What Does a Travel Agent Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Travel agents arrange transportation, accommodations, and entertainment for business and individual travelers after first assessing their needs and desires. Agents may specialize by type of travel, such as leisure or business, or by destination. Travel agents also promote travel packages on behalf of cruise lines, resorts, and specialty travel groups.
Travel Agent Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Book tickets for travel
- Book reservations for lodging
- Handle deposits and payments for bookings
- Stay within the client’s budget
- Review visas, vaccinations, and other travel necessities
- Resolve issues and emergencies
- Maintain accurate records
The main responsibility for travel agents is to book all aspects of travel for their clients, from airline tickets to hotel and car rental reservations, and more. The job involves other details as well. Travel agents typically will handle deposits and payments, and the payments they receive from clients will cover these expenses. This means travel agents need to manage their money well and be sure to stay within the budgets of their clients.
Travel agents also need to assist travelers in making sure everything necessary for travel is in order. This can include securing visas or arranging for vaccinations where they are necessary.
Some travel agents work for vacation destinations and use their experience to help sell travel packages to potential customers. Some work for corporations or other large institutions that need to arrange frequent travel for their employees or other associates.
Travel Agent Salary
Salaries in the field can vary greatly, and those who earn the highest salaries typically have spent years building a loyal base of clients.
- Median Annual Salary: $38,700 ($18.60/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $66,080 ($31.77/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $22,370 ($10.75/hour)
Education, Training, & Certification
There are no specific requirements to be a travel agent, but a bachelor’s degree will open up more job opportunities, and certifications might make travel agents more marketable.
- Education: While no specific degree is required, those with bachelor’s degrees in the hospitality industry or a related field will be more marketable. Most corporate jobs that involve coordinating travel require a bachelor’s degree for employment.
- Certification: After getting experience in this field, there are two popular certifications that will increase your chances of securing employment. The Travel Institute provides education and training that leads to two certifications: Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and Certified Travel Counselor (CTC). Agents with at least 12 months of experience in the retail travel industry may apply for the CTA designation. This may involve completing a 15-module curriculum, which covers ethics, customer needs, planning itineraries, touring the world, and travel insurance. Alternatively, one may take the exam without completing the coursework. The CTC designation allows individuals with at least five years of experience to prove they have the skills necessary to be effective managers. Candidates study coaching and mentoring, conflict management, negotiating, project management, and team building. Passing the CTA test is necessary before taking the CTC exam. To maintain CTC certification, 10 continuing education units per year must be completed.
Travel Agent Skills & Competencies
Being a travel agent is both a sales job and a customer service job. Agents need to serve the needs of their clients while working with vendors—airlines, resorts, hotels, and more—to secure the best deals for their clients. Soft skills related to both types of jobs are beneficial.
- Customer service skills: Travel agents need to sell their value to potential clients, then they need to be helpful and professional in meeting clients’ needs in order build their client base.
- Problem-solving skills: Not all travel plans are straightforward, which means travel agents sometimes need to be creative to meet clients’ needs. As well, delays caused by weather and other unpredictable factors sometimes require agents to make adjustments on the fly.
- Computer savvy: Much of the research and booking is done online, as is some of the communication with destinations, airlines, and more.
- Negotiating skills: Travel agents who work with a lot of the same hotels, resorts, or other travel destinations sometimes can negotiate deals for their clients because of the volume of travelers they send to the destinations in question. Being able to find these deals while still meeting the needs of clients is an important skill to have.
Job opportunities for travel agents are expected to decline by about 12% for the decade ending in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is considerably worse than the 7% job growth projected for all occupations during the same decade. The decline is attributed mostly to the growth of travel websites that allow individuals to more easily compare prices and book their own trips.
The work environment for travel agents can vary depending on the specific nature of their work. Those working for larger agencies or for larger corporations that need to book a lot of travel usually work in a typical office setting. Some independent travel agents might work out of their own homes.
Travel agents usually work full time, and hours follow a typical business week. During busy travel times or if travel arrangements need to be changed or updated on short notice, agents might need to work overtime.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in working as a travel agent also might consider one of the following career paths, listed with median annual salaries:
- Meeting or event planner: $49,370
- Secretary or administrative assistant: $38,880
- Information clerk: $34,520