How to Become an Independent Travel Agent
Here’s to a Having a Career You Will Love
I think one of the best things I ever did, was to break up with my 9-to-5, to pursue my dreams – one of which included becoming a travel agent. I’ve always loved travel. I cannot remember a time where I wasn’t drawn to traveling the world. In April 2013, my life changed when I was approached by a woman who told me that I could have my very own travel business, get paid to travel, and earn amazing rewards through helping others to do the same. Granted this was my first introduction to network marketing…however, I was completely devoted to earning my travel certification. I didn’t really care for the “team-building” aspect of the business, but I was indeed committed to the “travel” portion of my business investment! This worked for me because I was able to get used to paying a monthly fee towards my consortium/host agency. I will explain what this is later on in this feature. I had attempted to earn my certification some years prior, however, my daughters were so young and I couldn’t finish the requirements…as motherhood was so new and so demanding. I have since left the network marketing company, and I am completely grateful for the experience, however, I wanted my brand to be able to dive deeper into my travel-based venture!
I embarked on my journey to earning my travel certification, as in August 2016, I received an invitation to apply for a scholarship to receive 50% off of my tuition to The Travel Institutes’s CTA (Certified Travel Associate) program. The program was a 12-month, at your own pace track. At the completion of my course material, I was to test-out and had to receive a 70% or above to earn my certification. Imagine my excitement when I earned my CTA, Caribbean Destination Specialist, and Certified Luxury Travel Specialist certifications. I am also enrolled in the CLIA ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor) track. This is a two-year program and requires credits in academics, field (experience booking others on cruises as well as taking your own) and inspection (ship inspections) to complete all requirements to earn this achievement. I plan to nail this goal throughout 2018.
Key Facts about Independent Travel Agents (according to a study by ASTA & NACTA)
- 75% of participants have a cruise niche and earn an average of 14% commission. Some earn 18% – 22% commission & bonuses.
- Most agents averaged 33 hours per workweek and 1/3 said that was their main income source.
- 91% of agents split commissions with a host agency.
- 67% of the independent agents do not use a GDS or Global Distribution System.
- The Caribbean and Mexico were the top-selling destinations.
- Most home-based agents have between 10 and 19 years of travel experience. But you can still be successful with little to no experience!
What You Should Look for in a Host Agency/Consortium
- A good host agency should be able to offer agent support – which includes accounting, marketing, technical, and commission tracking.
- Be sure to look for high-vendor commissions, as host agencies earn commissions from vendors. A great agency will allow you to perform markups on your commissions, where you can add additional pricing such as booking fees, to increase your earnings.
- Be aware that host agencies divide commissions with agents (my split is 70% to me 30% to the agency), but some also charge monthly fees (my agency charge $49.99 monthly) or other agent charges.
- Be sure to check to see what training programs are offered by your host agency of choice, and if they are affiliated with any organizations that are key within the industry, such as ASTA, The Travel Institute, NACTA.
- Very important…which GDS (Sabre, Apollo, etc) booking systems does the host agency use? Is it a system the agent is already familiar with or is GDS training provided as well?
- Are there any marketing opportunities available?
- Be sure to check which consortia your host agency is partnered with (we are partnered with Travel Leaders Network).
- Is the agency associated with ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents), CLIA (Cruise Line International Association), IATA (International Air Transport Association), or NACTA (National Association of Career Travel Agents)?
- How often does the host agency pay the agents (ours is weekly)?
- What type of invoicing and record-keeping is the agent required to do?
- Is the agent required to pay for error and omission insurance or bonding?
Advantages and Benefits of Being an Industry Pro
- Earn travel industry discounts on hotels/accommodations, car rentals, cruises, and tours, and more.
- Be your own boss… with the flexibility to design your own schedule.
- Learn about and explore world geography and cultures.
- Home-based agents are eligible for travel expense & home tax deductions.
- Opportunity to make a lucrative career doing a job you will love.
- Ability to network with others within the traveling workforce.
- FAM trips (Familiarization trips/tours) where you visit a hotel or country for free or extremely reduced rate so you can “experience” to help you sell to your clients through your experience.
I personally love being a travel “designer.” My focus/niche is on the affluent, luxury market which is richly saturated in Caribbean travel and cruising. But niche specialties are endless. I am happy with my lifestyle choice, as this is more than a career for me. My digital agency allows me to reach hundreds of people that I wouldn’t be able to reach with a brick-and-mortar agency! I recommend this career choice to anyone who dares to dream big!
Queens of Virtue is happy to rise up women who want to explore a career and lifestyle in the travel industry. We want to help travel agents, writers/bloggers, photographers & enthusiasts – to harness the power of their “passion”…to make it their paycheck! We are always growing and expanding and would be happy to assist female entrepreneurs in their business. We hope to be able to offer grants, sponsorship & scholarships to bloggers and travelpreneurs in the future!
Join our family to receive mentorship and coaching (should you decide to sign up with our partnered host agency) – on marketing your business, how to earn your certification and overall business savviness! Please fill out the form below, so we can better assist you on your journey!
Sapphire Kharyzma is an accomplished travel, beauty and lifestyle writer, photographer, creative designer & digital marketing maven – who harnesses the power of Travel, Beauty & Style – experienced through sisterhood…to empower multicultural women.
When she’s not traveling the world, she enjoys planting the seeds of growth and prosperity for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She’s an accredited Travel Designer, who specializes in curating unique, Caribbean and Luxury ventures. She’s a travel marketing expert, who loves to make her passions her paycheck while teaching women to do the same.