How Much Do Travel Agents Make? Travel Agent Salary 2024

May 2, 2024

There's a whoooole lot to consider when looking at how much travel agents make. Beyond the more obvious factors (like working hours or having more experience), here are a few things that impact a travel agent's income.

  1. Employee vs. Self-employed? The vast majority of leisure travel agents are now entrepreneurs (most of whom align with a host agency). This is a change from the old-school days when most travel agents were storefront agency employees. Why does this matter? Because there are going to be a lot more factors that impact income for those who run their own business compared to employees who clock in and out of a 9 to 5.
  2. Travel Agent Niche: A corporate advisor will typically earn a higher salary than leisure/vacation travel agents. However, within the leisure sector, niche makes a big difference. Adventure and luxury travel, for example, earned higher averages than family and Disney travel in some of HAR's more recent research reports.
  3. Time Investment: Self employed travel advisors who set their own schedules work varied hours. Time investment also has a huge impact on earning potential.
  4. Industry Experience: Experience level also plays a large role in travel advisor income, with travel advisors typically making more as they get a foothold in the industry.

The thing with travel advisors in the 21st century is that there is no "norm." Organizations outside the industry that report on travel agent salaries are ill-equipped to offer a nuanced picture. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics, for example, doesn't include self-employed travel advisors in their data, only employees.

Here's the thing though. Being self employed is, by far, the most popular pathway to becoming a travel agent.


Organizations reporting on travel agent salaries outside the travel industry aren’t aware of the nuances of our field.


So that’s why we’re here! :)

As a company that focuses solely on travel advisors, we’ll break down some of those nuances so you can get a more accurate picture of travel agent salaries. I know you're curious to know if travel agents make good money but it not quite as simple as yes or no.

We’re going to dig into some in-house data to break down travel agent salaries and earnings into digestible categories.

Here’s what you can expect:

  1. ALL travel agents (employees and self-employed: hosted and independent)
  2. Self-employed travel agents (includes hosted travel agents and independently accredited agents).
  3. Travel agent employees (advisors who get 'ye old W2, employed by a travel agency)
  4. Corporate travel advisor employees and corporate travel managers (employees who book corporate travel)

So take a seat. Pour a waterfall of melted butter on a mountain of popcorn and settle in!


How Much Do Travel Agents Make? All of 'Em.

Phocuswright's 2023 US Travel Agency Landscape offered a great overview of current travel advisor income. They offer a big picture look at how much all advisors earn based on experience.

Here's the key takeaways:

  1. Overall, 39% of advisors earned less than $25,000 per year. However, 80% of advisors in the lowest income bracket had been selling travel for two years or less.
  2. Experienced agents, typically earned $50,000+ annually and 25% of experienced travel agents earned $100,000+ annually.

In summary?Experience has a big impact on income! That's in large part due to commissions not being paid until after a client travels or in the case of cruises, 30-60 days prior to departure. It makes the first few years tough if you depend on commissions.

But don't get discouraged if you're just starting out! Travel agents can make good money but it can take some time to build up your client base and to start to see the money coming in.

Here's more on how much self-employed travel advisor earn their first few years.

7DS Accelerator
Check out HAR's course on starting up a travel agency. (It includes a free trial!)


What does the Bureau of Labor and Statistics Say About Travel Agent Salaries?

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) offers a somewhat different vantage point. While Phocuswright's number reflect primarily home-based independent advisors, BLS data predominantly profiles travel advisor employees.

The BLS data has shown a 26% increase in travel advisor salaries over the past decade. The graph below illustrates how it's increased over time.


TA Employee Income Increase Over Time, BLS

The BLS’ latest numbers (2024) reported an average travel agent salary of $50,0401.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind about the BLS numbers:

  1. BLS only profiles employees. The BLS site sums it up here: “Estimates do not include self-employed workers.” Here at HAR, we survey full-time and part-time self-employed travel agents in addition to employees.
  2. BLS only looks at full-time travel agents. Here's how they crunch their numbers, "Annual wages have been calculated by multiplying the hourly mean wage by a 'year-round, full-time' hours." 2

Alright, so we took a look at the BLS data, which you now know skews heavily towards employees. Because of that, it doesn’t reflect the true industry landscape where the majority of travel advisors are self-employed.

So let's dive in to see if self-employed travel agents make good money!


What does HAR's research say about how much ALL travel agents make?

