The travel industry typically has been a highly sought after career path, and there are essential steps that must be taken if you want to become a travel agent. Becoming a travel agent does not require a specific educational background, but some formal training must be obtained so that you have knowledge and training of industry-specific travel reservation computer programs. However, because of the rise in popularity of do-it-yourself online travel arrangements, most larger travel agencies and corporate travel service companies only hire agents who have earned a four-year college degree in hospitality and tourism.
Many travel agencies offer specialized travel agent training programs. Some of the travel agency programs are offered at a discounted price if the student agrees to work for that agency for a specified amount of time, usually one or two years. Community colleges, vocational schools and a plethora of online outlets also offer travel agent educational and training programs. However, when you’re checking into travel agent training programs, make sure that the training course or program is recognized by the International Air Transport Association, IATA, the International Airlines Travel Agent Network, IATAN, and the Cruise Lines International Association, CLIA. Travel agent training program curricula typically includes topics such as geography, types of travel, industry reservation systems, travel regulations, business operations and marketing.
You don’t have to obtain any certifications to conduct business as a travel agent. However, to better market yourself as a travel agent and get hired at larger travel agencies, there are some certifications that can be obtained. A travel agent can be earn a Certified Travel Associates, or CTA, which is an entry-level certification, a Certified Travel Counselor, or CTC, which is a mid-level certification, and a Certified Travel Industry Executive, or CTIE, which is an upper-level certification. To obtain CTA certification, you must have 18 consecutive months of full-time industry experience, pass the CTA exam and participate in yearly requirements to maintain certification. To obtain CTC certification, you must be CTA certified, have five years of full-time industry experience, pass the CTC test, write a 2,000- to 3,000-word White Paper for marketing purposes and maintain yearly certification requirements. To obtain CTIE certification, you must have five years of full-time industry experience, maintain CTA and CTC certification, write an additional 2,000- to 3,000-word White Paper for marketing purposes, pass the CTIE exam and maintain yearly certification through necessary requirements.
While it’s certainly possible to take a travel agent training course and launch a travel agency yourself, it’s unlikely that airline companies, rail companies and cruise lines will approve you as a booking agent to extend credit for reservations and to ensure payment unless you have had some experience in the industry with a professional travel agency. The airline industry utilizes the Airline Reporting Corporation, ARC, and the IATAN to issue approvals. To become approved by as an airline booking agent, the ARC and IATAN make sure your agency is financially sound and that your agency has on staff at least one experienced travel agent or travel manager. Most travel agents begin their careers working for an established travel agency, either after an agency’s training program or by starting out as an assistant and working their way up through on-the-job training.