There are about 82,000 travel agents employed in the United States. Agents may work for commercial travel agents, work in the corporate travel department of a large company, or be self-employed. About 17 percent of agents are self-employed.
In addition to the regular travel business, a number of travel jobs are available with oil companies, automobile clubs, and transportation companies. Some jobs in travel are on the staffs of state and local governments seeking to encourage tourism.
Travel agents may begin by working for companies that are involved with transportation and tourism. A number of positions exist that are particularly appropriate for people who are young and with limited work experience. Airlines, for example, hire flight attendants, reservation agents, and ticket clerks. Railroads and cruise line companies also have clerical positions; the rise in their popularity in recent years has resulted in more job opportunities. Those with travel experience may secure positions as tour guides. Organizations and companies with extensive travel operations may hire employees whose main responsibility is making travel arrangements.
Travel agencies tend to have relatively small staffs, so most openings are filled as a result of direct application and personal contact. While evaluating the merits of various travel agencies, you may wish to note whether the agency's owner belongs to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). This trade group may also help provide career-support resources and job referrals.
Advancement opportunities within the travel field are limited to growth in terms of business volume or extent of specialization. Successful agents, for example, may hire additional employees or set up branch offices. A travel agency worker with several years of experience may be promoted to become a travel assistant. Travel assistants are responsible for answering general questions about transportation, providing current costs of hotel accommodations, and providing other information.
Travel agents may also advance to work as a corporate travel manager. Corporate travel managers work for companies, not travel agencies. They book all business travel for a company's employees.
Travel bureau employees may decide to go into business for themselves. Agents may show their professional status by belonging to the American Society of Travel Agents.
Tips for Entry
Visit the publications section of the American Society of Travel Agents' Web site (https://www.asta.org/Publications/index.cfm?navItemNumber=11187) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Visit https://careers.asta.org/jobs for job listings.
Join professional associations such as the American Society of Travel Agents to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.