The Travel Profession
People have been traveling since the dawn of time. The desire to look over the next hill, to venture down the river, or to see what lies on the other side of the ocean has tempted and encouraged man to constantly explore his or her surroundings in a variety of ways. Whether that venture is completed on a canoe, a raft, a wooden ship, paddle wheel boat, submarine, or airplane, the desire for humans to see new places and to experience new adventures has always been present, and will continue to be so.
Because people in the 21st century love to travel as much as people did hundreds or thousands of years ago, there will always be a need for travel agents, as well as travel agencies to meet those needs. Learning how to start your own home-based travel agent business or becoming a highly skilled and respected travel agent is the foundation of this article. We'll begin with the history and future of the travel industry in this section.
History Of the Travel Agency Profession
In the United States, the travel industry has gone through a number of growth phases. From the mid-1800s, when individuals traversed the country in wagon trains and locomotives, to those crossing oceans in sailing ships, individuals have constantly utilized the services of "agents" to purchase tickets, determine itineraries, and help with scheduling such journeys.
With the growth of airline travel in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the travel agency profession took off by leaps and bounds. Travel agencies were often specialized in particular locations or modes of travel. Whether you wanted to take a three-week cruise to Europe, schedule a flight from New York to Rome, or make arrangements to travel by train from Seattle, Washington to the depths of Peru, a travel agency was the "go to" source for schedules, itineraries, airplane tickets, train tickets, hotel arrangements, and amusements along the way.
Early travel agencies didn't limit themselves to merely purchasing airline tickets for major airlines, but made a highly specialized field out of planning leisure and vacation travel. Tour packages first appeared in the travel industry during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Package reservations and tours enabled travel agents to tack on a 10 percent tax and service charge that was considered the travel agent's well-deserved commission for arranging all the details of such tour packages.
Travel agents kept extremely busy making and confirming flight reservations, confirming train tickets, hotel reservations and entertainment for tens of thousands of clients who took advantage of the availability of specialized travel agents who did all the work when arranging business or leisure trips, either for independent travelers or entire families or groups of individuals.

In the mid-1970s, travel agencies that matched certain criteria were able to utilize a Carrier Reservation System (similar, but not quite the same as the Computer Reservation System). The Carrier Reservation System enabled travel agents, regardless of location, to book, reserve, and print out boarding passes and itineraries as well as invoices for airline travel utilizing a specialized computerized database. Travel agents were able to generate tens of thousands of clients who utilized their services to book flights to anywhere in the world, without having to rely on direct contact with a specific airline.

Retail travel agencies boomed in the 1970s. Students who completed a one-week automation training class were now able to perform the work of agents who has spent decades in the industry doing things "the old-fashioned way." By the 1980s, satellite telecommunication, toll-free numbers, and deregulation created intense competition between travel agencies.

The Computer Era
The advent of the computer usage and availability changed the face of the travel business forever.The Internet gave travel agents access to databases provided by every major airline carrier in the world.Travel agents had entered the automation era, and so did everyday consumers. Thanks to the Internet, every individual today has access to a computer reservation system database that once belonged exclusively to airlines and brick-and-mortar travel agency businesses.

Today however, utilizing airline websites, in addition to travel websites -- including those owned by airlines, such as Orbitz, Hotwire, and Travelocity -- individuals are able to reserve, book, and purchase electronic tickets at the click of a mouse.
The Advent of E-Tickets
In the mid-1990s, a new way of generating tickets was developed. No longer did an individual have to venture to their local brick-and-mortar travel agency, or to an airport, to purchase a ticket to go anywhere in the world. Electronic ticketing, more commonly known as e-ticket or "ticketless" travel, has cut down not only on traffic documents, it enables passengers to purchase his or her own tickets from the comfort of their own home from the airline carrier of their choice.

You may wonder how this new method of travel would encourage an individual to create their own travel agency business, but the transition from traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies to home-based travel agency businesses is experiencing a growing trend, even in today's depressed economy, and in spite of such new technologies as e-ticketing.

The Internet has often been called the "great equalizer," which is true, and it allows small home-based travel agents the opportunity to compete with any of the largest travel agencies advertised in the media today. This is especially true for individual travel agents who specialize or focus in specific niches within the travel industry and their ability to garner search engine dominance.

Today, the only limitations to success as a travel agent, whether working for a company, or out of a home office, is the amount of determination, performance, and quality of the services provided.

