How to be a travel agent

Here’s everything you should know before becoming a travel agent.

If you’re someone who spends their days scanning flights, loves hotel rewards points, and in general, is a fervent traveler, you’ve probably wondered how to become a travel agent. And while it’s true that living in the age of Expedia means travel agents are not as vital as they once were, people use them a lot more than you might think. Just because travelers aren’t calling up an agent every time they need to book a quick flight doesn’t mean they don’t want to consult an expert for a big trip. This holds especially true when it comes to honeymoons or bucket-list trips that have a lot of moving parts — coordinating tour companies, translators, or multiple resort stays, for example. It’s often easier to leave the logistics to someone else: travel agents.

You don’t need a specific employment background to become a travel agent, so if you’re looking for a fresh career start, that’s totally OK. You have to start somewhere on your path to becoming a travel agent, and the sooner you jump in, the sooner you’ll build your client base. On the other hand, if you’re hoping to parlay your experience in a semi-related industry, be it marketing or hospitality, that can help because you’ll have even more context for your new gig. Either way, this can be a rewarding career path (with some fun perks), so here’s what you need to know to become a travel agent.

Formal Training Needed to Become a Travel Agent

While some four-year colleges, community colleges, and trade schools offer tourism certifications, it is not a requirement for those trying to become a travel agent. Certificates of tourism can be very helpful, but so can previous training in marketing, hospitality, or even event planning. Ultimately, your knowledge of destinations, sales, itinerary planning, and booking software will be crucial for your career as a travel agent.

In terms of the training time you need to put in before becoming a fully fledged travel agent, it depends. You could start your career right after high school, or you could put in one to four years to earn a certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree in tourism. Of course, you could also change course from a related job, and morph your experience as, say, a destination wedding planner into a career as a travel agent.

Training Programs Available

You could take classes with a company like The Travel Institute to earn your certification. Not only will they teach you the basics of planning itineraries, but they’ll also make sure you’re learning about new cultures, world geography, and experiences you can have all over the world. They’ll also help you decide what business route you want to take.

How to Become a Travel Agent: The Logistics

Becoming a travel agent will likely mean starting your own business. On the plus side, it requires relatively little overhead. If you’re becoming a small business owner by opening a yoga studio, for example, you will need to rent a space, deal with permits, buy supplies, build a website, and pay yoga teachers and someone to work the front desk. However, if you’re starting a business you can operate from your living room, there aren’t nearly as many upfront costs.

You will have to think about what type of business you want to become. Do you want to incorporate or become an LLC? Would you rather be a sole proprietor? Incorporating takes the most effort, and is often the most expensive. Becoming an LLC is a good happy medium, because it can help protect you as a business entity without having as many associated costs. Small business owners typically become an LLC to protect their personal assets. If you get sued as an LLC, someone can come after your business holdings, but can’t come after your house, car, or personal savings.

If you choose to remain a sole proprietor (which doesn’t require any fees or legwork), you are essentially a freelancer or independent contractor. You can be an LLC and an independent contractor, too — they aren’t mutually exclusive. If you want to be an independent contractor, it likely means you’re working as part of a larger host agency, which is smart to do when you’re starting out as a travel agent. Down the road, you can also own a franchise of a travel agency. Owning a franchise might come with more overhead costs, and that would be a reason to incorporate.

If you’re an independent contractor, you should know that your taxes aren’t going to be as straightforward as a full-time employee’s might be. You may have to start keeping track of your business expenses, as you might be able to write them off. You also might not get things like health benefits from your employer. As you plan your new career, consider sitting down with an established travel agent to ask them some logistical questions: Where do they get their health insurance? How do they keep track of their income and expenses? Do they use an accountant to do their taxes? While meeting with the travel agent, you can discuss the pros and cons of working for a larger agency, too. If you’re not sure how to get in touch with other travel agents, consider using social media, like LinkedIn or even Instagram.

