How much does it cost to become a travel agent?

Written by marlene affeld
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How much does it cost to become a travel agent?
Cruise lines offer free familarization trips for agents. (cruise ship image by Cristina Bernhardsen from Fotolia.com)

If you like one-to-one contact with customers, selling, and helping people make their travel dreams come true, a career as a travel agent might be a good fit. Many travel agent positions offer the option of working from home. There are many different facets to the travel agency industry and training is available for those who wish to specialise in adrenalin-charged adventure travel, cruise ship packages, and corporate or luxury travel.

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Host Agency Training

Travel agencies look for outgoing, motivated agents who love to travel. New agents are not charged for the training. The host agency offers on-the-job training and most new agents are paid on a straight commission basis. The agency charges customers a service fee for expediting travel plans and the agent will receive a percentage of that fee. Upon completion of training, many agents can work from home, still maintaining their affiliation with the host agency.

Home Study Courses

Several firms on the Internet offer training courses for travel agents. The cost ranges from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. Although they may provide the new agent with the basic education and information to navigate through the maze of travel options and ticketing procedures, they do not provide the hands-on experience of working directly with clients and other agents in an office training situation. The majority of the online classes take approximately 200 hours to complete. Candidates wishing to pursue an online education should carefully research the credentials, certification and reputation of the school.

Computer Reservation Training

Computer reservation system training is a key to the success of a travel agent. Integral to booking flights, training in the operation of WORLDSPAN, SABRE, GALILEO, APOLLO or AMADEUS GDS computer reservation systems is available through firms that specialise in preparing students for the certification exam. Basic training and software update classes are provided by the majority of travel agencies that use these systems. SABRE is the most popular system, used by airlines, cruise lines and travel agencies around the world.

Classes in computer reservation systems are also offered at vocational or community colleges.

Travel Opportunities

One of the best benefits of being a travel agent is being able to travel professionally and take advantage of the huge discounts that cruise lines, hotels and car rental agencies provide for travel agents. These discounts can be as much as 50% of the advertised rate.

The AAA Travel Agent Training Center explains, "In order to use the many benefits available to travel professionals, you must have the Travel Agent ID card from IATAN. This card is issued only to bona fide travel agents who have worked in an agency for a minimum of six months. The travel agency manager will add the employee's name to the IATAN list and when their six month anniversary has arrived, the employee will be given the IATAN application to apply for the card. The IATAN card must be renewed yearly for a nominal fee. The IATAN card is property of the travel agency and upon the termination of employment, this card must be returned back to the agency."

To be eligible for an IATAN card, the agent must be at least 18 years, be an owner or work for an owner of an IATAN registered agency, devote 20 hours each week to the travel industry and make a minimum of £3,250 in a six-month period.

FAM Trips

Part of the appeal of being a travel agent is the ability to go on FAM trips. FAM is a nickname for familiarisation. Cruise lines, destination resorts, convention and visitor bureaus and tour operators offer special trips for travel agents to familiarise the agent with the amenities of their offerings or destinations. Many of the trips are totally free or have a nominal booking charge.

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