel Agent from Home Many travel agencies offer the opportunity to work remotely or from home. This way you get the benefits that a company may offer while having the luxury of working from home.

This can open up more possibilities for you as well because many host agencies hire nationwide.

Is Becoming a Travel Agent Right for You?

Not everyone is cut out to be a travel agent. If you don't like sales, face-to-face contact with clients, or working long (and unusual hours) is not your thing, then you may want to explore other options.

If, on the other hand, you love helping others plan their vacations, you have extensive knowledge about many different destinations, and you are always willing to further your education, you may be a great fit. Just make sure you are comfortable with a variable income and long hours, especially when you first start.

Common Questions

How do travel agents get paid?
Today, travel agents earn their income from commissions and service fees. Companies that travel agents book their clients with often pay the travel agency a commission. The agency then splits this commission with the travel agent according to their agreement.

Some travel agencies also charge a "service fee" for their services, which may get paid to the travel agent. Each agency has a different pay structure, though, so it's worth researching before accepting a position.

Do travel agents get discounts?
Typically, travel agents don't get "free" travel. They may be able to score certain discounts, especially with companies that want travel agents to recommend them.

But the fare that travel agents often pay is the same that they would offer you should they book a trip for you.

Do travel agents get to travel?
This can depend on the agency and the independent travel agent. Yes, many companies want to garner attention to their facility, so they will run specials to bring travel agents to them. Travel agents who travel are usually the more valuable agents because they have more firsthand knowledge.

Do travel agencies still exist?
Yes, travel agencies exist. In fact, there may even be more travel agencies today, as more and more "internet travel agencies" offer their services.

When you look for a travel agency to work for, make sure it's one with a lot of experience and success rather than one that just started within the last year.

Bottom Line

Working as a travel agent is hard work, but one that can be very lucrative, especially if you love to travel. You'll have to work hard at sales and developing relationships with your clients, but the happiness you provide them by planning the perfect vacation can make the hours and work well worth it.

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