What do Travel Agents Do

Travel Agents

Travel agents assist travelers by sorting through vast amounts of information to help their clients make the best possible travel arrangements. Travel agents offer advice on destinations and make arrangements for transportation, hotel accommodations, car rentals, and tours for their clients. In addition, resorts and specialty travel groups use travel agents to promote travel packages to their clients.

Travel agents are expected to be able to advise travelers about their destinations, such as the weather conditions, local ordinances and customs, attractions, and exhibitions. For those traveling internationally, agents also provide information on customs regulations, required documents (passports, visas, and certificates of vaccination), travel advisories, and currency exchange rates. In the event of changes in itinerary in the middle of a trip, travel agents intercede on the traveler's behalf to make alternate booking arrangements.

Travel agents use a variety of published and computer-based sources for information on departure and arrival times, fares, quality of hotel accommodations, and group discounts. They may also visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants themselves to evaluate the comfort, cleanliness, and the quality of specific hotels and restaurants so that they can base recommendations on their own experiences or those of colleagues or clients. Many travel agents specialize in specific destinations or regions; others specialize in travel targeted to particular demographic groups, such as senior citizens.

Travel agents who primarily work for tour operators and other travel arrangers may help develop, arrange, and sell the company's own package tours and travel services. They may promote these services, using telemarketing, direct mail, and the Internet. They make presentations to social and special-interest groups, arrange advertising displays, and suggest company-sponsored trips to business managers.

Work Environment

Travel agents held about 60,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of travel agents were as follows:

  • Travel arrangement and reservation services - 72%
  • Self-employed workers - 14%

Travel agents typically spend much of their day sitting, working on the phone and on the computer. Agents may face stress during travel emergencies or unanticipated schedule changes.

Work Schedules

Most travel agents work full time, although part-time work is common. Some work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate clients’ schedule changes and last-minute needs.

Education & Training Required

Most travel agencies prefer applicants who have received training specific to becoming a travel agent. Many vocational schools offer full-time travel agent programs. Travel agent courses also are offered in public adult education programs, online, and in community colleges. These programs teach students about geography, sales, marketing, and travel industry forms and procedures for ticketing and reservations.

A few colleges offer a bachelor's or master's degree in travel and tourism that can benefit prospective agents. Backgrounds in geography, foreign languages, or world history can also be useful for job applicants because they suggest an existing interest in travel and culture, which could help agents develop a rapport with clients.

Continuing education is critical for travel agents because the abundance of travel information readily available through the Internet and other sources has resulted in more informed consumers who expect travel agents to be experts in their field.

Other Skills Required

Travel agents must be well-organized, accurate, and detail oriented in order to compile information from various sources and to plan and organize travel itineraries. Agents must have excellent communication skills and must be professional and courteous when dealing with travel representatives and clients.

Personal travel experience is an asset because knowledge about a city or foreign country often helps influence a client's travel plans. Business experience or training is important for self-employed agents who run their own business. In addition, computer skills are necessary and essential, because most travel arrangements are now made using the Internet or electronic reservation systems.

How to Advance

Some employees start as reservation clerks or receptionists in travel agencies. With experience and some formal training, they can take on greater responsibilities and eventually assume travel agent duties. In agencies with many offices, travel agents may advance to busier offices or to office manager or other managerial positions.

Those who start their own agencies generally have experience in an established agency. These agents must gain formal approval from suppliers or corporations, such as airlines, ship lines, or rail lines, to extend credit on reservations and to ensure payment. The Airlines Reporting Corporation and the International Airlines Travel Agency Network, for example, are the approving bodies for airlines. To gain approval, an agency must be financially sound and employ at least one experienced manager or travel agent.

Job Outlook

Employment of travel agents is projected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 7,500 openings for travel agents are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020 and is likely to occur early in the decade.

Demand will increase for travel agents’ specialized skills in giving clients a personalized travel experience through their recommendations, advice, and ability to handle travel issues. As they resume travel, people are expected to look to travel agents for advice on popular or unique travel destinations and experiences.

However, the ability of travelers to use online resources to research vacations and book their own trips is expected to continue to limit demand for travel agents.


The median annual wage for travel agents was $43,810 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,220.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for travel agents in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

  • Travel arrangement and reservation services - $39,190

These wage data include money earned from commissions. Earnings for many travel agents depend on commissions and service fees.

Most travel agents work full time, although part-time work is common. Some work additional hours during peak travel times or when they must accommodate clients’ schedule changes and last-minute needs.