Tourism English Online

Job Description

Travel agent

  • Hours

    35-40 per week

  • Starting salary

    £13,000 + per year

Travel agents book business and leisure travel for customers. As a travel agent you will sell holiday packages and give travel advice. Your role is to make travel planning easier, and to make sure your customers have the best trip possible.

For this role you’ll need to be well organised and have an eye for detail. If you are interested in travel, and you like planning and organising, this could be the ideal job for you.

To get started as a travel agent, it may be useful if you have GCSEs in subjects like English and maths. It will also help if you have a good telephone manner and some experience of working in a customer service role. Most employers will want to see that you are enthusiastic about travel and the travel industry.

Work activities

As a travel agent, you could be based in a large travel agency in a shopping centre or supermarket, or you could work for a local high street travel agent. For some roles you may be based in a contact centre. 

Your work would include:

  • using your knowledge and creativity to help customers find a suitable package holiday or to plan independent travel
  • checking the availability of the chosen holiday by telephone or computer
  • making bookings using a computer system
  • collecting deposits (a portion of payment) and filling in booking forms
  • contacting customers when their tickets arrive, and collecting final payments
  • informing customers of any changes such as cancelled flights, and arranging alternatives.

You would also advise customers about passports, travel insurance, visas, vaccinations and tours. You may also arrange refunds and handle complaints.

You might choose to specialise in the business travel sector and manage the travel arrangements for people on business. This might involve dealing with documents, ticketing, vehicle hire and accommodation.


Hours and environment

Most travel agents work 35 to 40 hours a week over five days, usually between Monday and Saturday. Part-time hours may be available. You would be expected to have a smart appearance, and would usually be provided with a uniform.

There may also be opportunities to travel yourself. Your employer might arrange short visits to resorts overseas to improve your knowledge of the holidays that you are organising and selling.


Income

Starting out as a travel agent you will usually start on around £13,000 a year.

As an experienced travel agent you could earn between £15,000 and £25,000 a year.

If you are in a senior role, this could be up to £35,000 a year or more. For regional management and senior management positions, you could earn significantly more. Travel agents often get commission based on meeting performance targets. They may also get discounts on holidays.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.


Entry requirements

The most common way to start as a travel agent is to find work with a travel agency and train on the job.

A good general standard of education would be helpful, including some GCSEs (A-C). Employers will want to see that you are enthusiastic, and have the right personal qualities for the job.

It would help if you have experience in customer service or sales, and foreign language skills could also be useful for some work. You could take a college course to help prepare for this type of job. This is not essential, but it may help you when looking for work. Relevant courses include:

  • Level 1 Certificate/Diploma Introduction to the Travel and Tourism Industry
  • Level 1/2 Certificate in Travel and Tourism
  • Level 2 Award in Principles of Customer Service in Hospitality, Leisure, Travel and Tourism
  • Level 2 Certificate/Diploma in Travel and Tourism.

You may be able to start this job through an apprenticeship. For more information, see GOV.UK (Apprenticeships).

People 1st is the Sector Skills Council for hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism and their website, Careers That Move, gives more information and advice about jobs in the passenger transport and travel industries.


Training and development

You would usually start as a trainee travel agent and receive on-the-job training from your employer. This would include a short induction course.

Your employer may encourage you to work towards industry qualifications, such as:

  • Level 3 Certificate in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Management
  • Level 3 (Extended) Certificate/Diploma in Travel and Tourism
  • Level 4 Certificate/Diploma in Management for Travel and Tourism
  • Level 5 Certificate/Diploma in Management for Travel and Tourism.

Once you have been in travel agency work for two years, you could have your continuing professional development recognised by applying to join the Accredited Travel Professional Scheme (ATPS). See the ABTA website for membership details and other ABTA training resources.  

If you work in business travel, you may be able to work towards a qualification offered by the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) in partnership with the Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality.

Qualifications include:

  • Consultant Certificate in Business Travel
  • Leadership Certificate in Business Travel
  • Management Certificate in Business Travel.

Skills, interests and qualities

To become a travel agent, you will need:

  • excellent customer service skills
  • good organisation skills
  • strong communication skills and a good telephone manner
  • the ability to cope with pressure at busy times
  • sales skills, both face to face and over the telephone
  • IT skills
  • an interest in travel
  • a knowledge of geography
  • the ability to work well as a member of a team.

Last edited: 18/06/2015

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