Despite the availability of online discount fares and packages, many travelers prefer using knowledgeable professionals to help them get the most for their money. But travel agents do more for their clients than secure discount travel, and your job will not end with booking a flight to a destination. Your work might include arranging for ground transportation, hotel, tours, and other entertainment. In addition, you will be a primary source for your clients on the following:
- Weather conditions
- Local ordinances/customs
- Custom regulations
- Required papers for travel (passports, visas, vaccination certificates)
- Travel advisories
- Currency exchange rates
Many travel agents are becoming specialists in particular destinations, cultures, or interests. Specialized services are especially helpful to clients who are traveling to exotic destinations. For instance, a travel agent might specialize in African or South American destinations. To become a specialized travel agent, you will need to learn the customs and possibly the language(s) of your destination specialization. Because of rising expectations of travel agents, a college degree is becoming increasingly important in the field.
Travel and Tourism Career Training
To be a successful travel agent, first you must know how to create an itinerary for a traveler. This requires computer proficiency, superb organizational skills, and an attention to detail. Strong written and communication skills are also needed, and an aptitude for sales helps. In addition, travel agencies are increasingly seeking employees with specialized expertise in travel destinations, including expertise in foreign customs, languages, and geography. Any personal travel experience you have had could help you in your career as a travel agent.
Your travel and tourism degree program should include training in sales techniques, cruise line information, reservation systems, travel destinations, and accounting/bookkeeping. Courses should also help you with your written and oral communication skills. Some programs offer courses in foreign languages. You can earn a diploma or associate's degree through vocational or community colleges, or a bachelor's or master's degree through universities. All levels of education are available through online degree programs.
In addition to providing schedule flexibility, online travel and tourism degrees can provide the ultimate preparation for your future career. As a travel agent, you will spend most of your time at the computer, researching travel packages and destinations. Your online degree program can prepare you for this.
Travel and Tourism Salaries and Opportunities
Because of the increasing availability of online travel booking options, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the best travel agent opportunities will be for those who offer specialized expertise for exotic destinations and luxury travel. According to the BLS, median salary for travel agents was $30,130 in 2007, with the top 10 percent earning a median of $47,650.
In addition to their salaries, travel agents usually get reduced rates for their own travel and accommodations. They also receive some free or low-cost trips to learn about vacation sites they are selling. For those who love to travel, these benefits often are a primary attraction to the field.