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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:
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