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Bureau of Labor Statistics

Travel Agents

travel agents image
Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and admission to activities to those planning trips.
Quick Facts: Travel Agents
2015 Median Pay $35,660 per year
$17.15 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 74,100
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -12% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -8,700

Summary

What Travel Agents Do

Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips. They offer advice on destinations, plan trip itineraries, and make travel arrangements for clients. 

Work Environment

Travel agents typically work in offices, but some work remotely because much of their time is spent on the phone and the computer. Most travel agents work for travel agencies, although about 1 in 10 were self-employed in 2014.

How to Become a Travel Agent

A high school diploma typically is required for someone to become a travel agent. However, many employers prefer additional formal training as well. Good communication and computer skills are essential.

Pay

The median annual wage for travel agents was $35,660 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of travel agents is projected to decline 12 percent from 2014 to 2024. The ability of travelers to use the Internet to research vacations and book their own trips is expected to continue to suppress demand for travel agents. Job prospects should be best for travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for travel agents.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of travel agents with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about travel agents by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Travel Agents Do

Travel agents
Travel agents offer advice on destinations, plan trip itineraries, and make travel arrangements for clients.

Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and admission to entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips. They offer advice on destinations, plan trip itineraries, and make travel arrangements for clients. 

Duties

Travel agents typically do the following:

  • Arrange travel for business and vacation customers
  • Determine customers’ needs and preferences, such as schedules and costs
  • Plan and arrange tour packages, excursions, and day trips
  • Find fare and schedule information
  • Calculate total travel costs
  • Book reservations for travel, hotels, rental cars, and special events, such as tours and excursions
  • Describe trips to clients and give details on required documents, such as passports and visas
  • Give advice about local weather conditions, customs, and attractions
  • Make alternative booking arrangements if changes arise before or during the trip

Travel agents sort through vast amounts of information to find the best possible trip arrangements for travelers. In addition, resorts and specialty groups use travel agents to promote vacation packages to their clients.

Travel agents also may visit destinations to get firsthand experience so that they can make recommendations to clients or colleagues. They may visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants to evaluate the comfort, cleanliness, and quality of the establishment. However, most of their time is spent talking with clients, promoting tours, and contacting airlines and hotels to make travel accommodations. Travel agents use a reservation system called a Global Distribution System (GDS) to access travel information and make reservations with travel suppliers such as airlines or hotels.

The following are examples of types of travel agents:

Leisure travel agents sell vacation packages to the general public. They are responsible for arranging trip itineraries based on clients’ interests and budget. Leisure travel agents increasingly are focusing on a specific type of travel, such as adventure tours. Some may cater to a specific group of people, such as senior citizens or single people.

Corporate travel agents primarily make travel arrangements for businesses. They book travel accommodations for an organization’s employees who are traveling to conduct business or attend conferences.

Work Environment

Travel agents
Travel agents work in an office environment where they spend much of their time on the phone.

Travel agents held about 74,100 jobs in 2014.

They typically work in offices, but some work remotely because much of their time is spent on the phone and the computer. In some cases, busy offices or call centers may be noisy and crowded. Agents may face stress during travel emergencies or unanticipated schedule changes.

In 2014, 83 percent of all travel agents worked for the travel arrangement and reservation services industry, which includes those who work for travel agencies. In addition, about 1 in 10 travel agents were self-employed.

Work Schedules

Most travel agents work full time. Some work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate customers’ schedule changes and last-minute needs.

How to Become a Travel Agent

Travel agents
Good communication and computer skills are essential for travel agents.

A high school diploma typically is required for someone to become a travel agent. However, many employers prefer additional formal training. Good communication and computer skills are essential.

Education

Employers may prefer candidates who have taken classes related to the travel industry. Many community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations offer technical training or continuing education classes in professional travel planning. Classes usually focus on reservations systems, marketing, and regulations regarding international travel. In addition, a few colleges offer degrees in travel and tourism.

