According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most effective training for travel agents includes specialized information that will appeal to a specific type of traveler and intensive knowledge about specific locations. A well-rounded education that covers airlines, cruise ships, lodging and tour options allows travel agents to remain flexible and serve the widest number of clients.
While most travel agent jobs do not require more than a high school education, more and more companies are requiring a college degree in addition to business and travel experience. Four-year degrees that are helpful to travel agents include degrees in business, marketing, communications or computers. A bachelor's or master's degree in tourism, hospitality and travel provides an edge to those looking for positions in the industry. Many travel agencies also place importance on the ability to speak foreign languages.
Community colleges and a vast number of online organizations provide travel agent training that can prepare professionals to work as home-based travel agents or for larger agencies. Programs such as those offered by AAA offer courses that concentrate on teaching the ins and outs of the cruise lines, destination geography, how to put together tours, navigating airlines, car rental and hotel reservation systems as well as computer training for the reservation software platforms.
WORLDSPAN, Sabre and Apollo training are vital to be an effective travel agent. These are the computer reservation systems used by all the major carriers, cruise lines and hotel properties worldwide. Home-study online training programs are widely available and are the most common form of travel agent computer training. Schools such as the International Air and Hospitality Academy offer a campus-based educational setting for those who prefer classroom instruction.
There are two main categories of travel agents that serve business and leisure customers. Corporate travel agents can serve one large company or work for a variety of smaller business travelers. They arrange flights, car rentals and lodging for business trips. Leisure travel agents work with individuals, families and groups who are usually looking for vacation packages. Corporate and leisure travel agents can train through any number of online organizations such as the Travel Academy or the Travel Institute.
Additional training that can assist travel agents in being more effective can result in one or more of the designations offered by the National Business Travel Association. Professionals can take courses and complete exams to earn certifications as a Corporate Travel Expert, Certified Corporate Travel Executive and Global Leadership Professional. Courses offered by the Travel Institute can lead to a Certified Travel Counselor designation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends Travel Institute courses in sales and marketing for effective travel agent skills that include detailed knowledge of North America, the Caribbean, the Pacific Rim and Western Europe, popular tourist destinations.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Travel Agents
National Business Travel Association
International Air and Hospitality Academy