A career in the travel industry requires formal training through travel related programs offered at many vocational schools. Before graduates earn an associate's or bachelor's degree, many students will often culminate their training with an internship, which will prepare them for one of the many jobs available within the travel industry.
The travel industry is a diverse occupational field, and many jobs are available, including jobs for travel agents, tour operators and travel wholesalers. Training can be accomplished through technical schools, or through colleges that offer certificates and associate's degrees in travel and tourism.
|Required Education||Vocational, technical schooling, or associate's degree|
|Other Requirements||ASTA certification|
|Projected Job Growth||-11.7% from 2014 to 2024*|
|Mean Average Salary (2015)||$38,750|
Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Most travel agents seeking employment should have formal training in the industry. Formal training is offered by many vocational and technical schools, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). Travel agents must have good people skills and strong verbal and written communication abilities. Attention to detail is essential when compiling an itinerary and travel accommodations. They also use courtesy and professionalism when dealing with clients and travel representatives.
Corporate travel agents strive to make travel plans for busy executives who must travel for work. Many travel agencies specialize in executive travel, finding the best prices on first class and business class tickets. A corporate travel agent must be flexible and provide attentive customer service. He or she must anticipate the needs of an executive and arrange for transportation and convenient accommodation.
Leisure travel agents plan vacations for individuals, families and tour groups. A leisure travel agency may plan golf outings, honeymoons, group cruises and adventure vacations. Leisure travel agents help clients arrange for visas and passports. They find convenient and affordable hotels and plan itineraries with multiple locations. Knowledge of geography, cultures and customs is essential.
Independent travel agents are generally people who have worked for a travel agency and wish to open a business. They usually offer the same services as corporate and leisure travel agencies. Independent agents must gain approval from airlines, cruise lines and train lines in order to extend credit for vacations, according to the BLS. An independent agency must be able to show financial stability and have at least one experienced travel agent on staff.
Employers prefer a travel agent with formal training, according to the BLS. Many online and classroom programs are available. Aspiring travel agents can earn a certificate in travel agent training that prepares them to sit for the National Travel Agent Proficiency exam, developed by the Travel Institute and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). Basic skills in travel are taught, and the student learns how to use a computer reservation system that connects them with airlines, cruise lines hotels and resorts.
For a more formal education, a student can earn an Associate in Applied Science in Business - Travel Agency Operations degree. An associate's degree in travel and tourism is useful for a travel agent who is certified but seeking advancement in the industry. Students of an associate's degree program learn about sales and marketing, the technology used in the travel industry and the cruise industry.
Tour operators plan tours for groups, families and individuals. Generally, a tour operator puts together a package for specific areas of the travel industry, such as cruise lines, RV roundups or adventure tours. Tour operators should understand foreign currency, cultures and languages. People working in this occupation contract with suppliers such as airlines, cruise lines, hotels and resorts to put together a tour package.
Tour operators typically receive training from vocational schools and 2-year colleges. A Tour Operator Certificate program teaches students the theory of travel sales and trends, how to book vacation packages, how to make transportation arrangements and how to access hotels and lodging.
A travel wholesaler negotiates prices for travel agencies, including prices for hotel reservations, airline tickets, cruise line packages and adventure tours. The growing use of the Internet allows travel wholesalers to work more effectively.
A person interested in a career as a travel wholesaler can earn an Associate in Applied Science in Travel, Tourism and Lodging Management degree. Training includes business math and administration, computer training, catering, recreation and entertainment management and gaming operations. An internship in a hospitality setting is required. Because the Internet is widely used in the travel industry, a travel wholesaler should have good computer skills.
There are a variety of careers available to someone who is interested in the travel industry, ranging from travel agents to tour operators. All of these professions require some formal training which can typically be earned through vocational or college programs.