Travel Consultant Career Info
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent; associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Degree Fields||Travel planning, hospitality, tourism, or related field|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensing requirements vary by state; voluntary certification available|
|Experience||5 years of experience may be necessary to pursue certification|
|Key Skills||Verbal and written communication and organizational skills; attention to detail; basic computer skills for travel reservation systems; knowledge of international travel regulations and currency conversion rates|
|Salary||$35,660 (2015 median for travel agents)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Seasoned and new travelers alike often seek out the advice and assistance of an experienced travel consultant. These professionals, also known as travel agents, offer information to clients and make travel arrangements on their behalf. They may work for existing agencies or pursue self-employment by opening their own agencies. Those who are self-employed may need to spend a significant amount of time seeking new clients. Travel consultants should have strong written and verbal communication skills, attention to detail, organizational skills, basic computer skills for travel reservation systems and knowledge of international travel. The annual median salary for travel agents was $35,660 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pursue Postsecondary Training
Also according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the education requirements for a travel consultant vary by employer, but some form of postsecondary education is typically needed. Prospective travel consultants can find certificate programs that offer travel agent training. Alternatively, an aspiring travel consultant may wish to obtain an undergraduate degree in travel, tourism, business administration or hospitality. Typical classes a travel consultant takes include marketing, sales, traveling procedures, reservation taking, ticketing and geography.
Interning in a travel agency can provide an aspiring travel consultant with first-hand experience in the industry while working alongside professionals. Additionally, learning about languages or cultures can help travel consultants better describe and encourage customers to visit an area. Knowing a foreign language can also assist travel consultants in making reservations or booking other plans by phone when speaking to a person who does not speak English.
Gain Travel Consulting Experience
For a travel consultant just starting out, it is crucial to acquire relevant work experience. Travel consultants may pursue entry-level positions with nearby travel agencies or careers through online travel agencies. Experience is typically required to pursue voluntary professional certification, as well as advance in the field.
Consultants should also obtain firsthand travel experience on commercial airlines, commercial bus lines, long drives and train trips to gain experience traveling in a variety of ways. Additionally, they need to be familiar with how hotels and other lodging businesses operate. After acquiring this sort of travel experience, a travel consultant can properly and honestly answer questions customers may have about traveling from firsthand experience.
Many travel agents choose a specialization within the travel industry. For example, agents may choose to specialize in a niche market, such as planning vacations for families or international vacations.
Organizations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents, can provide consultants with access to a variety of professional resources, including networking opportunities, access to a virtual library, professional advocacy and access to continuing education.
Licensing and Certification
Although not required for all positions, some states require travel agents to obtain licensure to sell travel services. Requirements vary by state, so research the requirements for the professional positions in specific areas.
Voluntary certification can help a travel consultant stand out as a professional in the industry. The Travel Institute offers several levels of voluntary certification to travel consultants. The Certified Travel Associate (CTA) designation can be earned by taking specialized courses, passing an exam and gaining 18 months of experience in travel consulting. The Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) designation requires earning the CTA credential, passing an additional exam and possessing a minimum of five years of work experience in travel consulting. Certification must be renewed on an annual basis.
Consider Opening an Agency
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2014 that 10% of travel consultants were self-employed. After obtaining some work experience and additional education, travel consultants may consider opening up their own agency. This requires a great deal of work, such as obtaining some financial backing, receiving approval from traveling organizations like the International Airlines Travel Agency Network and acquiring approval from lodging and travel corporations.
Travel consultants should pursue continuing education options to keep up with changes in the industry. Maintaining current knowledge about safety concerns in certain areas of the world is vital when it comes to protecting customers. As technology continues to evolve, so do the computer systems used for booking reservations, and consultants must be able to operate new software and databases. Additionally, consultants can take continuing education courses in niche travel specialties to expand their knowledge and better cater to clients, such as courses in accessible travel, gay and lesbian travel and wedding/honeymoon travel. Continuing education may also be required to renew certification.
To sum up, while there are no formal education requirements for travel agents, some form of postsecondary education can be helpful when seeking internships, experience, certification and, eventually, a long-term career in the field.