What to Think About When You Become a Travel Agent

Once you’ve secured work as a travel agent, you’ll want to think about how you can earn more money and distinguish yourself from other agents. Here are three things to consider as you start your career.

Making Commissions: If you’re working for a larger travel agency as an independent contractor, how do commissions work? Make sure you have this conversation early on before accepting the position. When you’re starting out, you want to make sure the commission rate you’re receiving is similar to the industry standard.

Growing Your Client Base: How do you make more money as a travel agent? Clients, clients, clients. You want happy customers who will return to you every time they want to book a travel experience. You’ll want to keep your clients happy by finding them great deals, curating unbelievable experiences for them, and simply being great to work with.

Establishing a Niche: This is by no means a requirement for becoming a travel agent, but as you establish your career, you may want to consider focusing on a specific niche. For example, perhaps you’re someone who focuses on honeymoon travel, luxury travel, or adventure travel. Your niche can help you attract clients, and it can be anything in the travel realm, as long as there’s a need for it.

Becoming a Travel Agent During the Pandemic

With travel restrictions in place across the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic, now might seem like an unusual time to become a travel agent. However, travelers need more guidance than ever to plan future trips, so your expertise will come in handy as people navigate travel in an ever-changing environment. According to Kristen Korey Pike, a Travel + Leisure top travel advisor, “While a global pandemic may seem like an odd time to join the travel industry, if travel consulting is a career you’ve always wanted to explore, there’s no time like the present.” She added, “With many restrictions still in place, it’s an opportune time to learn the ropes of the industry in order to be properly equipped when travel comes back with a bang.”

How to Become a Travel Agent from Home

What You Need to Get Started

How to be a travel agent

Become an independent travel agent with KHM Travel Group you’ll have everything you need to run a successful home-based travel agency at your fingertips. Our education programs are designed to teach you everything you need to know in order to book travel and build your business, so no certificate or prior travel agent education is required.

You must be a U.S.citizen living in the U.S. with a current and valid driver’s license or state ID in order to become an agent. You will also need a valid credit card in order to enroll and reliable access to the internet in order to access our Agent Portal and CRM systems, along with other supplier booking engines.

A passion for travel isn’t a requirement, but it is usually beneficial in helping agents succeed!

How You’ll Learn to Be a Travel Agent

In our Travel Agent Tip video below, our Director of Education and Programs, Bill, provides an overview of what it’s like to run your own travel business.

The bottom line: Education comes first! Our Learning Management System (LMS) lets you control your travel agent education. Accessible 24/7 from any device, the LMS is an online classroom accessible to all KHM Travel Agents through MyTravelAgentPortal. Everything in the LMS is broken down into courses, and each course is divided into chapters, so the learning process is very structured. When you first get started, you’ll go through our series of Agent Basics courses, which act as a roadmap to guide you through the process of learning the travel industry and how to run your business.

The New Agent courses cover the basics of how to become a travel agent, like getting your business set up, working with clients, compliance, and simple marketing techniques. You’ll also gain a better understanding of all the tools and resources you have available to you as a KHM Travel Agent.

The LMS and our New Agent courses give you the ability to learn how to become a travel agent, when and where its convenient for you. To continue expanding your professional development and travel knowledge, you can take advantage of our weekly webinars, live educational events, and one-on-one coaching program. You can always rely on our team to answer your questions or offer encouragement if you are feeling stuck.

How You’ll Find Prices and Book Trips

How to be a travel agent

KHM Travel Group Agents are all independent contractors, running their own businesses under the umbrella of our booking credentials. Once you are on board with us, our team will help you get registered with our Preferred Suppliers so that you can access their travel agent-only websites. There is no additional cost to register with suppliers, but each supplier does have a set of procedures to follow in order for agents to research trips and book travel. Many of these suppliers allow you to book your clients’ travel directly through their websites. You will have access to many third-party booking engines like VAX VacationAccess.

KHM Travel Group already has established relationships with the most popular travel suppliers, giving you access to exclusive promotions, incentives, and marketing assets. Whether you want to specialize in selling cruises, romance travel, family vacations, or anything in between, we’ll provide you with the knowledge and connections you need to develop your sales.

