CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a travel agent.
Is becoming a travel agent right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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Get a High School Diploma
As is typical for most jobs nowadays, a high school diploma is necessary to get started in this business.
Take Classes in Travel Planning
Having a good knowledge base makes you an excellent candidate when you walk into any office (or start your own business). Local community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations are some of the places that may offer travel planning classes. These types of classes focus on reservation systems, domestic and international travel regulations, and marketing. If you plan to start your own travel agency, you will need to take business classes as well.
Get a Business License
You may need a travel agent license depending on your location and business set-up. Even if you don't live in an area that requires a license but are planning to sell in those states, it's worth looking into. If you have a host, you may be able to use their license number.
Pick Your Work Environment
The number of travel agents working independently is increasing very quickly. It is up to you to decide whether you want to work with a brick and mortar company or just through a host company, working on your own.
Become a Destination Specialist
In order to thrive in this type of work, it is advisable to have an area of expertise. You can do this by choosing a region that appeals to you, for example Hawaii, Greece, Mexico etc. You can also choose specific types of travel like tour groups or cruises. Other areas of expertise can be on affordable vacations, luxury vacations, or special interest vacations.
How to become a Travel Agent
An experienced travel agent can provide a lot of useful information to their clients, from car rentals to hotel bookings, to flights around the world.
In addition to any formal education travel agents may acquire, cultivating customer relationships and having interpersonal skills are definite assets in order to be able to work in person and on the phone with clients.
Sales and marketing skills, as well as a knowledge of geography is helpful, as many travel agents are independent contractors and do their own legwork in order to bring in new clients. Since most reservations and bookings are done online, travel agents must also be competent in computer and internet technologies.
Travel agents should express an authentic desire to help their clients and communicate well through writing, active listening skills, and conversation. It is also important that they put together trip packages that cater to the specific needs of their customers, and be diligent in meeting deadlines.
Travel agents who work independently must have approval from organizations such as the Airlines Travel Agency Network before working with clients. They typically need to work for a number of years in an established agency before receiving this approval. Belonging to professional organizations such as the American Society of Travel Agents gives travel agents added benefits, such as learning tools and increased exposure.