In the first decade of the 21st century, home-based travel agents continue to be courted by trade publications, associations, and suppliers for a multitude of distribution channels that include air travel, train travel, and cruise lines both domestically and abroad.
Taking advantage of consumers wishing to engage the specialized services of a travel agent to plan, schedule, and arrange vacations, business travel, or leisure travel enables travel agents working at home in the 21st century the ability to earn a lucrative income, while at the same time avoiding the expense of office overhead, leasing, and commuting expenses.
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Understanding the importance of travel agents within the travel profession, regardless of how their services have changed over the decades, will enable travel agents a secure and respectable future of growth and development as the travel industry continues to change and develop.
Types of Travel
How many different types of travel are there? Oh, let us count the ways!There are so many different types of travel, and reasons for travel, that a travel agent starting his or her own business will be able to specialize in specific niches within the wide world of travel. Whether you want to specialize in independent, family, business, or leisure travel, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Reasons for Travel

People travel for a variety of reasons. Many people travel for business, while others travel for educational or religious reasons. Sometimes, families like to travel for vacations, or to visit Aunt Sally in Nebraska. Others prefer historic travel, and like to follow the routes taken by historical figures from the past, both in the United States, and around the world. Imagine following the route of Lewis and Clark, or traveling the path of Marco Polo or Magellan, or even Ponce de Leon!

Regardless of why an individual wants to travel, there are as many reasons for that travel as there are different travel methods. It doesn't matter whether that mode of travel has legs, wings, wheels, or sails -- people are going to find a way to get where they're going in the fastest -- and sometimes slowest -- ways possible!

Here are just a few of the types of travel that are available to Americans and international visitors every day:
  • Religious travel
  • Adventure travel
  • Historic travel
  • Culinary travel
  • Educational travel
  • Business travel
  • Personal travel
  • Medical travel
  • Vacation or leisure travel

How do people get around? The basic types of travel incorporate land, air or sea travel. However, within each area can be found a multitude of different methods and options.

Air Travel
Don't make the mistake of thinking air travel is limited to jumbo jets. The greatest number of travelers flying from point A to point B utilize the services of airlines and jumbo jets, but many others travel through the air in other forms of transportation, including helicopters, blimps, gliders, hot air balloons, -- and don't forget spaceships.

Whether you want to fly to Antarctica (yes, flights to Antarctica are common during the summer in the southern hemisphere, which, for Americans, means flying in late November through January) or take a hot air balloon over Bryce Canyon in Utah, many individuals enjoy flight no matter how many propellers, or lack of them, are involved.

Thousands of people take helicopter tours of major landmarks around the world, including the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, the ruins at Chichen Itzá, as well as over Rome, various volcanoes in Hawaii, and yes, just about anywhere a helicopter can be rented.

Whether a flight is romantic, educational, or historic, travel agents need to be familiar with all different types of air travel.
Land Travel
Travel by land offers nearly limitless opportunities and options, including traveling by horseback, train, and foot.

Train travel is not as popular in the United States as it is throughout Europe, Asia, or South America, but traveling by train is a great way to travel across country or long distances in luxury. Whether you want to travel the Australian outback, Italy's countryside, or the Great Plains of Mongolia or Tibet, train travel is one of the most popular modes of travel in other parts of the world.

In Canada, the United States, Africa, New Zealand, as well as parts of Europe, South and Central America and Asia, trains are an inexpensive mode of travel that offer various states of luxury. People have been traveling by train for hundreds of years and will continue to do so because of its convenience, pricing, and destination opportunities.

Hiking and horseback riding is extremely popular in many locations throughout the United States and the world, and may incorporate short tours or week- and even month-long tours in the wilderness, depending on location and destination. Hikers are able to transverse great distances in every country by foot, and if you've got the time to spare, there's no better way to see a country than by foot.

A travel agent who specializes in land travel will be able to offer customers and clients a multitude of opportunities, options, and arrangements depending on location, time frame, and the needs and desires of the client.

A travel agent is able to offer domestic and international travelers money-saving ideas and options, as well as tips and guidelines on how to pack and plan for any kind of trip. He or she will also be able to advise on the types of vaccinations, immunizations, or other requirements that may be required when seeking a specific destination or vacation travel itinerary.
Domestic vs. International Travel
No matter where you go, a travel agent will be able to offer you guidance regarding domestic and international destinations. While most such destinations require some sort of air travel, they may require a combination of air, land, and sea travel. Making arrangements for such a vacation is often complicated and requires adherence to a multitude of rules and regulations depending on country, as well as the need for passports and visas.
A travel agent who knows his or her stuff will be able to match travelers to their travel options depending on personality, cost, and ultimate destination and needs for such travel. Travel agents are able to offer clients and customers accommodations in a multitude of destinations, as well as the best modes of getting there.
A travel agent will be able to arrange group tours or independent travel, depending on the needs of the client. Tours may be self-directed, escorted, or engaged in groups, regardless of whether or not they are airline travel or prearranged luxury cruises.
Whether vacations are for leisure or business, or incorporate ground travel, cruises, or group tours, the skill and training of a travel agent will help to enhance the personal experiences of travelers by arranging and taking the uncertainty out of planning where to eat, where to sleep, and which road to take from point A to point B. Travel agents can arrange local transportation for individuals landing in foreign airports, or direct them to the nearest bank, embassy, or travel agency in a host country.
Regardless of what brings a visitor to a specific destination, a travel agent who understands the benefits and disadvantages of domestic and international travel, as well as the methods of traveling by air, land, and sea, will be able to offer potential clients and customers the best choices and options for their needs. The ability of a travel agent to advise and guide potential travelers in a variety of situations, destinations or circumstances will rely on his or her skills.