Do you have the travel bug? Do you find that you’re constantly counting down the days until your next adventure?
If so, a career as a travel agent could be on the cards for you!
Whether you’re an independent travel agent or you’re hired to work for a tour operator, you’ll not only get to advise others on where to go on their next holiday but also experience the wonders of the world.
So, if you’re curious about finding out if this is the right path for you, keep reading our guide below!
Is it the Right Job for Me?
Before you dive headfirst into the travel sphere, you’ll need to figure out whether becoming a travel agent is the right job for you – indeed, you might find that you prefer living the luxury than planning and selling it.
To thrive in the role, you’ll need to have excellent communication skills and be able to sell the dream. Generally speaking, you must be a people’s person that’s easy to talk to and likeable. After all, clients will be coming to you for your expert advice, so you don’t want to seem unsure around them.
That said, you aren’t expected to know every angle of the globe; most travel agents specialise in a certain area which allows them to familiarise themselves with everything a particular country has to offer. You can also take this one step further by focusing on family or corporate holidays.
What Qualifications Do I Need?
While many colleges and universities offer courses and undergraduate degrees in travel, tourism and hospitality, they aren’t a necessity if you want to become a travel agent. You could simply gain work experience straight after high school or take self-study IATA training courses to start your career as a travel agent.
Meanwhile, experience in other customer-facing roles is advantageous but, ultimately, your knowledge of destinations as well as your sales and negotiation skills will be crucial for your career as a travel agent.
What Skills Do I Need?
As a travel agent, you’ll need a specific set of skills to gain consumer trust and loyalty. Some of these include:
- Organisational skills: Working in a travel agency requires great organisational skills. Not only do you have to put together itineraries, but you also need to handle a large number of bookings at the same time. This involves many tasks involving contracts, itineraries, invoicing and more.
- Patience: Patience is a must in any customer-facing role! You never who could walk through the door and test your limits. For this reason, having a great deal of patience is ideal when working in a travel agency – you must know how to handle difficult and demanding characters with ease.
- Interpersonal skills: To ensure you get repeat clients, you must be able to establish a trusting relationship with your clients. Therefore, being personable and approachable will create an open channel of communication between you and your customers, making it easier for you to carry out your duties and identify their travel needs.
- Enthusiasm: What sets an exceptional travel agent apart from another is their enthusiasm. If you’re excited about a particular destination, chances are your clients will be excited, too! So, to ensure you’re doing your job properly, you should only work with locations that you’re truly passionate about. For example, if you’re a Disney fanatic, you could specialise as a Disney travel agent.
- Writing skills: Travel agents will do a lot of writing and, therefore, need to be able to tailor content on the spot. For example, if you’re preparing a tailored itinerary, you will need to create words that jump off the page and convince the client to purchase your package. Additionally, a lot of your work will be handled via email, and you’ll need great spelling and grammatical skills to do so – unfortunately, a regular spell-checker won’t keep you from committing common typos!
- Customer service: Naturally, a travel agent must have great customer service skills, especially since you’ll be engaging with lots of different people on a daily basis.
- Attention to detail: If you’re the type to bypass the fine details, you can kiss your career as a travel agent goodbye, as the smallest oversight could be disastrous to a client’s holiday. When dealing with sensitive information like passport details, credit card numbers and travel dates, you must ensure that you double and triple-check anything that goes through your hands. You don’t want to be responsible for ruining someone’s holiday of a lifetime now, do you?!
How Do I Land a Job?
While many think the role of travel agents is becoming less significant with the rise of travel bookings sites like Expedia and Booking.com, there’s still plenty of room in the market for experienced professionals – especially when it comes to important trips such as honeymoons.
So, if you’re looking for your break into the travel world, you could find work at a local travel agency, a Virgin (or other well-known brands) concession or a tour operator.
Alternatively, you could set up your own online shop – however, without a large network and experience, it’s tough to say how successful this route will be.
How Much Will I Earn?
When starting your career in the travel industry, you can usually expect to earn just above minimum wage. However, as your skills and experience develop, you can earn a much higher salary through commissions and bonuses.
In the UK, starting salaries range from £19,000 to £26,000, depending on the company’s size, location and market. With experience, this figure can rise to £40,000.
In the USA, the average pay for a travel agent is $38,700 per year, which can increase to around $68,000 with further experience.
How Can I Advance My Career?
To advance your career as a travel agent, you’ll need to continue learning and keep up to date with events within your areas of expertise. You will also need to continue growing your pool of contacts and clients. By doing so, you will naturally get promoted within your team, or potentially branch out and set up your own travel firm or decide to work from home on an independent scale.
Ultimately, there are many avenues that you can take working as a travel agent. The main thing to focus on is finding your niche, perfecting your craft, growing your network and reaching your full potential.
The world of travel and tourism is very lucrative, and by working in this field, you can lead an exciting and adventurous professional life. What’s better than getting paid to travel the world?
Are you a travel agent or looking to become one? Do you have any tips for fellow travel professionals? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!