Host Agency Reviews' survey respondents were 95% self-employed and 5% employees.

Here's a birds-eye view of average travel agent income of our survey respondents. We break it down into full-time advisors and all advisors (both FT and PT).


Average Income, All Travel Advisors

When homing in on experienced and full-time advisors, results from HAR’s 2023 survey clock in higher than the BLS number, with data indicating that full-time travel advisors earned a $56,632 a year on average.

. . . . .

Since it’s hard to get accurate numbers on how much a travel agent makes when we look at everyone—corporate/leisure, employee/self-employed—next up, we’ll take a detailed look at average travel agent salaries for:

  1. self-employed advisors,
  2. travel advisor employees,
  3. travel managers,
  4. and corporate travel advisors.

Gotta cover all our bases! 😀


How Much Do Travel Agents Make? Self-Employed Travel Agents

Self-employed travel advisors are those who run their own businesses (rather than work as an employee). I’m going to throw some industry lingo at you now. Are you ready?


The self-employed category contains two primary segments of advisors:

  1. Hosted advisors (those who use another agency’s accreditation number, called a host agency) and
  2. Independently accredited travel advisors (those who have their own travel accreditation
Not quite sure where the money is coming from? Read our article, How Do Travel Agents Make Money?


Here’s the big picture you need to know about self-employed advisors. Over time, the number of self-employed advisors has been growing exponentially, while the number of storefront travel agencies has decreased. In particular, hosted agencies have become the leading path to bringing new talent to the travel agency distribution channel.

So how much do self-employed travel agents make?

In our 2023 travel advisor research reports, full-time hosted advisors with 3+ years of experience earned $60,146 on average and their independently-accredited counterparts earned $76,252.

Why the income drop for hosted advisors?I chat more on that in this Masters in Travel podcast episode.

Here's the short story: we know two big factors that influences how much a travel agent makes is their experience level and if they work full time or part time. Hosted advisors are more likely to be newer to the industry and to work part time. The median years of experience for hosted advisors was 5 years, compared to 18 years for independent travel agents.

It’s important to note that income levels for hosted and independently-accredited advisors from our 2023 survey, which is looking at 2022 data, are still slightly impacted from the ripple effects of the pandemic. Check out our longitudinal report for a 5-year look at travel agent income before the pandemic outbreak for a more realistic take on earning potential self-employed travel agents.


Owner Deductions (and how it impacts how much self-employed travel agents make)

I want to bring up one last thing that complicates things when it comes to self-employed travel agent salaries. Because why not? You've already read this far! 😊

When we're talking about income for self-employed agents, income/salary numbers can be artificially deflated.

Why? Three things:

  1. Business owners may not be reporting all of their income. Since cash transactions leave no paper trail for the IRS to follow, many small businesses won't report cash transactions and in not doing so, they lower the income/earnings they report to the government.
  2. Business owners get write-offs. I can write off my office. I can write off my work trips. I can write off my work phone and meals with colleagues where I discuss business. When I do that, it lowers what I report for my taxable income (ahem, salary) to the IRS. Not only that, but travel agents will vary WILDLY in terms of how much of their income they write off. (Take a look at what travel expenses you can (and can't) write off.)
  3. Salary and income are separate things for some business structures. Depending on the agency's business structure, the owner may pay themselves a salary (say $45k) but the income of the company may actually be much higher. All the IRS requires with these S Corp business structures is that the owner pays themselves a “reasonable” salary. (Learn about the different travel agency business structures.)

So, keep those things in mind when you're looking at earning potential.


How Much Do Travel Agents Make? Travel Agent Employees Only

This section on employee travel agent salary is going to give you numbers that will be close to what you can expect if you get hired on at an agency. Travel agent employee salaries have less variance when compared to self-employed travel agents.

For the majority of travel advisor employees, income is not dependent on commissions alone.

The set salary of a travel agent employee offers stability not afforded to self-employed advisors. Additionally, employees also often receive benefits and are not subject to the added complexity and expense of paying business taxes.

When looking at travel advisor employees only, HAR’s salary data lands much closer to what the BLS reports. In HAR’s 2023 survey, salary only employees made $50,792. But if you ever wondered if travel agents make good money, they def can! Full-time travel agent employees earning salary and commission brought home $88,909. 😲

Employee compensation models play a substantial role when it comes to how much a travel agent employee makes. The graph below takes a look at the average travel agent income of the three most common compensation models.

travel-agent-employee-salary-income-2023

Lesson on that? If you're looking for an employee position at a travel agency, find one that pays salary, plus commission! 😀

Interested in checking out some travel industry jobs? Discover industry jobs on our travel agent job board!



