Are you considering a new or secondary career? Well, if becoming a professional travel agent is on your shortlist, then you’ve come to the right place to get all the information you need. While this wouldn’t have been a viable option 5 years ago, the travel agent profession is gaining traction as the world recovers from the great recession. The timing couldn’t be better for anyone looking to get started in this profession and experience great success.
If traveling is your passion or you love to assist others to plan their dream destinations, then being a travel agent might be the job for you. With this job, you can have the laptop lifestyle, get paid for what you love doing, help people make lasting memories, learn something new every day, and spend your working hours on a happy topic –vacations. You also don’t need any special training for a job that allows you to travel the world. However, being a successful travel agent is not a walk in the park. It requires commitment, passion, hard work, and a lot of stepping out of your comfort zone.
Before making a final decision, it’s best to weigh the good and bad things about being a travel agent. Without further ado, let’s get started:
10 Pros of Being a Travel Agent
As a travel agent, your main job will be to sell travel to customers –how you do it is up to you. For instance, you can sell your Paris trip while in Paris or the comfort of your home. Some travel agents work from a call center, others work for travel companies that are based overseas, while some go freelance. This freedom of mobility allows travel agents to relocate, which makes it a great career path for expats.
2. Opportunity to travel the world
As a travel agent, it’s important to know the destinations you’re selling. You’ve probably heard of FAM trips. These are discounted trips intended to aid in research and familiarisation so you can sell the destination better. Most of them include an exhaustive itinerary so you can experience everything related to the destination. This makes you much more knowledgeable, not to mention, you’ll be brimming with facts that are more reliable to customers than what’s available online.
3. Travel like a millionaire
Most people work all year and save every dollar just so they can go on an annual vacation. Travel agents, on the other hand, can get free trips from airlines, hotel companies, tour operators, or governmental tourism boards. This is done with the hope that the agent will promote the destination, products, or services to their clients. Note that such trips are only offered to top-selling travel agents with a huge customer base, capable of bringing in business.
4. Travel agents are still relevant
Travel is becoming a more popular activity, with millennials incorporating it into their life goals and budgets. You’ve probably heard that travel agents are a dying breed because of the internet, but nothing could be further from the truth. People get overwhelmed and confused with all the information available online that they aren’t sure which way to go. Those who are looking for an authentic experience abroad will pay to get insights from someone who’s actually been there. Also, travel agents personalize things, help with organizing complex itineraries, understand clients better, and have expert knowledge.
5. An opportunity to be your own boss
If you have the entrepreneurial skills, then being a travel agent is a viable choice. Nothing says work perk like not having a boss, right? Well, most of the people in this profession work as home-based travel agents –whether hosted or independent. Running your own business allows you to set your working hours, giving you extra time for work-life balance. You also get to reap the financial benefits of your efforts.
6. You can work part-time
If you’re looking for a secondary job to earn additional income, then being a travel agent is worth considering. The flexible hours will allow you to keep your current job and build a customer base until you’re ready to go full-time. Even after going full-time, you can still have another occupation, especially during the low season when there aren’t many clients to handle.
7. Job variety
It’s impossible to have knowledge of the entire world; as such, you should take a more specialized route. You can choose to focus on African safaris, cruises, travel & tours for expats in your country, or travel for destination weddings and honeymoons to Hawaii, Fiji, the Caribbean, Paris, Rome, and so on. Being a travel agent is also a versatile occupation. As mentioned earlier, you can work from home, for a local travel agency, for big cooperation, or even while traveling yourself.
8. Potential to earn
Travel agents have the potential to have lucrative jobs. As an employed travel agent, you make money from commissions. Depending on the number of clients you pull in and their commission rate, you can earn more than what other entry-level employees in other professions make. It’s not unusual for a hard-working travel agent to make $80k or even $100k annually. Self-employed travel agents get to set their fees. You can take on extra clients if you want extra cash, or choose to say no to focus on work/life balance.
