Whether you're interested in working as a travel agent at an established business or beginning your own home-based business, you have multiple opportunities to generate and experience knowledge and skills. Take the time to learn every aspect of the travel business and familiarize yourself with the variety of travel options and opportunities, as well as growing trends in the travel industry today.
In addition, learning the basics of business marketing and promotion will help you to succeed as a travel agent, regardless of where or how you work, and will enable you to find clients and generate sales. Because every travel agent may have different needs or desires, it's difficult to suggest exactly how an individual should approach skills and training development in the travel industry.
The minimum requirement for a travel agent is to have a high school diploma or GED. Be advised that some established travel agencies do require individuals to have college degrees in travel or business, though in most situations, on-the-job training is provided, including use of the reservations system. Training for travel agents is available through a number of options, including:
Online training courses
Regional Occupational Programs (ROP)
Self-taught travel videos and DVDs
Supplier-sponsored education opportunities
Trade shows and conventions
The National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA) also offers training specially designed for home-based travel agents.
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is a large travel organization that offers courses for professional certification and designations in a wide range of fields. In addition, you may wish to look into cruise line training, such as that offered by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which offers certification programs for those wishing to specialize in the cruise industry.
Developing your skills will also mean a constant effort to learn and keep up with growing trends and developments in the travel industry and in marketing and promoting such trends. You should also be well-versed in business basics and be able to create a business as well as a financial plan for its growth and development. You should be aware of basic financial banking methods and small business rules and regulations that may apply to your community, county, state, or federal guidelines. When starting your own small business, look to resources such as the Small Business Administration for valuable information.
It also goes without saying that a successful travel agent is personable, friendly, open, and willing to compromise, as well as offer potential clients and customers a wide range of options and choices when it comes to their travel arrangements. This means that you, as a travel agent, must also be dedicated and show initiative and creativity when it comes to meeting such needs.
Attending travel schools, online courses, or certification programs may require you to occasionally attend seminars, workshops, or meetings that will help enhance professional knowledge and skills. The travel industry is constantly changing, so a successful travel agent must also be able to grow and change right along with it.
A skilled travel agent must also be aware of the rules and regulations regarding various modes of travel and requirements, rules and travel regulations of governments in many destinations, including passport and visa laws and tariffs. In many cases, the travel agent must also keep abreast of political situations as well as be able to offer clients information regarding customs, taboos, clothing suggestions and what to expect when they get to their final destinations.
Access the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents to determine what type of certification, as well as disclosures, contracts, or other legal materials may be necessary for you to start your own home-based travel agency or the requirements that must be met when working for an established travel agency.
Individuals who start a home-based or traditional brick-and-mortar travel agency usually have experienced in some aspect of the travel industry. In many cases, an agent must obtain permission from airline carriers, cruise lines, or rail lines to offer credit for registrations and reservations and to guarantee payment for such services.
The National Business Travel Association does offer three different forms of corporate travel professional certifications, which includes Certified Corporate Travel Executives, Corporate Travel Expert, and Global Leadership Professional.
In order to truly succeed as a travel agent, it is strongly suggested that individuals take either independent or group study courses in various areas of the travel industry, as well as obtain certification from programs that specialize in regional travel that may include Asia, the Caribbean, North America, Western Europe, and the Pacific Rim. The trend for many agents today is to specialize in destination travel, which will help enhance the services that you, as a travel agent, provide potential clients.
Determining the specific requirements, or certifications that will designate you as a professional travel agent will require a little bit of effort on your part, depending on where you live. The type of travel that you specialize in as well as your location and what type of business you run will also determine your potential salary.
A travel agent should be able to offer potential clients a multitude of travel services in every area of travel, including ground, cruises, air travel, and tours. However, the travel agent may also specialize in particular types of travel services, including making actual travel reservations, hotel or land tour reservations, cruise reservations, or designing a customized vacation experience for clients complete with itinerary, dining, lodging, and entertainment.
|Popular Travel Services|
Popular methods of ground travel include train, driving, and yes, even horseback or camel trains. Cruises are available to destinations around the world and ship size, speed of travel, and capacity will vary widely. Individuals may choose to join tours to various destinations, and these tours can range from a week-long horseback ride in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, to a several-hour tour of London's Piccadilly Circus.
Many travel agents specialize in services for specific continents. For example, one travel agent might specialize in all types of tours, cruises, and air travel to Asia, while another will be particularly educated in planning walking tours of popular South American tourist locations. Another may specialize in the Greek Islands, or in American Civil War battlefield tours.
Choosing a particular niche or specialty is often a great way for new travel agents to get their feet wet and to explore the possibilities and potential of travel services that may be offered to clients. A travel agent must assimilate and understand large amounts of information to make optimal travel arrangements for customers.
A travel agent, regardless of specialty, must be able to answer all kinds of questions in a number of fields. He or she must be able to help create, arrange, and sell travel services that may include package tours, purchasing airline tickets, cruise line packages, train tickets, hotel accommodations, sightseeing itineraries, translation agents, private and group tours, and more.
Today, consumers continue to utilize the services of travel agents to provide customized services, as well as planning sometimes-complex itineraries to extremely remote or multiple countries or destinations. Travel agents are also responsible for booking other modes of transportation at destinations, both for independent travelers and travel groups.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2008-2009 states that travel agents who specialize in modes of transportation and travel destinations, as well as focus on specific types of travelers, have better chances of success than those who don't. Job outlook for travel agents is expected to remain constant through the year 2016, because travelers planning full-blown vacations continue to rely on travel agents to provide expert services to plan and arrange the small details that can make a trip a success or a disaster.
Travel agents who are able to offer travel guides, arrange for escorts, and help explain the ins and outs of traveling in various countries are worth their weight in gold to vacationers who may not understand aspects of travel in certain locales or cultures.