If you love to travel and want to help others plan their dream vacations, becoming a Travel Agent might be the perfect career for you. And the good news is, you don’t necessarily need any prior experience to get started!
I started planning Disney World vacations when I was an Executive Assistant years ago. The only experience I had consisted of planning vacations for myself and offering advice to my friends and family. I had a strong knowledge of theme parks and a dream to make money using my know-how.
I ended up taking a Travel Agent course that was fairly spendy and although it was a great experience, I don’t believe it was necessary to begin my career.
As it turns out, becoming a Travel Agent requires two skills:
- Travel Knowledge
That’s all you need! Go. Live your dreams!
Well, that’s almost all you need. It’s true you don’t need a degree or formal training to become a Travel Agent. You will need to join a Host Agency or Brick and Mortar agency. Joining either will give you the resources and support needed to book vacations and earn a commission. (I suggest you read about the differences between the two types of agencies here and sign up for my free Travel Agent course to learn more!)
Now, some agencies will require some type of work background to be onboarded. Other travel companies may only accept Travel Agents who have traveled to certain destinations recently. (Many Disney-based Host Agencies require their Travel Agents to have visited the theme parks in the last few years, for instance.)
Let’s walk through the steps of applying to agencies, selling your current experience, and becoming a Travel Agent with no experience.
Framing Your Skills as a Travel Agent Applicant
Lack of travel doesn’t mean the agency will reject your inquiry and it shouldn’t deter you from trying. There are many companies that don’t require travel or experience. Most often, agencies are seeking people who show interest in selling packages and are knowledgeable.
The process usually starts with an online application then someone from the team will contact you for a quick call. The “interview” process is typically more of a Q and A where they will ask some questions about your background. This interview will also give you the chance to ask about the agency.
Further, most Host Agencies only employ 1099 contractors. This means the Travel Agents are freelancers, paid a commission, and are not given benefits. The commission is generally cut so the agency receives a small portion in exchange for the resources provided to the Travel Agents. This may sound like a deterrent but it also means you have the freedom to create your own schedule and lifestyle. Generally, the agencies don’t require set hours or commission caps. It also means that Host Agencies are fairly liberal with their application requirements. Hiring more Travel Agents means more packages booked, which means more commission cuts for the agency.
That’s all to say that you don’t need an amped-up resume with 10 years of travel planning experience and loads of travel under your belt. And, any agencies that do require some experience can be satisfied with other work or volunteer experience. There are ways to highlight your current skills should you find an agency that asks for these requirements!
Travel Planning Skills and Knowledge
You can easily showcase your planning skills by highlighting what vacations you’ve planned in the past. It’s especially valuable if you have experience planning other people’s vacations, even as a hobby. You should also consider what niche you would like to focus on when it’s time to find clients. Do you know a lot about cruises, African safaris, or Disney World vacations? Great! Be sure to mention that you already know what niche you will focus on.
During my interview, I used an example of how I built Disney World itineraries to optimize a client’s time in theme parks. I also talked about how I know the details of every Disney World resort and how this helped me personalize booking recommendations.
Conveying this knowledge is a great way to showcase your knowledge and love for travel.
Sales experience can be very useful for a career in the travel industry. You will have an easier time converting prospective clients. It will also be useful when offering your clients room upgrades or other add-ons to their packages. These upgrades usually give you a higher commission as well.
Sales experience doesn’t necessarily mean direct sales either. Retail and service industry workers help customers make buying decisions and it means you have developed people skills!
Side Note: You should only push to sell products that you believe will make your client’s vacation better. Do not push them to purchase expensive rooms or fancy excursions that are out of their budget. Your clients will appreciate your honesty and will choose to use you for future vacations. Earning repeat customers and referrals should always be your main priority!
Customer Service Experience
The biggest misconception about becoming a Travel Agent is that you will spend most of your time building itineraries for clients. The reality is that you’ll spend most of your time managing your client’s expectations.
They might want the lowest price for the highest quality hotel. They might want an itinerary that hits everything on their to-do list. The reality is that there will most likely be bumps in the road. You might not snag every dining reservation or tour on their list. It might rain the whole time and every tour on their itinerary gets canceled.
Life happens and with customer service experience, you have the skills to manage your client’s expectations. They might still get upset, but you can help ease the tension by reminding them that not everything will go perfectly. It may also stop them from taking out their frustrations on you if things go sour. Emphasizing your customer service skills will show your value as a Travel Agent!
Do You Need a Certification to Become a Travel Agent?
Again, you don’t need to go to school or become certified to become a Travel Agent. You can choose to become certified if you would like to have the credentials. The Travel Institute and the American Society of Travel Agents both offer certification programs for agents. The programs range from beginner to advanced certifications and can help build a foundation for your business. It’s also helpful to have a point of contact who can answer your questions while you learn about the industry.
One Thing You Should Not Say During Your Interview
When I started applying to Host Agencies, I spoke with a woman who runs the training program at The Travel Institute. I wanted to know the best way to get into this business with no experience as a Travel Agent.
She asked me what interested me the most about this career. I responded, “Because I love Disney and I love planning vacations for my friends and family!”
“You’re going to have to do better than that.”
It turns out she was right and I’m grateful that she was so blunt with me. There are plenty of Disney fanatics who want to get paid for planning vacations.
In fact, this is a common reaction from travel professionals who own agencies. Their reasoning is that planning a vacation for your family is very different from planning for strangers. You have to create a professional relationship with strangers and get to know their unique situations to plan their vacations.
There are plenty of other ways you can beef up your resume or application when applying to agencies. You should think about what work or volunteer experience that is related to a career in travel. Maybe you have a background in tech so you can easily navigate the booking systems. Or, perhaps you worked the front desk at a business so you’re adept at making customers feel comfortable.
Becoming a travel agent with no experience is possible, but it takes dedication and hard work. By developing your skills, choosing a niche, getting certified, building your network, and gaining experience, you can create a successful career in the travel industry.
Ready to take the next step? Sign up for my free course below and get the foundation you need to start your new career as a Travel Agent!
Interested in learning more about Host Agencies? My Bootcamp covers what kind of benefits Host Agencies provide, how to find the right one for you, and how to apply (even if you don’t have Travel Agent experience!). Learn more about Host Agency Bootcamp here!
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