9. No degree or experience required
No skills or long, expensive courses are required to become a travel agent. A viable career path without all the schooling and student loan debts –who wouldn’t want that! There may be a few local jurisdictions that require certification, but that should take a couple of weeks to complete. Your host agency will provide the necessary training and tools to get started. Even so, it can be an added advantage if you know basic geography and history, and possess people skills.
10. An exciting job
Travel agents get to travel the world, meet people from all walks of life, and create some of the best experiences for others by bringing their travel dreams to life. The job requirement is also always changing with new destinations, activities, rules, and challenges. There’s no room for boredom when you’re surrounded by all this.
10 Cons of Being a Travel Agent
This job is pretty much 24/7. You’ll have clients traveling abroad where time differences could mean being contacted in the middle of the night. Some clients are just difficult and will treat you like you’re their personal butler, calling you to resolve every small problem they have. Regardless, you need to be reachable at all times to ensure your clients are well taken care of. After all, getting that human touch is the added value of booking with a travel agent instead of doing it online.
Travel agents experience stress from all corners. First, they must stay updated on all new traveling information as it develops such as the aftermath of a disaster. During the high season, agents handle many clients at once with different expectations and demands. Those who are employed are under a lot of pressure to meet sales expectations to avoid getting fired. Given that pay is based on commission, you have to push yourself harder to get paid more.
3. Limited progression
Most professions have several advancement opportunities. Unfortunately, when you are a travel agent, the much you can strive to become is a branch manager in your place of work. This is especially true if you work for a local travel agency. The only other means of progression is to get a job with a specific tour operator. The best way to be successful in this industry is to start your own business.
4. Uncertain market
When the economy is down or security concerns arise, the travel industry is the first to suffer. Travel agent jobs are also not recession-proof. People tend to travel less when they’re trying to cut back on spending. Travel agents must continually deal with all these uncertainties as they affect the number of people travelling. Since they get paid on commission, this market instability can affect one’s income.
5. Lack of job security
Travel agents are often assessed on performance. If your sales go down, your job might be in jeopardy. Also, discounted packages offered by online booking engines entice traveller more. This profession is always dodging extinction. As a travel agent, you must find niche markets and offer services that aren’t attainable in any other way.
6. You’ll constantly be away from home
This is especially true for those who are employed. Whether it’s to a FAM trip or a conference, being a travel agent means being dragged all over for education and events. These trips are sometimes sprung on you at the last minute, which forces you to cancel any personal plans you may have. However, if you don’t mind leaving your bed for a chance to mix and mingle with other professionals in some exotic resort, then this is not a con.
7. Exposure to customer lawsuits
Nowadays, customers who feel they’ve been wronged quickly turn to lawsuits to settle disputes. Many businesses and professions have been victims of large lawsuits, and the travel industry is no exception. A client may sue alleging misrepresentation or negligence. While it’s true that you can’t predict what will happen on a trip, remember you’re being paid to provide information and advice for travel. It’s important to have insurance to protect you financially in such scenarios.
8. You control your paycheck
Most professionals know exactly what they’ll get at the end of the month. This makes it possible to plan for financial responsibilities. We already mentioned that most travel agents get paid on commission. Your salary is likely to vary at the end of each month. While others do the bare minimum at work and get paid, you have to put in the effort to make as much. On the flip side, your hard work pays instantly.
If you thought getting sued was bad, you haven’t seen what social media can do. In this digital age, people can share their bad experiences and dissatisfaction with your services on a large, public platform. While it’s common for small mishaps to occur, there are next-level blunders that can be very damaging. You can’t blame customers though. Booking a holiday is something many people wait for all year, not to mention, it’s a huge expense. Anything that jeopardises it can provoke a highly emotional reaction. To avoid all that, strive to offer stellar customer service.
10. A few players dominate the market
This is more of a challenge for the self-employed. The travel industry is very competitive and travel agents have to scramble for clients, considering many now prefer to book a holiday online. Just a handful of companies have a stranglehold on the industry. They have made a name for themselves and attract more clients than anyone else, sucking the life out of start-up agencies and smaller competitors.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.