How You’ll Earn Commission

When you make travel bookings for yourself or your clients, our travel suppliers will pay a commission on the travel sale amount. The exact commission percentage can vary between 3% and 20% of the travel sale amount, with the average being around 14%. Whatever commission we receive, we pay you 80% of that amount to start. After agents have reached $5,000 in gross commissions in a calendar year, they are bumped up to 90% commission. Learn more about commissions and see an example on our commission page here.

KHM Travel Group’s long-standing relationships with our Preferred Travel Suppliers enable us to receive the industry’s top commission payouts, which we pass on to you!

What You Can Earn as a Travel Agent

One of the first questions people ask when researching how to become a travel agent is usually, “can I actually make money doing this?” The answer is yes, and the amount of money you can make is really up to you. Some of our travel agents work this business part-time to plan travel for friends and family and earn a few hundred dollars on those trips. Our top-producing agents turn their travel business into their full-time career and earn thousands in commission each month.

How to be a travel agent

Typically, agents get out of their business what they put into it. This is not an opportunity for someone who wants to make money quickly or by sending their clients to book themselves online. It does take time and dedication, but if you love travel, a travel agent career can bring you long-term rewards.

Check out all the benefits of partnering with KHM Travel Group and learn about our pricing options here. If you are ready to become a travel agent with us, you can get started here or give our team a call 1-888-611-1220.

How to Become a Travel Agent from Home

What You Need to Get Started

How to be a travel agent

Become an independent travel agent with KHM Travel Group you’ll have everything you need to run a successful home-based travel agency at your fingertips. Our education programs are designed to teach you everything you need to know in order to book travel and build your business, so no certificate or prior travel agent education is required.

You must be a U.S.citizen living in the U.S. with a current and valid driver’s license or state ID in order to become an agent. You will also need a valid credit card in order to enroll and reliable access to the internet in order to access our Agent Portal and CRM systems, along with other supplier booking engines.

A passion for travel isn’t a requirement, but it is usually beneficial in helping agents succeed!

How You’ll Learn to Be a Travel Agent

In our Travel Agent Tip video below, our Director of Education and Programs, Bill, provides an overview of what it’s like to run your own travel business.

The bottom line: Education comes first! Our Learning Management System (LMS) lets you control your travel agent education. Accessible 24/7 from any device, the LMS is an online classroom accessible to all KHM Travel Agents through MyTravelAgentPortal. Everything in the LMS is broken down into courses, and each course is divided into chapters, so the learning process is very structured. When you first get started, you’ll go through our series of Agent Basics courses, which act as a roadmap to guide you through the process of learning the travel industry and how to run your business.

The New Agent courses cover the basics of how to become a travel agent, like getting your business set up, working with clients, compliance, and simple marketing techniques. You’ll also gain a better understanding of all the tools and resources you have available to you as a KHM Travel Agent.

The LMS and our New Agent courses give you the ability to learn how to become a travel agent, when and where its convenient for you. To continue expanding your professional development and travel knowledge, you can take advantage of our weekly webinars, live educational events, and one-on-one coaching program. You can always rely on our team to answer your questions or offer encouragement if you are feeling stuck.

How You’ll Find Prices and Book Trips

How to be a travel agent

KHM Travel Group Agents are all independent contractors, running their own businesses under the umbrella of our booking credentials. Once you are on board with us, our team will help you get registered with our Preferred Suppliers so that you can access their travel agent-only websites. There is no additional cost to register with suppliers, but each supplier does have a set of procedures to follow in order for agents to research trips and book travel. Many of these suppliers allow you to book your clients’ travel directly through their websites. You will have access to many third-party booking engines like VAX VacationAccess.

KHM Travel Group already has established relationships with the most popular travel suppliers, giving you access to exclusive promotions, incentives, and marketing assets. Whether you want to specialize in selling cruises, romance travel, family vacations, or anything in between, we’ll provide you with the knowledge and connections you need to develop your sales.

