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How to Become a Travel Agent

Do you love the feeling of excitement the night before vacation? Are you someone who loves traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures? Do you especially love detailing your trip to friends and family and giving them advice on what hotels or food to eat in certain places? If you answered yes to all of these questions then becoming a travel agent may be the perfect career for you. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to become a travel agent.

Also see: Fastest growing careers

What does a travel agent do? 

Travel agents work closely with their clients to:

  • Give advice on destinations
  • Plan itineraries for trips
  • Find transportation accommodations 
  • Make general travel arrangements for their clients

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How to become a travel agent, step-by-step

1. Obtain formal training

Most travel agents need at a minimum a high school diploma or GED

For the most part, a college degree in a specific travel agent related field such as hospitality can be helpful for context surrounding this occupation. However, it is not necessary or mandatory.

You can pursue a travel agent certification which will teach you how to:

  • Close sales
  • Expand geographical knowledge
  • Communicate effectively with clients
  • Learn the general day-to-day functions of the job. 

The Travel Institute offers the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test which “allows candidates to demonstrate that they have mastered the basics of the travel industry – selling skills, basic geography, and the items/products sold by travel counselors.”

  • 100 multiple-choice question test
  • 2 hours to complete it 
  • Costs $95

2. Decide if you want to work for an agency or independently

Becoming a travel agent means you have a choice between working for a big agency such as TripAdvisor or Expedia or working as an independent contractor. 

There are benefits and drawbacks for both options. 

Working for a big agency

  • Receive a set salary
  • Travel discounts through the company
  • Can use coworkers to help build client relationships
  • Health benefits and insurance 

Working self-employed

  • LLC vs independent contractor
  • Taxes will not be as straightforward as someone working for an agency 
  • Might not receive health benefits
  • Ability to build own client-base
  • Flexible

3. Develop skills and focus on a specialty 

To make yourself stand out from all of the other travel agents, you must find a niche. Find something that you are passionate about to specialize in to be able to create a close-knit community within your client base.

Specialties can include:

  • Honeymoon travel
  • Luxury travel
  • Bachelorette/Bachelor travel

Becoming a travel agent is all about your relationship with your clients. Building strong and steady relationships will  allow you to build your brand. 

Think about it like this – if one person likes you and recommends you to all of their friends that is a lot of positive business! 

Another way to stand out from the crowd of travel agents is to experience first-hand the travel destinations, hotels, and events that you may be recommending to clients. The best way to sell a product or service is to experience it firsthand to know what to recommend to your clients and what is not worth it. Being a travel agent can give you access to deals and discounts for trips so take advantage of them! 

You should be constantly researching and developing your skills so you can continue to thrive and become an expert in your field. 

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Frequently asked questions for becoming a travel agent

How much do travel agents make? 

Travel agents make a median salary of $42,350 per year in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, pay varies depending on several factors including if you chose to work for a travel agency or as an independent contractor. 

In addition, employment of travel agents is projected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than the average for all occupations, according to the  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

How does a travel agent make money? 

There are many ways a travel agent can get paid and it truly is situational to the person and company or lack of company they are working for. 

If working for a company or travel agency, a travel agent will typically make a majority of their money by salary. 

Self-employed travel agents will make a majority of their income by earning commission or charging specific fees for specific services. 

Other ways travel agents can make money is through: 

  1. Service fees
  2. Commissions
  3. Car Rental 
  4. Travel Insurance
  5. Tours
  6. Vacation Packages 
  7. Custom Itineraries

Do travel agents get free trips? 

Unfortunately, travel agents usually do not receive free trips. However, there are usually discounts or ability to keep commission on their own travel plans. 

Do I need a college degree to become a travel agent?

There is no formal requirement for a college degree to become a travel agent. Though travel agents with a college degree might benefit from their degree, it is by no means a requirement. When it comes down to it, your organizational skills, travel knowledge, and friendliness will be the main factors in determining success as a travel agent.

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