Training

Employers in the travel industry always give some on-the-job training on the computer systems that are used in the industry. For example, a travel agent could be trained to work with a reservation system used by several airlines.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

A good way to demonstrate competence for high school graduates with limited experience is to take the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test. The test has no eligibility requirements and is administered by The Travel Institute.

The Travel Institute also provides training and professional certification opportunities for experienced travel agents. Different levels of certification are offered, depending on a travel agent’s experience. Travel agents with limited experience can become a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) after completing a series of classes and exams. For those with at least 5 years of experience, the more highly advanced Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) certification can be achieved. Both the CTA and CTC require continuing education each year to maintain certification.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) offers the Travel and Tourism Professional (TTP) designation, which requires varying degrees of experience depending on the achieved education level. The designation remains valid for 2 years and requires continuing education credits. 

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers three levels of certification: Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). Each level requires a certain amount of training and product knowledge.

Some states require agents to have a business license to sell travel services. Requirements among states vary greatly. Contact individual state licensing agencies for more information.

Other Experience

Some agencies prefer travel agents with firsthand experience visiting a country. These agencies especially prefer travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers, such as groups with a special interest or corporate travelers.

Important Qualities

Adventurousness. Travel agencies that specialize in exotic destinations or particular types of travel, such as adventure travel or ecotourism, may prefer to hire travel agents who share these interests.

Communication skills. Travel agents must listen to customers, understand their travel needs, and offer appropriate travel advice and information.

Customer-service skills. When customers need to make last-minute changes in their travel arrangements, travel agents must be able to respond to questions and complaints in a friendly and professional manner.

Detail oriented. Travel agents must pay attention to details in order to ensure that the reservations they make match travelers’ needs. They must make reservations at the correct dates, times, and locations to meet travelers’ schedules. 

Organizational skills. Travel agents often work on itineraries for many customers at once. Keeping client information in order and ensuring that bills and receipts are processed in a timely manner is essential.

Sales skills. Travel agents must be able to persuade clients to buy transportation, lodging, or tours. Sometimes they might need to persuade tour operators, airline staff, or others to take care of their clients’ special needs. Earnings for many travel agents depend on commissions and service fees.

Pay

Travel Agents

Median annual wages, May 2015

Sales representatives, services

$51,540

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Travel agents

$35,660

 

The median annual wage for travel agents was $35,660 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,200.

These wage data include money earned from commissions.

Most travel agents work full time. Some work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate customers’ schedule changes and last-minute needs.

Job Outlook

Travel Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Sales representatives, services

7%

Total, all occupations

7%

Travel agents

-12%

 

Employment of travel agents is projected to decline 12 percent from 2014 to 2024.

The ability of travelers to use the Internet to research vacations and book their own trips is expected to continue to suppress demand for travel agents. An increasing amount of travel is also expected to be booked on mobile devices.

However, the sheer number of travel and review websites can make travel planning a frustrating experience for some consumers. This may lead to an increasing number of people turning to travel agents to help filter through the options and give personal recommendations. 

Job Prospects

Job prospects should be best for travel agents who specialize in specific destinations or particular types of travelers, such as groups with a special interest or corporate travelers.

Some job opportunities might result from a growing number of experienced travel agents reaching retirement age.

Employment projections data for travel agents, 2014-24

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Travel agents

SOC Code41-3041
Employment, 201474,100
Projected Employment, 202465,400
Percent Change, 2014-24-12
Numeric Change, 2014-24-8,700
Employment by Industry[XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of travel agents.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
Information clerks

Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties such as maintaining records, collecting data, and providing information to customers.

See How to Become One $32,050
Meeting, convention, and event planners

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

Meeting, convention, and event planners coordinate all aspects of events and professional meetings. They arrange meeting locations, transportation, and other details.

Bachelor's degree $46,840
Secretaries and administrative assistants

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff.

High school diploma or equivalent $36,500

Contacts for More Info

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Travel Agents,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm (visited September 30, 2016).

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