It seems like such a glamorous career on the surface, but there's quite a bit of work behind the scenes. While many travel professionals can rack up their air miles, there is an actual business to run and clients to service. Like many other businesses, there are different models that exist and I highly recommend you do your homework before joining a travel agency.
So, what's the actual term for a travel professional? Well, it depends on the agency you work with! Common titles for a travel professional:
You may have heard the phrase "Disney travel agent" before and I'll just be up front to share that's NOT a thing. You do not work for Disney or any other supplier; you are an independent contractor with a travel agency. You would be a travel professional who specializes in Disney destinations. A travel agency should help guide you on knowing the guidelines and what to call yourself.
Remember that not-so-glamorous life I talked about? Here are some of the realities of the business.
Unless you are hired as an employee by a travel agency, you will be an independent contractor (which means you technically operate your own small business with the agency you are contracted with) and what I'll be primarily discussing.
Income tends to be 100% commission-based in many cases and suppliers pay out commission after the client travels. Yes, this means you can work with a client for months, even over a year, before receiving any compensation. And yes, it also means if the client cancels you are out that income and don't get paid at all.
This business can impact how you experience your own vacations in the future. Sometimes it's difficult to take off the TA hat.
You'll need patience. It can take a while to get that first booking as well as feeling like you have regular bookings under foot.
You will have to make an investment of your time, probably more time than you anticipate. In addition to quoting, booking, and servicing clients, you'll also need to spend time on marketing and professional development.
As I mentioned above travel agencies have different business models. Some sell the entire globe for destinations and some sell only certain destinations, which typically offers a higher level of specialization in those destinations. Some agencies charge fees to join or have an annual fee, and some do not. Travel agencies offer various levels of education, support, commission levels, opportunities, and culture. You want to find the right fit for YOU!
If you are interested in pursuing a travel career, I've got some questions to ask a potential travel agency as you look around at your options. Remember, you can interview them for the right fit just as much as they will interview you to make sure you're a right fit for them. It's okay to ask questions!
What type of training do you provide?
What can I expect for support?
Do I have access to leadership for questions, etc?
Do you have Seller of Travel licenses as required by select states, if selling to or in those states?
Does the agency carry Error and Omissions (E&O) insurance and if so, am I covered under that policy?
What is your agency culture like?
What destinations or suppliers may I book?
Do I have to sell specific destinations or can I specialize?
What are the commission levels (or splits)?
How often do you process commission payments out to your agents?
What resources do you have available for your agents?
Do you provide leads?
What other costs might I incur?
I don't share this to completely scare you away from this industry, but I do want to be transparent about what you might be getting into. It's work and your income is impacted by your marketing, your network, and building connections so people trust you to book their vacations. It can be a wildly successful endeavor with fantastic opportunities for professional and personal growth, community, and travel!