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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
2012 Median Pay $34,600 per year
$16.64 per hour
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, 2012 73,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 -12% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2012-22 -8,900

Summary

What Travel Agents Do

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. 

Work Environment

Travel agents work in offices, where they spend much of their time on the phone and on the computer. Most travel agents work for travel agencies, although about 12 percent were self-employed in 2012.

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 $34,600 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of travel agents is projected to decline 12 percent from 2012 to 2022. 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.

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
  • Tell clients about what their trip will be like, including giving details on required documents, such as passports or visas
  • Give advice about local weather conditions, customs, and attractions
  • Make alternative booking arrangements if changes arise before or during the trip

Travel agents help travelers by sorting through vast amounts of information to find the best possible travel arrangements. In addition, resorts and specialty travel groups use travel agents to promote travel 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 arrangements. 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.

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. Other travel agents primarily make corporate travel arrangements for employee business travel. Some work for tour operators and are responsible for selling the company’s tours and services.

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 73,300 jobs in 2012. Travel agents work in offices, where they spend much of their time on the phone and on 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 2012, 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, 12 percent of travel agents were self-employed.

Work Schedules

Most travel agents work full time. Some work longer 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 as well. 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, regulations regarding international travel, and marketing. In addition, a few colleges offer degrees in travel and tourism.

Training

Employers in the travel industry always provide some on-the-job training on the computer systems 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

Some associations offer certifications that may help travel agents once they are on the job. The Travel Institute, for example, provides training and professional development opportunities for experienced travel agents. Examinations for different levels of certification are offered, depending on a travel agent’s experience. Certification for airlines or cruise lines is available from associations such as the International Airline Transport Association’s Training and Development Institute and the Cruise Lines International Association.

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 should have strong organizational skills because they 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 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Travel agents

$34,600

Sales and related occupations

$25,120

 

The median annual wage for travel agents was $34,600 in May 2012. 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 $19,930, and the top 10 percent earned more than $57,400. These wage data include money earned from commissions.

Most travel agents work full time. Some work longer 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 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Sales and related occupations

7%

Travel agents

-12%

 

Employment of travel agents is projected to decline 12 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Clients who want customized travel experiences, such as adventure tours, will continue to require the expertise of agents. However, 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

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.

Employment projections data for Travel Agents, 2012-22

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

Occupational Title

Travel agents

SOC Code41-3041
Employment, 201273,300
Projected Employment, 202264,400
Percent Change, 2012-22-12
Numeric Change, 2012-22-8,900
Employment by Industry[XLS]

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 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Information clerks

Information Clerks

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

High school diploma or equivalent $30,650
Meeting, convention, and event planners

Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

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

Bachelor’s degree $45,810
Secretaries and administrative assistants

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, draft messages, schedule appointments, and support other staff.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,330

Contacts for More Info

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Travel Agents,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm (visited September 21, 2014).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, PSB Suite 2135, 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20212-0001

www.bls.gov/ooh | Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 | Contact OOH

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