According to the US Dept of Labor:
Key points to remember:
*Training at a postsecondary vocational school, college, or university is increasingly important.
*Travel agents increasingly specialize in specific destinations or type of travel or traveler.
*Keen competition for jobs is expected.
The minimum requirement for those interested in becoming a travel agent is a high school diploma or equivalent. Technology and computerization have increased the training needs, however, and many employers prefer applicants with more education, such as a postsecondary vocational award.
Many vocational schools offer full-time travel agent programs that last several months, as well as evening and weekend programs. Travel agent courses also are offered in public adult education programs and in community and 4-year colleges. A few colleges offer bachelor’s or master’s degrees in travel and tourism. Although few college courses relate directly to travel or tourism, a college education sometimes is desired by employers to establish a background in fields such as computer science, geography, communication, foreign languages, and world history. Courses in accounting and business management also are important, especially for those who expect to manage or start their own travel agencies.
The American Society of Travel Agents offers a correspondence course that provides a basic understanding of the travel industry. Travel agencies also provide on-the-job training for their employees, a significant part of which consists of computer instruction. All employers require computer skills of workers whose jobs involve the operation of airline and centralized reservation systems.
Experienced travel agents can take advanced self-study or group-study courses from the Travel Institute, leading to the Certified Travel Counselor designation. The Travel Institute also offers marketing and sales skills development programs and destination specialist programs, which provide detailed knowledge of regions such as North America, Western Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Rim. With the trend toward more specialization, these and other destination specialist courses are increasingly important. Contact info: The Travel Institute, 148 Linden St., Suite 305, Wellesley, MA 02482.
Other ways to get started in the field:
Some employees start as reservation clerks or receptionists in travel agencies. With experience and some formal training, they can take on greater responsibilities and eventually assume travel agent duties. In agencies with many offices, travel agents may advance to office manager or to other managerial positions.
Job Outlook: Cons:
Employment of travel agents is expected to decline through 2014. Most openings will occur as experienced agents transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Because of the projected decline in employment and the fact that a number of people are attracted by the travel benefits associated with this occupation, keen competition for jobs is expected.
The Internet increasingly allows people to access travel information from their personal computers, enabling them to research and plan their own trips, make their own reservations and travel arrangements, and purchase their own tickets. As a result, demand will decline for travel agents who simply take orders, such as booking tickets for a specified date and time. Also, domestic airlines no longer pay commissions to travel agencies, which has reduced revenues and caused some agencies to go out of business. This change also has led many travel agents to begin charging fees for their services.
Job Outlook: Pros:
To justify paying fees for travel agent's work, customers expect travel agents to provide good service and travel expertise.
Opportunities may be better for agents who specialize in specific destinations, luxury travel, or particular types of travelers such as ethnic groups or groups with a special interest or hobby. Many consumers still prefer to use a professional travel agent to plan a complete trip; to deal with some of the more complex transactions; to ensure reliability; to suggest excursions or destinations that might otherwise be missed; to save time; or, in some cases, to save money.
Several factors should offset the adverse effect of Internet travel arrangement and the loss of revenues from airline bookings. For example, spending on tourism and travel is expected to increase over the next decade. With rising household incomes, smaller families, and an increasing number of older people who are more likely to travel, more people are expected to travel on vacation—and to do so more frequently—than in the past. Business travel also should rebound from recession and terrorism-related declines as business activity expands. Business travel also should increase as U.S. businesses open more foreign operations and businesses increasingly sell their goods and services worldwide. In addition, luxury and specialty travel should increase among the growing number of Americans with the available time and money for these more expensive trips.
Another positive factor is the increasing affordability of air travel. Greater competition among airlines, especially from low-cost carriers, has brought airfares within the budgets of more people. In addition, American travel agents now organize more tours for the growing number of foreign visitors. Also, travel agents often are able to offer various travel packages at a substantial discount.
The demand for travel is sensitive to economic downturns and international political crises, when travel plans are likely to be deferred. Therefore, the number of job opportunities for travel agents fluctuates. However, the number of travelers has risen recently, possibly reflecting demand from consumers who delayed travel because of terrorism and safety concerns. Demand for travel remains volatile, though, and trends could change at any time.
Experience, sales ability, and the size and location of the agency determine the salary of a travel agent. Median annual earnings of travel agents were $27,640 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $21,600 and $35,070. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,180, while the top 10 percent earned more than $44,090. Median earnings in May 2004 for travel agents employed in the travel arrangement and reservation services industry were $27,490.
Salaried agents usually enjoy standard employer-paid benefits that self-employed agents must provide for themselves. When traveling for personal reasons, agents usually get reduced rates for transportation and accommodations. In addition, agents sometimes take “familiarization” trips, at lower cost or no cost to themselves, to learn about various vacation sites. These benefits attract many people to this occupation.
Answered By: edith clarke - 1/27/2007