This is a great and important question – that’s why you Googled it!
First and foremost, in 2024, the widely preferred term is “Travel Advisor.”
What’s the difference? While both terms are definitely correct, a travel agent refers to the transactional side of selling travel – the booking. A 2024 travel advisor uses their expertise, relationships, and connections to build a seamless itinerary for their clients.
The travel advisor career is on the rise, and even more so is the luxury travel advisor career.
According to new data released in August at Virtuoso Travel Week, overall sales and bookings for 2023 are outpacing 2022, which also outpaced 2019 before the pandemic. And early bookings for 2024 show no sign of slowing down, according to Misty Belles, Virtuoso’s vice president of global public relations. New hotels, new resorts, and lots of new cruise and expedition ships are coming online with creative new offerings for luxury travelers looking to make their journeys ever more unique and meaningful.
Everyone who decides to start a career as a travel advisor usually shares this common denominator: a love for travel. Close behind that is the desire for entrepreneurship. Most often, you are the go-to person among your friends and family to book all trips and vacations. Then there’s a realization – one that you may have already had. “I could do this as a job and actually make money.”
So, What Exactly Does a Travel Advisor Do?
A travel advisor manages everything that goes into planning a trip for their clients. From flights to transfers, accommodations, excursions, and itinerary building, they truly have a hand in it all!
- Understanding Client Needs: Travel advisors begin by consulting with clients to understand their preferences, budget, interests, and any specific requirements for their trip.
- Destination Knowledge: Advisors stay informed and up to date about various travel destinations, accommodations, attractions, and activities to provide clients with accurate and up-to-date information.
- Booking Arrangements: Travel advisors handle the booking of flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, and other necessary arrangements. They use booking systems and negotiate with suppliers to secure the best deals.
- Itinerary Building: Based on client preferences, travel advisors design customized itineraries that include flights, accommodations, transportation, and activities.
- Problem Resolution: If any issues or changes arise during the trip, travel advisors act as intermediaries, working to resolve problems with airlines, hotels, or other service providers.
So, now that you have a high-level overview of what a travel advisor does, let's delve into the next step: how to become a travel advisor.
How to Become a Travel Advisor & Choosing a Business Model
There are a few different ways you could become a travel advisor, deciding which one is the right fit depends entirely on you!
- Work for someone else: If you just want to do the job of a travel agent – this option may be for you. Find an existing travel advisor (link to our directory) and become their employee or independent contractor.
- Go on your own: You can become a travel advisor by staying completely independent and starting your own agency. As you can imagine, the pros are flexibility. But the trade-off is having to get all your own accreditations, credentials, and building your partner relationships, which can be a tough battle for new travel advisors.
- Buy into a Franchise: In this case, yes you are buying into the business franchise and are able to use branding, trademarks, logos, etc, but this does not necessarily mean that your business will be "set up for you." You are still starting from the beginning and will have to build a book of business, advertise to potential clients and truly build your business from the ground up.
- Join a Host Agency: This is a very popular choice for both new and experienced travel advisors, especially because it allows you to maintain control of your brand and messaging. There are many pros: the flexibility of being in charge of your business, having a community of other travel advisors, built-in relationships and more favorable commission splits with travel partners, training, support, and more. There are costs and commission splits associated with most host agencies.
How Much Money Do Travel Advisors Make?
Travel advisors make money through commissions, service fees, and affiliate fees.
So, let’s do some math.
Say you book a $50,000 cruise. Your service fee (and yes, you should be charging a service fee) could be $700, and the commission rate from the cruise line is 16% on the commissionable portion of the cruise resulting in a $6,000 commission.
Your host agency or franchise probably keeps a portion of the $6,000 commission unless you are on a 100% plan. If you are at 90%, you would generate $5,400 from that booking. If you book additional components (pre- or post-cruise transportation and hotels, travel insurance, tours), you can earn additional commission – sometimes hundreds of dollars more.
As you can see, the higher the trip cost, the more commission you can make. That’s why group and luxury travel are the two most profitable areas for travel advisors. Understanding this crucial piece at the beginning of your travel advisor career can save a lot of frustration and make you a lot of money.
So, What Should You Do Next?
Now that you have more of a basic understanding of the exciting world of travel advising, it's time to take the next steps toward turning your passion for travel into a rewarding career.
- Self-Reflection: Take a moment for self-reflection. Assess your strengths, interests, and goals to determine the type of travel advisor you want to become.
- Education and Training: Invest in your knowledge and skills. Explore relevant certifications and training programs that can provide you with a strong foundation in the travel industry.
- Networking: Start building your network. Connect with experienced travel advisors, join industry events, and consider becoming a member of travel associations to stay updated on industry trends.
- Choose Your Path: Decide on the business model that aligns with your goals. Whether you opt to work for an existing travel advisor, start your own agency, buy into a franchise, or join a host agency, choose the path that suits your aspirations.
Remember, the journey to becoming a successful travel advisor requires dedication, a passion for travel, and a commitment to providing exceptional service to your clients. Embrace the opportunities, learn from challenges, and embark on this exciting adventure with enthusiasm.
About Gifted Travel Network
Gifted Travel Network (GTN) is a premier luxury travel host agency that provides overall support and ongoing coaching and professional development programs for independent travel advisors. Founded on the principles of collaboration, education, and community, GTN offers a range of resources to empower travel entrepreneurs in building and growing their businesses. From comprehensive training programs to marketing support, GTN aims to foster a community of knowledgeable and successful travel advisors. The organization embraces a model that allows advisors to maintain their independence while benefiting from the collective strength and expertise of the network. Whether advisors are seasoned professionals or newcomers to the travel industry, GTN provides the resources and support to meet them where they are in their respective businesses.
For more information regarding our professional development programs, please visit our programs page. To apply to our new-to-the-industry Travel MBA program, submit your application here.