A high school diploma is typically required for entry. However, many employers prefer formal training. Good communication and computer skills are essential for travel agents.
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. In all cases, employers will provide some on-the-job training on the computer systems used in the travel industry. For example, a travel agent could be trained to use a reservation system used by several airlines.
Some associations offer certification that may help travel agents once they are on the job. The Travel Institute and the International Airline Transport Association’s Training and Development Institute, for example, provide training and professional development opportunities for experienced travel agents. Examinations for different levels of certification are offered depending on a travel agent’s experience.
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.
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.
Detail oriented. Travel agents must pay attention to details 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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition