Save money using a travel agent. (Photo via Melpomenem/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
If you are considering a career in travel, becoming a travel advisor may be one of the first things that come to mind. Wondering how much a travel agent makes? It’s a hard number to pin down and one that is reliant on several different factors. However, two are most indicative: education and experience.
When looking at historical data that includes all travel agents, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Host Agency Reviews (HAR) found that the average travel agent made approximately $44,00 on average in 2019 (the last year that normal, pre-pandemic data was available).
BLS pegs the average salary of a travel agent at $44,690 with a range of between $23,360 and $69,420 dividing the lower to upper 10 percent of travel agents.
Host Agency Reviews found that, in 2019, the average salary hovered around $44,312 for hosted travel agents with three or more years of experience.
While this data seems easy enough to digest, it only shows part of the picture of what a travel agent makes. Annual salaries vary widely depending on the type of travel agent a person is, whether or not they are affiliated with a host agency, are an employee or self-employed or an independent contractor for a larger travel agency.
For those looking to work in the travel industry selling travel, host agency reviews found that travel agent employees tend to have a more predictable salary. Holding a position as an employee of a travel agency where salary and commissions play less of a part in overall wages. Overall earnings for these travel agents were as follows according to the Travel Institute in 2019:
–37% of travel agent employees earned less than $24,000 annually
–25% earned $24,000-$59,999
–18% earned over $60,000.
Travel agent wages also fluctuate with experience. According to an ASTA report on corporate travel agents with experience earn approximately $13,000 more per year than their newbie counterparts. For leisure travel agents, those with experience earn around $10,000 more annually. According to HAR’s 2019 Travel Agent Income Survey, hosted agents with three or more years of experience earn an average of $44,312 in 2019.
Travel advisor working at a laptop. (photo via JLco – Julia Amaral /iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Education also plays a significant role in how much money a travel agent makes. In fact, the Travel Institute found a direct correlation between earnings and agent education in its Changing Face of Travel Agents research. The results show that there is a clear line that can be drawn between higher sales numbers and certification levels.
“I look at these results, especially compensation, as a trifecta for our industry beginning with well-trained travel professionals who are earning significantly more money than agents without advanced learning,” said Travel Institute president Diane Petras.
Travel agents do not need to have certification to sell travel in the United States. But certification and specialization are directly tied to higher salaries.
The Travel Institute provides a number of educational paths and higher-level certifications to travel agents. That is just one way to earn more, however.
Other programs, such as the Travel Agent Success Kit (TASK) provide a series of educational opportunities that are designed to teach travel agents how to become travel agent entrepreneurs and grow their travel business.
“When TASK was introduced eight years ago, I made a commitment to the industry to have limited online sessions, make sure that agents learn how to make their own money but cultivating relationships with vendors, tour operators here in the USA and abroad,” said Tammy Levent, president of TASK. “The problem facing our industry is that we are accustomed to being told what we are to make. In our TASK live course, we teach our agents how to negotiate from 20 to 40 percent profit–not commissions, but how to become entrepreneurs and make a good profit.”
TASK offers a series of online videos as well as live events, including TASK Live, an agent mastermind event teaching already-seasoned professionals specifically how to grow their business and increase profits. There is an elite-level TASK Live event as well as private consulting.
“I always say, one agent at a time as an advocate and a voice for the travel agent,” said Levent. “I have so many [agents] that want to take my course and find it hard to believe that they can make so much money. At the end of the day, I teach them to take the money and that they deserve it. They did all the work.”