How You’ll Earn Commission

When you make travel bookings for yourself or your clients, our travel suppliers will pay a commission on the travel sale amount. The exact commission percentage can vary between 3% and 20% of the travel sale amount, with the average being around 14%. Whatever commission we receive, we pay you 80% of that amount to start. After agents have reached $5,000 in gross commissions in a calendar year, they are bumped up to 90% commission. Learn more about commissions and see an example on our commission page here.

KHM Travel Group’s long-standing relationships with our Preferred Travel Suppliers enable us to receive the industry’s top commission payouts, which we pass on to you!

What You Can Earn as a Travel Agent

One of the first questions people ask when researching how to become a travel agent is usually, “can I actually make money doing this?” The answer is yes, and the amount of money you can make is really up to you. Some of our travel agents work this business part-time to plan travel for friends and family and earn a few hundred dollars on those trips. Our top-producing agents turn their travel business into their full-time career and earn thousands in commission each month.

How to be a travel agent

Typically, agents get out of their business what they put into it. This is not an opportunity for someone who wants to make money quickly or by sending their clients to book themselves online. It does take time and dedication, but if you love travel, a travel agent career can bring you long-term rewards.

Check out all the benefits of partnering with KHM Travel Group and learn about our pricing options here. If you are ready to become a travel agent with us, you can get started here or give our team a call 1-888-611-1220.

Travel Tips

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Working as a travel agent does much more than put bread on the table. It can help you wrangle serious discounts on your own travel plans, especially if you hold an ID card from the International Association of Travel Agents (IATA) Network, which officially denotes your status as part of the professional travel agent community. If you have one of these ID cards, several travel discounts and benefits are available to you.

Travel Discounts

You can score lower rates on car rentals, cruises, tourist attractions, hotels and airfare if you have an IATA card on hand. Several airlines accept the IATA ID card as a travel industry credential, qualifying cardholders for flight discounts. The following airlines slash airfare for travel agents with an IATA ID card:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alitalia
  • Allegiant Air
  • British Airways
  • Hawaiian Air
  • Iceland Air

Each airline has its own set of rules and procedures for obtaining flight discounts as a travel agent, so call the airline before purchasing a ticket to find out how to use your IATA card to score a reduced price.

Insurance Discounts

As a cardholder, you also automatically receive $35,000 in coverage for travel accident protection, underwritten by the U.S. Fire Insurance Company. You’ll also qualify for discounts on travel insurance through UATP (Universal Air Travel Plan), which offers coverage plans for emergency medical evacuation and repatriation, checked lost or stolen baggage protection and 24-hour worldwide emergency assistance when you choose to travel on an Amtrak train, cruise line or scheduled flight. (Scheduled flights account for regularly planned trips from major or regional airlines. Chartered flights, the alternative, are more flexible and irregular and usually booked by groups for their exclusive use. IATA insurance coverage does not apply to chartered flights.)

IATA cardholders can also purchase additional types of reduced-rate coverage – including excess medical expense, trip delay and primary rental car loss damage, as well as coverage for family members. These discounts apply only if you’re registering for a new, first-time insider’s club membership with UATP.

Education Deals

If you’re looking to further your skills as a travel agent, you can do so at discounted rates if you have an IATA card. All you have to do is include the promo code “TT0050-AGT” and your IATA ID card number in the “special information” field of the online course application form, which you’ll fill out on the IATA Training and Development Institute’s website when you enroll in the course of your choice. The following IATA travel and tourism courses are available to you at a $50 discount if you use your ID card number when you enroll:

  • Training program for foundation in travel and tourism
  • Training program for travel and tourism consultants
  • Training program for managing the travel business

ARC enables U.S. travel agencies to easily ticket flights worldwide on more than 200 airlines.

Participation Requirements

How to be a travel agent

Your agency must be located in and authorized to do business within the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and/or American Samoa.

