If you’ve spent hours and hours online trying to figure out how to become a travel agent, what certification or licensing you need and wanting to know a step by step process for this, then I understand – completely! It wasn’t that long ago that I was in your shoes. I had a great, successful career, was making excellent money but had no passion for what I did. I sincerely wanted to find an entrepreneurial option for myself that would feed my soul, not just my bank account. And planning travel was the clear winner to me.
But there were very few resources that explained how to become a travel agent, what the steps were and what I needed to be legit. In this article, I want to break it down for you. At least for those of you that reside in the United States (sorry to the Canadians – there are differences for you.)
Here’s the good news: there are very low barriers to entry to become a travel agent. You don’t need a professional license, a degree or a certification. This means it’s quick and easy to set up shop and get on with selling travel.
Here’s the bad news: The low barriers to entry means any jo-schmo can do it. So we have a LOT of hobbyists and part-timers in the profession. The spectrum is huge as to the degree of excellence in home based travel agent services. All you need is one bad egg to give the profession a negative reputation. And there are a LOT of bad eggs. LOTS!
Yes – there are thousands of excellent, talented and service oriented travel agents out there – but their excellence is overshadowed by the bad eggs. If you are looking at getting into this business and want to become a travel agent, just know that you will encounter this negative perception.
The starting point is to attain a travel agency credential so that when you book travel for your first client, you will earn and get paid commission. Thus, you want to attain a travel agency credential that is widely accepted by travel suppliers who pay commission. The 2 most widely accepted travel agency credentials are:
- The IATA code: Issued by the International Association of Travel Agents, the IATA accreditation is the most widely recognized seal of approval for travel suppliers and is what they will require in order to pay commission. To learn more about how to get an IATA code, CLICK HERE.
- CLIA number: Issued by the Cruise Lines International Association, the CLIA number is as widely accepted as the IATA number, EXCEPT amongst the airlines. Thus, most travel suppliers will recognize your travel agent status and pay commission if you supply a CLIA number – barring the airlines. To learn more about obtaining a CLIA number, CLICK HERE.
When it comes to obtaining one of these numbers/codes, you have 2 options:
- Obtain one on your own. The upside to obtaining an IATA code or CLIA number on your own is you keep your independence. The downside is that you may not have the credentials to obtain it.
- Align with an umbrella organization like a host agency or a franchise, and fall under theirs.
Option number 2 – aligning with a host agency or franchise – tends to be the obvious choice for people new to the business because they are unlikely to qualify for an IATA code or a CLIA number on their own. Both IATA and CLIA have requirements in the form of past experience and education. Also, many host agencies offer new agent training which is also appealing to the newbie.
Aligning with a host agency is a common choice for experienced travel agents too because there are a lot of benefits for the home based entrepreneur. To learn more about host agencies, check out the website, www.hostagencyreviews.com
In summary, the very first step in how to become a travel agent is to attain a travel accreditation code through IATA or CLIA and that can be done either on your own or through a host agency.
Once you have done that, you will want the following, to become a travel agent. Keep in mind that if you choose to align with a reputable host agency or franchise, they will cover or provide you with all of these, probably for a fee…but it’s a plug and play kind of deal:
- Errors & Omissions Insurance (E&O);
- A Client Relationship Management Tool;
- A booking engine
- Seller of Travel license for certain states (Florida and California if you plan to sell travel to residents of these states)
These are the minimum things you need to become a travel agent in the United States. However, there is a lot to learn about selling travel AND there is a lot to learn about being your own business owner.