As anyone who has attempted to travel independently will know, travel can be a complicated affair. In order to get both good deals and quality service, a great deal of knowledge about the industry is required. Many people do not have said knowledge or the inclination to acquire it and that is where the job of a travel agent comes in. The travel agent uses his/her knowledge of the industry, connections and time to provide customers with travel arrangements that suit their needs and their budgets.
Clients range from individual tourists to large companies and though many travel agents are independent some will also work in conjunction with travel groups and hotels and cruise ship companies. The activities performed by a travel agent on a day to day basis varies but will usually involve offering information to clients about various destinations and then planning flights and accommodation for them according to their expressed preferences. It can also involve recommending additional services such as travel insurance, excursions and places to eat. Helping with arranging visa, vaccinations and even currency exchange are also a common aspect to the job.
A travel agent will establish his/her knowledge through a variety of resources from books to the internet. Though not a requirement of the job, many travel agents are themselves frequent travellers and are hence capable of issuing personal recommendations and genuine information about potential destinations.
An Industry in Decline
As more and more people are using the internet for their travelling needs, independent travel without using the services of a travel agent is greatly increasing. This is largely due to the fact that information that the general public used to rely on travel agents to acquire is now simply too widely available online. This is in conjunction with a large increase in the ease of making reservations online, with most companies in the travel industry now offering online booking as standard. Another element of the travel agency industry in the past that is no longer true is that the majority of airlines now refuse to pay travel agents commission. This decline is leading to far fewer vacancies for such work and hence far greater educational requirements that need to be met by potential candidates.
While the minimum requirement is just a high school diploma, increasing competition for places and an increase in the amount of courses now available that are designed for travel agency work, combine to mean that just a high school diploma is unlikely to be enough. Such courses are generally less than a year in length however some colleges do offer bachelors degrees in travel hospitality. Such a bachelor’s degree or one in a subject related to the industry such as geography, communications or foreign language would put a candidate ahead of other applicants.
Those wishing to employ a travel agent will also look for particular characteristics from potential candidates. Being extensively travelled is a big plus, as clients always enjoy being given personal, as opposed to researched, recommendations. Due to the amount of time spent dealing with clients, good communication skills are obviously important. In order to make suitable itineraries for clients, research skills are required and it is important that candidates are detail-oriented.
Agent or Agency?
Many travel agents are not part of a larger company and instead work for themselves. Most who do this will have previous experience but there are exceptions. In order for a travel agency to be set up, approval must be granted by country specific agencies and most countries require that there is at least one experienced travel agent on staff. Many people choose to set up their own agency through the possibility of increased salaries. However it should be noted that a key factor in the profit levels of an agency is the size of the agencies clientele, this can take time to establish and hence the rewards are neither guaranteed nor swift.
Did you know?
- The internet was used by over 90 million Americans last year to plan some form of trip.
- 2.7% of US GDP is attributed to travel and tourism.
- $22,300 is spent every second in the US by resident and international travelers.
- 99.5% of companies in the travel sector have less than 500 employees.