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    Travel Agent

    If you are wondering how to become a travel agent, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the hospitality and tourism industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Travel agents, often referred to as travel agency sales consultants, advise customers on business and leisure travel, and sell holidays. They may work in a high street travel agency or in a call centre.

    Typical responsibilities:

    helping customers to find a suitable package holiday or to plan independent travel, itineraries and accommodation
    checking availability of the chosen holiday by telephone or computer
    making bookings using a computer system
    collecting deposits 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 making alternative arrangements.
    You would also advise customers about passports, travel insurance, visas, vaccinations and extra excursions. You may arrange refunds or handle complaints, referring serious issues to a manager or the tour operator.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good travel agents include:

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

    How to become a travel agent
    You would not usually need any particular qualifications, although it may be useful if you to have GCSEs (A-C) in subjects such as maths, English and geography. The most important thing is to be able to show employers that you are enthusiastic and have the right personal qualities and skills for the job. It could be an advantage if you have experience in customer services or sales. You might also find it helps if you are able to speak other languages.

    The most common way to get into this career is to find a job with a travel agency and train on the job. However, you could take a full-time college course before looking for work. This is not essential, but could give you an advantage. Relevant courses include:

    BTEC First Diploma in Travel and Tourism
    BTEC National Diploma in Travel and Tourism
    BTEC HNC/HND in Travel and Tourism Management
    degrees in travel and tourism.
    You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

    Training and Development
    You would usually start as a trainee travel consultant and receive on-the-job training from your employer. This is likely to start with a short induction course. You may then be sent on further specialist training courses and educational visits. You could also complete the following qualifications:

    City & Guilds Certificate in Travel (Travel Agents) levels 2 and 3 (endorsed by the Association of British Travel Agents)
    Level 1 and 2 air fare and ticketing qualifications recognised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA)
    City & Guilds Certificate in Business Travel at introductory, consultant, supervisory and management levels.
    You might also be able to gain qualifications such as NVQs in customer service or administration.

    Once you have been in travel agency work for two years, you could gain recognition of your continuing professional development by applying to join the Accredited Travel Professional Scheme (ATPS).

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries can be around £10,000 a year.
    Experienced sales consultants can earn between £12,000 and £18,000 a year.
    Salaries for senior posts can be £30,000 or more.
    Travel agency sales consultants often receive commission based on meeting performance targets. They may also receive discounts on holidays.

    Job Prospects
    You could find opportunities for employment with travel agencies throughout the UK. These range from small, independent agencies to large agencies with many branches.

    With experience, you might be able to progress to a senior post, such as branch manager. You could move into other jobs in tour operating, such as tour manager or resort representative.

    Useful hospitality, catering and travel industry resources:
    Accredited Travel Professional Scheme
    http://www.a-t-p.org.uk

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