Travel Agents

Summary

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

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 About this section

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 About this section

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 About this section

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 About this section

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 About this section

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
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Travel agents

41-3041 74,100 65,400 -12 -8,700 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

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 About this section

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
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
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 July 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.