The basic role of travel agents has been making travel arrangements for clients: booking plane flights, reserving hotel rooms, and renting cars. Today the role has expanded into far more elaborate planning, providing advice on destination attractions and arranging for theater tickets, sports events, etc. Travel agents book most cruise ship patrons and increasingly are in the business or organizing group trips to resorts or for tours in far off places. Since the airlines stopped paying commissions to travel agents some years ago, many in the industry have turned to booking organized events, specializing in certain destination areas or in demographic groups.
There is no formal educational requirement for travel agents. Many agencies prefer new employees with some background so that they are comfortable handling different types of clients. Vocational schools, some community colleges and online schools offer certification or associates degrees for the travel industry. Much of the training is agency-specific and occurs on the job.
Just over 100,000 travel agents were employed in the United States in 2006. The Department of Labor estimates that two thirds of them worked for agencies or tour planning organizations; and that an additional thirteen percent were self employed.
The projected growth in this industry over the next several years is close to zero. Bookings on the internet have taken a toll, as have electronic tickets and the ability for consumers to plan their own trips utilizing websites. Increasingly the industry will move to booking more elaborate trips for retired baby boomers and others who appreciate having the work done for them.
10th Percentile $18,770
Median Salary $30,570
90th Percentile $47,860
Source: U.S. Department of Labor