A career in the travel industry appeals to many because it is an opportunity to learn about the world as part of the education for travel agents. On the surface, it looks like the a travel agent’s job is desk bound. The truth is, the travel agent is a well-rounded advisor when it comes to transportation, accommodations and even the required documentation.
Preparing for a Career as a Travel Agent
In the U.S., no states impose specific licensing or certification requirements for travel agents beyond those regulations that have to do with business licensing and tax compliance. However, established travel offices typically require some background in the industry in the form of experience or some formal training.
Various institutions offer certificate programs that focus on entry-level travel agency work. These courses may be completed in a few weeks or a few months and would suffice to meet the travel background requirement that some agencies want to see on a resume. However, the job of a travel agent is a complex one. While a certificate in travel-related training may get your resume into the active pool, it may not be enough to make it stand out to make the shortlist.
Travel agents need to be comfortable working with computers as all reservation systems for airlines, hotels, cruises and ground transportation are online on proprietary platforms. To complete a client’s reservation request, the travel agent must be able to negotiate various reservation systems and other apps efficiently. Agents must understand legal compliance issues especially for international travelers.
Enhancing your Travel-related Skills
If you are passionate about travel and believe that working in the travel industry in some capacity is your life path, a hospitality degree will put you in position to achieve this goal.
Compared to the certificate programs offered to would-be travel agents, a degree in hospitality management, which could be a two-year associate’s or four-year bachelor’s will provide a complete overview of the entire industry. This exposure will give you a chance to see all aspects of the industry, including hotel and restaurant management, tourism advisory and hotel administration. This may seem a bit too much education for travel agents, but a hospitality degree allows you to cast a wider net when looking for job opportunities.
Outlook for Travel Agents
The world has changed, and with it, the way many businesses are conducted. This is especially true for the travel industry. Being an early adapter of business technologies, most of the tasks of travel agents can be accomplished online, allowing them to work in remote locations with very limited physical interaction with customers. While travel agents may still work in traditional office settings, many have adapted the remote location model.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates a 12 percent decline in the jobs available to travel agents. However, this may be attributed to the re-configurations that the industry is undergoing. Consolidation of travel agencies has ensured that only those who are prepared to embrace greater responsibility will find a place in the industry.
So, education for travel agents does not specify attaining a hospitality degree. However, given changing business conditions that affect the travel and tourism industries, having that extra qualification can be advantageous for survival and career advancement in a competitive environment.