What is a Travel Agent ?
Travel agents make dreams come true, provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and take the hassle of travel out of the equation for leisure and business travelers alike. They arrange the tiniest of details and solve problems, allowing travelers to pursue their aspirations without the burden of handling all the specifics of their trip. If you are interested in how to become a travel agent, consider the main responsibilities of the profession:
- Book airfare, lodging, car rental, excursions for clients
- Collect and process payments
- Keep clients up to date on changes, weather conditions and other key
information about their trip
- Ensure clients are aware of specific travel requirements, such as passports, visas and necessary vaccinations
- Address and resolve any complaints
Travel agents may work at a desk at an agency office, or they may have the option of working from home, since most of their work is done at a computer or by phone. Some corporations also employ their own travel agents to manage executive business office, so there are agents who work in their own office.
Top Skills That A Travel Agent Must Have
Customer Service: You grow your client base by making customers happy, and ask them to refer your services to their friends. If, for example, a client’s flight is canceled while they are traveling to an old friend’s wedding and you’re able to quickly re-accommodate them, you’ve potentially earned a client for life. Without a doubt, they’ll share the story of their stressful experience, and how you stepped in and saved the day. You must always stay on top of your customers’ needs.
Organization: Ideally, you’ll be managing multiple clients at any given time, so it’s important that you keep impeccable files and notes on each of them to avoid confusion. When a client calls with a question about their upcoming trip, you must be able to quickly access their information to provide an accurate answer.
Persuasiveness: Some clients might have bigger expectations than what they can realistically afford. It will be your job to guide them toward trips or alternate travel dates that better suit their budgets. You might also find yourself needing to negotiate pricing or accommodations with hotel concierges or airline agents, so you’ll need to know how to make your best case to get a positive outcome.
Computer Skills: You will spend much of your time looking up itineraries and schedules, so you must be adept at navigating different systems and platforms. You’ll also want to manage electronic folders with client-specific information, so you should know the best ways to save data where it can quickly be accessed and updated.
Active Listening: You’ll need to be able to understand why a particular excursion is not available at a given time or why a refund isn’t available, so you can thoroughly explain it to your client. You also need to understand your clients’ expectations and desires so you can do your best to meet them.
Becoming a Travel Agent
Step 1: High School Requirements
High School Courses for Travel Agents
People who are interested in become a travel agent should consider taking these three high school courses:
World Geography: This will provide some insight into where global landmarks are located, and why people should want to see them. You’ll also get a bit of flavor for different cultures that can help you educate clients before they travel.
Accounting: It’s possible that you’ll want to own your own agency, so you need an understanding of how to manage your books.
Computer Courses: Since your work will mostly be done via computer and telephone, take classes that can help you best learn programs and systems so you will be able to take advantage of their full functionality to help you stay organized, and work smarter and faster.
Formal Education Requirements
In the United States, there is no required certification program to become a travel agent, so there is no test that must be passed before you can work in the field.
Unfortunately, that means that anyone can call themselves a travel agent, which can lead to bad experiences for clients. And employers may prefer candidates who have had some formal education in the field. However, there are different certifications you can earn, such as a Certified Travel Association (CTA) or Certified Travel Counselor (CTE).
These programs require you to take a certain number of courses, as well as continuing education courses, to keep your certification. There are several other certification programs available as well.
Step 2: Get Official Training
Travel and Hospitality Management Associate Degree program 2 years
You can also opt to earn a Travel and Hospitality Management Associate Degree.
Your local community or technical college might offer this degree. Generally, it takes about two years to complete, and you’ll have access to hands-on learning opportunities, as well as internships, that can help launch your career in the travel industry. And, if you decided to further your education, many of the credits you earn can transfer to a four-year institution.
If the above working conditions, responsibilities and skill sets appeal to you, and you’re interested in the travel industry, becoming an agent might be a good fit for you.
General Education Requirements (18 Credits)
- European History: Napoleonic Period to the Present
- Applied Mathematics
- College Mathematics
- English Composition: Expository Writing
- European History to 1815
- English: Research and Writing
Core Courses (30 Credits)
- Applications of Computers
- Accounting I
- Accounting II
- Introduction to International Business
- Introduction Tourism & Hospitality
- Front Office Management
- Food and Beverage Management
- Principles of Microeconomics
- Principles of Macroeconomics
Language Courses (12 Credits)
The calculated cost of a travel and hospitality management associate degree program is $19,200 – $35,400.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Travel Agent and How Much Does it Cost?