Despite the increased use of travel websites, travel agents continue to play an important role within the travel industry. They provide travel services to the public including families and business professionals and are expected to follow consumer protection laws. They must also follow the licensing, registration or other requirements established by their state in order to practice.
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Travel agents are responsible for helping their clients plan their vacations, book their transportation and make other travel arrangements. They also use their personal travel experiences to give their clients insight into the best attractions, restaurants and hotels. Some travel agents work from home as independent contractors through host travel agencies. They may also work for tour operators promoting their tour packages.
Travel agents must meet certain requirements depending on where they practice and whether they own or work for a travel agency. Travel agencies require applicants to have a high school diploma, training or experience and good computer skills. There are a variety of training programs available to become a certified travel agent including online courses, colleges and travel schools.
Travel agency owners may be required to obtain a business license and accreditation from a travel industry organisation such as the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) or the International Airlines Travel Agency Network (IATAN).
A travel agency owner must employ a full-time experienced travel agent, pass a specialist exam and submit financial statements or a letter of credit as proof of their agency's net worth to obtain accreditation from these organisations.
Travel agents in California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, and Washington must be registered to practice. The state of Rhode Island requires travel agents to obtain a license.
In addition to the six states that require travel agents to register, there are seven states that regulate travel agencies and agents. Rhode Island requires travel agents and agencies to obtain a seller of travel license. All of these states require travel agencies and agents to submit proof that they are financially sound through a bond, letter of credit or trust account. Other states like California and Nevada require travel agents to pay into a recovery fund set up for consumers.
Many travel agents find success working from home as independent contractors. However, it is important to consider that independent travel agents are required to make a large investment to start and run their own travel agency. Independent travel agents may benefit more from working with a host travel agency that offers them support, access to travel industry affiliations and tools in exchange for a portion of their sales commissions.
Travel agents have the opportunity to become Certified Travel Consultants (CTC), Certified Travel Associates (CTA) or destination specialists by taking courses offered by the Travel Institute. These designations will give them the opportunity to promote themselves as professionals that are dedicated to improving their skills.
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