There is a $2,300 application fee for new agencies. Your agency must also provide a bond, letter of credit or cash deposit in the minimum amount of $20,000.

Your agency must have a designated agency manager and an ARC Specialist, at least one being authorized to work in the U.S. One person may serve as both roles. See the Agent Reporting Agreement (ARA) for more information.

Your agency must provide entity papers, an Employer ID Number and any licenses for local jurisdictions. For more information, see the Industry Agents’ Handbook (IAH).

Join Today

  • Review the eligibility requirements.
  • Review the Agency Reporting Agreement (ARA).
  • Download and complete the application.
  • Submit your application with payment.
  • Ensure you have provided all supporting documents.
  • Keep a copy of the application for your records.
  • Application will be reviewed and documentation verified.
  • An in-person interview will be conducted at your agency.

ARC Verified Travel Consultant

If your agency isn’t ready to start ticketing through ARC, but wants the other benefits of participation, apply to become an ARC Verified Travel Consultant (VTC). You’ll be able to brand yourself as a travel agent, receive an agency ID and be included on ARC’s Agency List, recognized by industry suppliers. The application fee is $195.

How to be a travel agent

I don’t think travel agencies completely understand the resources ARC provides
and the vast knowledge their staff has in the travel industry. Since we are so
new to the industry, having a trusted partner to guide us is very powerful.

– Andrew Appleton, Travel Director, Sandboxx

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How to be a travel agent

KHM Travel Group’s Mission calls us to empower, educate, support and promote independent travel agents. Through our Core Values, we strive to share our knowledge and passion to help agents excel, reach their goals, and be a part of the rewarding, exciting travel industry!

Sell Travel with Confidence

How to be a travel agent

If you’re like us, you absolutely love travel. We want you to be able to focus on just that, sharing your passion for travel and helping others experience the world. That’s why we’ve taken care of establishing a platform of education, support, technology, marketing resources, and industry relationships.

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Use this guide to discover the travel specialist of your dreams.

With an estimated 100,000 travel agents in the U.S., finding the right one to plan your next vacation can seem like a daunting task.

Here are a few tips to help you begin your quest to find the best advisor to suit your needs.

Find an agent in advance.

“The travel business is about experiences and relationships. If you don’t have a travel advisor, establish a relationship before you really need them,” said cruising specialist Mary Ann Ramsey, a 40-year industry veteran and owner of Betty Maclean Travel. Once you find a great travel agent, you’ll want to hold on to them for life.

Ask for references.

Finding an agent who lives in your destination of choice is often a great (and in some cases, very affordable) idea, but be sure to vet them before you send any money. You should always ask the agent for client references who you can reach out to directly to ask about their experience.

When traveling to remote or undeveloped areas, Cheri Briggs, founder of Explore Inc. and a specialist for Africa, suggests using an agent “from your country of residence so you have legal recourse if something goes awry.” If you get scammed, you might not be able to get a refund.

Shop around.

“Don’t just call one tour operator or agent. Call a few to find the best match,” said Kota Tabuchi, managing director at Travel Beyond. “This person can guide you through the process and direct you towards destinations and product that will fit within your parameters (budget, wish list of things to see and do, etc.). The key is finding someone truly independent and unbiased in what they sell — someone who will be looking out for your best interest.”

Look for a specialist.

Most travel agents can book any type of trip, but the best ones have experience with and knowledge about a specific destination. If you’re looking to book a cruise or safari, search for an agent who specializes in them. Each year, Travel + Leisure’s editors compile the A-List, a curated selection of the world’s best travel agents and destination specialists that is organized by regions as well as specialty trips, such as fly-fishing, scuba diving, and honeymoons.

“Shopping for a safari consultant can be likened to finding an attorney or financial advisor; trust is paramount. During the initial consultation, ask a lot of questions, which a good consultant should be reciprocating,” said Tabuchi. “If you don’t know how to find an independent safari consultant, you can also work through a trusted travel agent who may know some safari specialists that they can collaborate with.<

Know your budget.

