Travel agents typically have a high school diploma or equivalent, along with additional training received through vocational or technical schools. Classes are offered in full-time and part-time programs, as well as at night in order to accommodate the schedules of working students. Those who pursue four-year degrees in travel hospitality benefit from an increased chance of a successful career in the travel industry.
In addition to formal education, travel agents must be competent in computer and internet technologies, as most reservations and bookings are done online. Customer relationship and interpersonal skills are essential for working face-to-face and on the phone with clients on a daily basis. Other skills required include a knowledge of geography in addition to sales and marketing skills, since many travel agents are independent contractors and must do their own footwork to bring in new clients.
Travel agents should excel at time management and active listening skills. It is important that they meet both clients' deadlines and deliver trip packages that cater to the specific needs of their customers. They should express a genuine desire to help their clients and communicate well through writing and conversation. Knowledge of clerical procedures and word processing systems is also essential.
Travel agents who work as independent contractors must secure approval from organizations such as the Airlines Travel Agency Network before opening their doors to customers. Typically, independent agency owners will need to work for a number of years in an established agency before qualifying to receive this approval. Though not required, many agents belong to professional organizations such as the American Society of Travel Agents. As members, travel agents receive advocacy benefits, learning tools, and increased exposure.