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How to Become a Travel Agent

How to Become a Travel Agent

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How to become a certified travel agent?

Anyone today can go online and book a flight, make a hotel reservation and buy passes to a theme park. Tickets can be paid for and printed at home. Eye-popping pictures of exotic resorts and vacation rentals can be viewed from the comfort of your home or convenience of your office. But it takes a skilled and certified travel agent to put together the best possible travel package that will save money, time and trouble.

By taking a short course online or at a local community college, an exciting and financially rewarding career as a professional travel agent is easy to launch. And for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, opening your own travel agency can be close at hand.

While it is technically possible to call yourself a travel agent without obtaining a license or certification, that may not be the way to start a successful career or business. Employers require potential hires at the entry level to have the basic skills and knowledge of the travel business. Additionally, anyone thinking about opening their own agency - brick-and-mortar or online - must also check into securing any necessary business licenses, tax identification numbers, insurance, etc. before posting an open-for-business sign.

Step 1 - How do I become a travel agent?

There are two possibilities. One is to check the classified ads and apply for a job at a travel agency. Sure, to get a good job in a business that offers lots of prestige and perks is not easy. But any job at a travel agency - answering the phone, greeting clients at the reception desk or just doing clerical work - will give you a foot in the door. It is invaluable experience that will get you started on the road to travel agent status.

The second and most tried-and-true method is through education. Most of us who are not travel professionals have no idea of exactly what a travel agent must do each day. Most of us can’t imagine just how complicated it can be when trying to arrange an overseas trip for a CEO who has to visit 7 capitals on two continents in 5 days. And most of us would be overwhelmed at the thought of putting together an air-and-sea package - with pickups and transfers, special diets and accessible accommodation - for a group of 100 seniors who want to take a Caribbean cruise. By completing a travel agent training program, these tasks will be no problem.

Step 2 - How do I become a certified travel agent?

The certification process for travel agents is similar to those in other professions. For example, you can call yourself an accountant without having the CPA designation. But to get a good job with a prestigious company or be successfully self-employed, the certified public accountant (CPA) title is required.

The most recognized indicator of achievement in the travel field is successfully passing the National Travel Agent Proficiency (TAP) test. That exam was developed by two of the biggest names in the business - The Travel Institute and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). Travel agent training courses prepare students for this exam, which is the equivalent of certification.

Training programs cover assorted subjects and teach students the basic skills needed to perform as a travel agent. One of the topics covered is how to operate various computer reservations systems, such as Sabre, Worldspan, Galileo and Apollo. Travel terminology and how to read timetables and schedules from all corners of the world are explained. How to coordinate all pieces of a total travel package that includes air, rail, cruise, auto rental, tours and more are discussed. And many methods of finding just the right resources are explored.

The best formula for success as a travel agent echoes that of most other professions. You need a combination of education and experience. Once you have the knowledge and have spent quality time on the front line, you will be ready to climb the corporate travel ladder or start your own travel business.


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