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Travel Agents

California Occupational Guide Number 213
Interest Area 8
1996
THE JOB

Constantly changing air fares and schedules, and a proliferation of 
vacation packages make travel planning difficult and time consuming. 
Consequently, travelers often turn to TRAVEL AGENTS for assistance in
making the best travel arrangements.

Travel agents encourage people to travel and help them plan and prepare for
the trip.  Agents help clients define their travel interests and needs, 
including time and budget requirements.  They work out tentative plans and
suitable alternatives and then make all the arrangements.

Agents book clients on cruises and tours; they organize group tours and 
design trips for individuals.  Travel agents consult a variety of published
and computer-based sources for information on departure and arrival times, 
economical fares, car rentals, and hotel ratings and accommodations.  
Sources include maps, official guides, tariff books, computer terminals, 
and other reference materials to obtain schedules, fares, and related 
information.  Agents make airline, hotel, and car reservations.  They make
the reservations and issue itineraries using computerized reservation and 
ticketing systems similar to those used by airlines.  They also compute 
costs and take deposits.  Ticket Agents can customize a vacation or travel
plan by arranging special accommodations, adapting a schedule to fit client
needs, and designing group packages and tours.

Agents inform clients about customs regulations, passports, visas, 
immunization requirements, and currency exchange rates.  They offer tips on
climate, prices, what to bring or buy, and attractions worth seeing.  They 
keep up-to-date by traveling, reading travel publications, and attending 
industry seminars and trade shows.  Travel agents may specialize in one 
region or in one form of transportation.


WORKING CONDITIONS

Agents work indoors and usually share offices with several other agents; 
interruptions and lack of privacy are common.  Travel agents spend most of
their time behind a desk conferring with clients, completing paperwork, 
contacting airline and hotels for travel arrangements, and promoting group
tours.  Working with people can be difficult and demanding, especially with
hard-to-please clients.  Work may be done three or four times due to 
travelers changing their schedules.  They may be under a great deal of 
pressure during vacation seasons.  Self-employed agents frequently work 
long hours.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is the leading trade 
organization serving this industry.  ASTA membership is by company (agency)
only.


EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

Well-qualified travel agents are somewhat in demand, but the job market can
be more competitive when economic downturns and political crises occur.

The following information is from the California Projections and Planning 
Information report published by the Labor Market Information Division.

Estimated number of workers in 1993            14,480
Estimated number of workers in 2005            18,390
Projected Growth Percentage 1993-2005             27%
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005   4,560

(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)

The multi-billion dollar travel business is one of the largest industries 
in the country.  Spending on travel is expected to increase significantly 
during the next ten years.  Much of the travel will continue to be business
related; as business activity expands so will business related travel.  At 
the same time more leisure, longer and more frequent vacations, shorter 
workweeks, and early retirements will also give people more time to travel 
for pleasure.  And as some of the working population find it more difficult
to take extended vacations, many travel organizations will gear programs 
around shorter trips.  The abundance of travelers from abroad has also 
increased the need for multi-lingual staffing in some areas.


WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS

Agents normally work eight hours a day, five days a week.  This may include
Saturdays.  In addition, many agents frequently work overtime.  
Inexperienced agents receive from $825 to $1,800 a month, depending on 
their background and training.  Those with at least three years' experience
earn between $1,500 and $2,825.

Fringe benefits usually include paid vacations, holidays, and sick leave, 
and may include health insurance, pension, profit-sharing plan, annual 
bonus, or commission.

After one year of employment, agents become eligible for a variety of 
travel benefits.  Each year they may take a limited number of airline trips
at reduced rates.  They may be able to arrange discounts on hotel 
accommodations, car rentals, tours, and cruises.

Agents may also go on special free or low-cost group tours sponsored by 
transportation carriers, tour operators, and government tourist bureaus.  
These are designed to familiarize agents with particular geographical areas
and to promote new travel services.


ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING

Most employers prefer applicants with previous travel agency experience,
but some hire trainees.  At least some knowledge of basic operations is 
required.  Agencies in which ticket sales and reservations are a major 
portion of the work often hire former airline ticket or reservation agents.
Vacation-oriented agencies, and others in which the agents' role as travel 
advisor is paramount, prefer applicants who are familiar with the standard 
agency reference books and popular tourist areas.  They must have the 
ability to evaluate as well as sell a packaged cruise or tour.  These 
agencies may hire graduates of travel training programs who have had 
instruction in all of the basic skills.

Prospective travel agents should have at least a high school diploma.  Some
college education, in addition to travel training, is desirable.  
Vocational schools offer 3 to 12 week full-time programs, as well as 
evening and Saturday programs.  Travel courses are also offered in public
adult education programs, community colleges, and universities.  The 
Institute of Certified Travel Agents offers travel correspondence courses
leading to certification as a certified travel counselor, as well as a 
designated specialized program.

Courses in computer science, geography, foreign languages, and history are
most useful.  Courses in accounting and business management are also 
important for those who want to manage or start their own travel agencies.

Summers spent traveling, working in a hotel or resort, or as a tour guide 
provide an introduction to travel industry operations.

A love of travel attracts many people to the field.  But to succeed, agents
must be able to convey their enthusiasm to the customer and have a genuine 
desire to be of service.  Since agents deal with the public, they 
must be friendly, articulate, and well-groomed.  To handle the technical 
aspects of their work, they must be well-organized, accurate and meticulous
about following up on details.


ADVANCEMENT

Experienced agents may advance to office or branch manager.  Those with the
right combination of capital, business skills, and a substantial following 
of satisfied clients sometimes open their own agencies.


FINDING THE JOB

Travel school graduates receive formal and informal placement assistance, 
although no one is guaranteed a job.  Some schools announce the graduating 
class in industry publications and arrange interviews with employers who 
contact the school.  Others simply post job notices and leave it to 
students to respond.

All Job Seekers should check the classified section in newspapers and travel
magazines, make direct application to travel agencies, and register with 
the Job Service component of the local office of the California Employment
Development Department.


ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION

American Society of Travel Agents
1101 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 739-2782

Institute of Certified Travel Agents
148 Linden St.
PO Box 812059
Wellesley, MA 02181-0012
(617) 237-0280


RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES

Airline Reservation & Passenger 
Service Agents                  No.  99


OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES

DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1)
Travel Agents               252.152-010

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
Travel Agents                    430210


Source:  State of California, Employment Development Department,
         Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
         (916) 262-2162.
Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides


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