Some agents will only work with clients who are willing to spend a minimum amount per day—it’s an industry metric that most agents use to determine the total cost of a trip. Stating your budget upfront will give your consultant some parameters to work with.

Find out their fee.

Because travel agents don’t always have the same fee structures, ask in advance what they charge, and whether or not their fee can be applied to the cost of your trip. Also read: How Travel Agent Fees Work

Be open-minded.

A good travel consultant will ask about your interests and fitness abilities before they pitch you any ideas for an itinerary. They might make suggestions for activities or sights that you didn’t have in mind. Listen to their advice — they’re the experts.

As a rule of thumb, the more options you’ll have, the better the experience. The main reason we travel is to develop a better understanding of the world and to appreciate its variety. Remain open to surprises and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. The most memorable and rewarding experiences are often the unexpected.

No matter what career you are in and how good you are doing, you can always improve yourself.

Even Richard Branson has offered advice on becoming better: “Being a good listener is absolutely critical to being a good leader; you have to listen to the people who are on the front line.”

If you want to become a better agent, here are nine tips from other agents that you should listen to who are on the front line:

How to be a travel agent

How to be a travel agent

How to be a travel agent

Be Dependable

“Picking up the phone or quickly answering email is the first step to being a great travel agent,” said Alex Dalton, Travel with Alex, an affiliate of Travel Experts.

“It tells the client a lot about if you can’t even answer their emails in a timely manner. Even if you have to send an email telling them to give you a minute, that is still letting the client know they are important.”

Pay Attention to Detail

“I am a full-service travel consultant and pay attention to detail, but I feel I can do better with this,” said Denise Lorentzen, owner/travel consultant with Dreams Travel Consulting in Hughson, California. “Sometimes we get busy and little things get forgotten. I am working on being better organized with the little details for my clients.”

Be Inquisitive

“[I’m always] asking great questions and really getting to know my clients so I can serve them in the best way,” said Stefany DiManno Ceccato with Largay Travel in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Be Organized

“This one is key if you are doing multi-faceted, very complex FIT’s,” said Dalton. “Using Outlook Calendar or some reminder app helps in a myriad of ways. There will be times you forget stuff, it happens, the app will cover you on it.”

Learn Damage Control

“Damage control is the best skill you can learn because, if you have grace under pressure when the emergencies hit and you keep your cool and the client calm, you have made a loyal customer for life,” said Dalton.

“Being there and ready to help when the snow storm hits or knowing what to do when you are woken up in the middle of the night to fly clients out of a civil strife zone is invaluable, especially as a marketing tool. Keeping calm can make you a huge success.”

For Samarah Meil of Amarillo Travel Network in Amarillo, Texas, spending her own time and money to travel a few times a year to new places has been invaluable.

“Within our Agency I have implemented a reward program to my agents who keep up with continuing education,” said Meil. “We do a monthly drawing within our Agency to reward an agent for completing a specialist program, attending a live training, event or a FAM.”

Meil started incentives after hearing a quote on the importance of growth and leadership by Robin S. Sharma: “Leadership is not about a title or designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”

Be Kind

“I enjoy spending additional time with our customers sharing stories of my own personal experiences at a destination or on a cruise ship,” said Winston Laltoo, CruiseOne Franchise Owner and Vacation Specialist in Orlando, Florida.

“Sometimes, you just have to be creative, know the right person to speak with to get that extra amenity, that space on the airline cleared or the specific tour operator booked,” said Dalton. “You need to sometimes be a go-getter and ask for what you need without being too pushy. Some have mastered this, some have not.”

“No matter what you do you can always be better, it comes down to: Do you want to get better?” asked Tom Karnes, LaMacchia Travel of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Our industry offers so many ways to make yourself a better agent. One of the best ways is to align yourself with an organization or consortium that pushes you to be better via travel opportunities, online training, seminars and networking. When you surround yourself with great agents (and competitors) naturally, it drives you to be better so it becomes the company you keep.”