Travel agents are professionals who are knowledgeable about travel planning. Agents work with travelers to find accommodations, flights, cars and other travel arrangements for international and domestic travel. The travel agent salary is great as well. Travel agents have access to special rates offered by hotels and airlines for discounted prices; they are often able to find the lowest prices for travelers. Trips that involve complex details and several connections are often handled by travel agents.
Travel Agent Salary: Overview
Salaries of travel agents vary depending upon experience, location and the demand for services. Reports from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics recorded 2008 average annual salaries to be $30,570. Out of this group, the middle 50% earned between $23,940 and $38,390. The 10th percentile earned less than $18,770, while the 90th percentile earned above $47,860 per year. Travel agents who were employed by larger companies and services earned an average of $30,470 in 2008.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Travel agents who are employed by agencies or services received the best benefits, while self-employed travel agents were responsible for providing their own benefits. Most travel agents also enjoy an extra payment – discounts on travel. These agents receive special discounted rates with specific providers when they must travel for personal reasons. Another advantageous aspect of this profession is the ability to take vacations to provide information; some travel agents are paid to travel to certain places in order to experience them, providing reports after the trip.
Travel Agent Salary: Job Description and Outlook
When travelers search for their own travel information, they will likely have to visit many different websites to compare prices or find the arrangements they are looking for. Travel agents have databases with a plethora of information, allowing them to specifically search for precise criteria, offering quick results. Agents also have access to inside information about airfare sales, flights that are not fully booked, rental car specials and hotel discounts or promotions. Travel agents also assist clients who need to book a trip that is not a simple round-trip ordeal. Multi-city stops are easily booked by a travel agent. These professionals also offer their clients reasonably-priced and reliable travel insurance.
Travel agents must also be familiar with destinations, the customs, culture and other information that may be important for travelers to know. For example, a travel agent should advise travelers to Punta Cana to take bug spray, or travelers to countries with rigorous religious practices about their customs. Travelers who are unaware of important information such as this will rely on a travel agent to provide tips. Agents must also inform travelers of required vaccinations, passport regulations and other requirements for international or cruise travel. Most travel agents have access to information online about such subjects; they may simply print the information out and give it to clients before their departure. Some professionals may choose to specialize in a specific area of travel or specialize in a certain area of the world. Travel agents must keep good records of their revenue to report to the IRS. Accepting tips is discouraged for this reason; however many employers offer a commission and salary package, which usually yields good results in sales.
Travel Agent Salary: Training and Education Requirements
Most community colleges offer accredited on-campus or online courses related to travel agent duties. Some programs for travel agent studies also exist. Students will learn about marketing, management, accounting, communication, travel, foreign cultures and they may also choose to study a foreign language. Some colleges and universities offer an Associate degree in these studies, which is the most common degree sought, next to a certificate. A few colleges also offer a Bachelor or Master degree in travel and tourism; students usually choose a second language to earn a minor in during these programs. Travel agents who do not earn a degree will need to have experience and knowledge about travel and how to book travel arrangements. Knowledge about or experience traveling to certain places is helpful, as is having a second language.
Travel Agent Salary: Certifications
While there is no universal certification or license for travel agents to earn, these professionals must earn the endorsement of airlines, hotels or other travel companies. Travel agencies must have at least one capable travel agent or manager and be financially stable in order to gain approval from travel providers. Classes taken at colleges for specific areas of specialty are also forms of certification; these will prove competence in specific areas for travel agents.
Travel Agent Salary: Professional Associations
The American Society of Travel Agents is one of the most popular professional associations for travel agents. Current information about travel service providers is continually updated. Members will easily have a wealth of gathered knowledge with a few simple clicks. New travel service providers who enter the business will also be reported on, giving travel agents the advantage of contacting them early for approval. While current information is one good reason to join a professional association, another good reason is to gain access to a network of other professionals. Connecting with others, sharing information and learning are all advantages of membership in a professional association. Another popular association is the National Association of Career Travel Agents, designed for seasoned professional travel agents.
Travel Agent Salary: Travel Agent Perks
A travel agent can have a dream job! Getting to indulge in so many different traveling experiences to gain knowledge for your clients can be a blast. Travel agents can be responsible for many things. They arrange your flights, book your cars, flights, and hotels. They also have access to discounts that the average person may not be privy to. Finding the right travel agent can ensure your trip is a blast. While you may be excited about your travels, sometimes the details are not fun. For most of us, we think about the destination while forgetting the little details in between. A travel agent is perfect for this. Telling them the places you’d like to visit and allowing them to coordinate the when and how could be of benefit to you. Your travel agent should have a lot of knowledge about your destination. If not, they can research it. Give them a budget, and they will advise you on the best plan for your trip.
- Great communication skills
- Preferably bilingual
- Good at keeping a budget and scouting deals
Your travel agent must have excellent communication skills. You want someone who not only can keep up with communicating with you but someone good at networking and communicating with business partners as well. Chances are if your travel agent is good at communication, they will have a good network which means access to more discounts. Discounts are what we all want when it comes to traveling! Who doesn’t wish to an enjoyable vacation for cheap?
Reasons to Use a Travel Agent
I’m sure some people are wondering why they should even spend money on a travel agent. Besides the fact that “time is money,” here are a few of the best benefits below.
- You save more money than you may think. Sure you can google a hotel, but because a travel agent has a network of contacts, they will have better deals for you. They even have access to some complimentary things.
- Convenience is a huge plus. If you are not the most organized person, a travel agent can be a massive benefit to you. They also save you the time of searching the internet for deals for hours.
- Less stress! You get help with all the unexpected things. Your travel agent is there from start to finish. So if something goes wrong on your trip, you can have peace of mind. Your travel agent even takes care of things for you while you’re on your journey.
- The little things matter! A travel agent thinks through everything to help your fun and more importantly, allow you to “ball on a budget.”. For instance, one thing that had been recommended by travel agents that you may not think of is booking an Airbnb over a hotel. They can be cheaper and more comfortable. It can also be a bigger space. Airbnb doesn’t mean a little room in someone’s house(unless you are okay with that). You can get the entire home or a place that has a private entrance that only you have access to.
- Passionate about making your trip exceptional. Travel agents can add things to your trip that you either didn’t think about or don’t know. Chances are they will know some cool things to do in the area that you don’t know about.
Reasons to Become a Travel Agent & Final Thoughts on a Travel Agent Salary
Despite what some people believe, becoming a travel agent can be beneficial and rewarding. The field is more stable than people typically assume. Currently, 75% of Americans would use a travel agent to help with their next trip. Although we have the technology right at our fingertips, and we can use things such as Google, more and more people are coming to know the benefits of using a great travel agent. Bill Sutherland, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said: “Although travelers today have myriad ways in which to book their vacations, they recognize the value of working with a professional, experienced travel agent to make sure there is a return on their travel investment and a lifetime of memories to be made.” There also can be a massive benefit if you specialize in international vacations or big group vacations. Because those can be more detailed oriented trips, it can get a little overwhelming for people. Therefore, they are more inclined to ask for help from a travel expert.
Becoming a travel agent can also be a benefit to yourself. Don’t think only your clients have to benefit from your great connections. Being a travel agent can mean budget-friendly trips for you and your family as well. You can take advantage of those connections you have created as well. Lastly, there can be freedom and sound money in being a travel agent. You can have the privilege of making good money from the comfort of your own home, or a nice local coffee shop. A travel agent salary can exceed $45,000 plus the perks of using the discounts you can get through your network. Some agents charge a per hour fee, and some charge one standard fee upfront. The key to this job is building up a network. This may take a while, but when you are there, the money is good.
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