If you thought travel agents were obsolete, you were right — to an extent — says Entrepreneur writer Clint Carter. When sites like Travelocity and Expedia arrived in the mid-’90s, customers no longer needed their local brick-and-mortar agencies. And once airlines had a direct line to consumers, they stopped offering the commissions agents had long relied on. “The internet killed the old-fashioned travel agent,” says Dave Hershberger, chair of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). “It just took them all out of business.” Of the agents that survived, many found refuge in the exploding cruise industry. While customers approached airline tickets as a basic commodity, they looked at ship travel as an experience, and first-time cruise-goers needed all the help they could get sorting through itineraries, dining options and room choices. The old-time role of “agent” began to morph into “adviser.” And once that happened, the industry learned how to adapt and rebuild.
ASK THE PROS:
How much money can you make?
“Host Agency Reviews and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found some common ground in regard to the average salary of a travel agent. The BLS currently lists the average travel agent salary in 2017 as $40,840 with a range of $21,350 and $62,320 dividing the lower to upper 10% of travel agents. These results are very close to HAR’s most recent 2018 travel agent income findings of a $40,377 average among hosted travel agents with 3+ years experience.” —Host Agency Reviews
What kind of experience do you need to have?
“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. 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.” —The Balance Careers
What’s the most important thing to know about this business?
“Among the most critical changes that have happend to the industry: Agencies stopped operating out of storefronts, and they very frequently stopped having employees. Businesses became solely owner-operated, run out of people’s homes. Between 1997 and 2013, the number of agencies with multiple employees fell from nearly 23,000 to fewer than 10,000, according to Skift, a travel-industry research firm. But the number of independent agents actually crept upward, showing a 7 percent gain over roughly the same period. Storefronts are now landing pages, and agents rely on laptops and smartphones to connect clients to large networks of travel suppliers.” —Clint Carter, Entrepreneur writer