How to Become a Travel Agent
Good communication and computer skills are essential for travel agents.
A high school diploma typically is required to become a travel agent. However, employers may prefer to hire candidates who have sales experience or relevant certification or education. Communication and customer service skills are essential.
Travel agents typically need at least a high school diploma to enter the occupation, but employers may prefer to hire candidates who have a college degree or who have taken courses related to the travel industry.
Community colleges, vocational schools, and industry associations may offer technical training, certificates, or continuing education in professional travel planning. In addition, some 4-year colleges offer degrees in travel and tourism. Courses usually focus on reservations systems, marketing, and regulations regarding international travel.
Employers in the travel industry typically provide on-the-job training that lasts at least 1 month. This training covers topics such as how to operate 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
High school graduates with limited experience may demonstrate competence by taking the Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test. The test has no eligibility requirements, but study and preparation may be required. The test is administered by The Travel Institute.
The Travel Institute also provides training and professional credentials for travel agents at three different experience levels. These credentialing programs are the Certified Travel Associate (CTA), Certified Travel Counselor (CTC), and Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE). To maintain the credential, each program requires continuing education annually.
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) offers credentialing and educational programs for those seeking to become a travel agent. ASTA offers the Verified Travel Advisor (VTA) program and the ASTA Roadmap to Becoming a Travel Advisor.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) offers four levels of certification: Certified (CCC), Accredited (ACC), Master (MCC), and Elite Cruise Counselor (ECC). Each level requires a certain amount of training and product knowledge.
Some states require travel agents to have a business license, to register with the state, or to meet other conditions. Requirements vary by state. Contact individual state licensing agencies for more information.
Some agencies prefer to hire travel agents who have extensive traveling experience. These agencies especially prefer travel agents who focus on particular destinations or types of travelers, such as groups with a special interest or corporate travelers. Agencies also may prefer to hire travel agents who have sales experience.
Communication skills. Travel agents must listen to clients’ travel needs and offer travel advice and information that meet those needs.
Customer-service skills. Travel agents must be able to interact with clients and respond to questions and complaints in a friendly, professional manner.
Detail oriented. Travel agents must ensure that the reservations they make are for the dates, times, and locations that match travelers’ schedules.
Organizational skills. Travel agents often work on itineraries for many clients at once. Ability to keep information in order and to ensure 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.