Travel agents offer a variety of attractive discounts, special rates, insider information and special offers that help them provide the highest levels of expert advice for their customers. On the other hand, travel agents often work on a commission-based salary with no guarantees of success and a high rate of failure. Travel agents earn a median annual salary of $36,990, which is slightly lower that the average of all occupations, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017.
Travel agents receive heavily discounted or even complimentary stays at hotels around the world. Hotels and hospitality chains are happy to extend discounts to agents with the hope that they will enjoy their stay and recommend it to their customers. The rates are typically based on season and availability and will require some flexibility in travel plans. The chance to see the world leads many people to choose a career as a travel agent.
"FAM" or familiarization trips are offered to travel agents in hopes of creating a personal relationship with properties and destinations around the world. Governmental tourism boards, hotel companies, tour operators and airlines provide a certain amount of all-expenses paid trips to a select group of top selling and large agency travel agents each year. The trips are meant to impress the agents so that they are excited to sell the destination or product. The trips are typically offered in the agent's areas of expertise so that they are not wasted on someone who is unlikely to sell the destination in the future.
Travel agent rates are available to anyone with an IATA number. IATA numbers are identification numbers issued by the International Air Transport Association to travel agents granting discounted rates and special access to deals and promotional materials. While the rates are designed to provide agents with a built-in commission on all they sell, they can also be used as an automatic discounted rate for travel agents booking for themselves. Discounts amount to a nice price break on any and all travel expenses for the agent.
When money is tight, security concerns arise or currency fluctuations hit, travel is one of the first industries to suffer. Travel agents must continually deal with the unexpected as it relates to the number of people traveling and the average cost of each trip booked. Because agents work on commission, these swings can affect income. Keeping up with the latest trends is an important part of the job, as is being prepared to reinvent yourself and the product you sell.
Mobility and Relocation
Travel agents can apply their skills and knowledge to nearly any destination, a factor that makes them extremely mobile and able to relocate. World travel experience and time spent abroad are both assets which increase the value of a travel agent in the eyes of travel companies and customers alike. This wanderlust gives travel agents a freedom of mobility unavailable in many other jobs.
Doing What You Love
One of the driving forces behind many travel agent careers is a passion for the job. Getting paid to work in a field that you love is a priceless perk. Passionate agents can convey their love of a destination better than those who are just doing it for the money. This enthusiasm is often transferred to the client who is then more likely to take the trip, enjoy the experience and appreciate the agent's opinions and input. Very few people get to do what they love on a daily basis and make a living doing so. Travel agents value this aspect of the position.
Lack of Job Security
Like most sales positions, the travel agent is assessed on performance. When the numbers go down, your job security might be affected. Online booking engines and discounted packages entice travelers to plan and book their own trips without the assistance of an agent. As a result, travel agents are forced to find niche markets and offer services and specialties that are not attainable any other way. The travel agent as a species is always dodging extinction.
About the Author
Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.
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