How Much Do Travel Agents Make? Corporate Employees & Travel Managers

Corporate Travel Advisors

Corporate travel advisors (those who book travel for corporations) typically earn more than those who sell leisure travel. Below offers a look at corporate travel advisor income compared to leisure travel advisor income (among FT advisors).


Average Income, Corporate & Leisure

Do you have an interest in becoming a Corporate Travel Agent? You can sink your teeth into a few juicy tidbits of info here: 

  1. HAR’s article, Breaking into corporate travel
  2. Our podcast interview (below) with corporate agent Karen Hurlbut:
  1. A podcast interview with entertainment travel specialist Molly Williams who moves bands around the world:


Travel Managers

Looking ahead on the corporate travel agent career trajectory, Travel Manager/Supervisory positions start with a much higher baseline.

Business Travel News (BTN) report on Travel Managers/Supervisors' salary cover people working for corporate entities as an in-house advisor (not working for a travel agency). The overall average for a corporate travel manager salary registered at $128,439.

Nice, huh?! You can make some pretty good money as a corporate travel agent. :)


Beyond Travel Agent Salaries, Why Advisors Love Their Jobs

We've looked at travel agent salaries from a whole bunch of different perspectives. You made it through the spinning, twirling madness of data acrobats. 

HAR’s research reports offer a ton of info on travel agent salaries. But ultimately, how much you make as a travel agent depends on a lot of factors, including:

  1. what type of advisor you are (corporate, leisure, employee, self-employed, etc.),
  2. what type of travel you sell,
  3. your experience level,
  4. hours worked,
  5. and all that other fun stuff!

While naming one number for a travel agent salary is impossible, there is one thing that is consistent among all the surveys: the majority of travel advisors are happy with their career choice. 

HAR’s 2023 Hosted Travel Advisor Survey indicated that 95% of advisors would choose to become a travel advisor again if given the choice.

Corporate travel managers taking BTN’s survey were a bit more lukewarm in response to travel agent income satisfaction. 48% of travel managers reported their earnings were equitable, 12% felt “well compensated,” and 41% felt their salary was “low for responsibilities.”

Travel agent career satisfaction in 2022


And here’s the thing to remember about being in the travel industry. It goes beyond dollars.

Many advisors report that the primary benefit of working in travel is rooted in a personal passion for travel and the ability to share their love of travel with others.

Additionally, advisors often have access to great travel experiences they may not otherwise via familiarization trips or travel advisor rates for those who reach sales thresholds or meet requirements. 

In general, positions in travel may offer a lower salary than other industries. But here’s the kicker, occupations in other industries don't include travel benefits and working in travel!


Interested in Becoming an Advisor? Here’s Where to Start

This leads us to the question of what type of travel advisor career you’d like to pursue.

Do you want to become a self-employed travel advisor so you can have the creativity to book the type of travel you love and the flexibility to be your own boss? Or do you want the structure of 9-5 with benefits and the income security of a travel advisor employee?

Employees at a travel agency may have a salary cap if their compensation model is strictly hourly/salary (about 42% of employees), but for those who own their own business, the sky's the limit. Plus, it's hard to put a price on visiting beautiful places, touring the newest properties, and the freedom and flexibility to work anywhere that goes with owning your own home-based travel agency.

How do you decide what type of travel you want to sell? Do you want to do leisure or corporate? If you do leisure, which types of travel agent niches are the most lucrative? If you go the corporate route, how do you break into booking business travel

💕 If you're thinking of joining the industry, here are a few resources you're gonna love: 💕

  1. Starting a travel agency from home
  2. Free 15-page travel agency business plan template
  3. HAR's nifty course on how to start a travel agency!
7 day setup accelerator course free trial

We’re here to help! If you have questions about what route to take or how to get started, give us a holler in the comments or reach out to us at Hello@HostAgencyReviews.com.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes413041.htm
  2. Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes413041.htm
About the Author
Steph Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Steph Lee

Steph grew up in the travel industry, helping on and off with her mom's homebased travel agency. She has worked with thousands of agents in her role as a former host agency director before leaving in 2012 to start HAR. She's insatiably curious, loves her pups Fennec and Orion, and -- in case you haven't noticed -- is pretty quirky and free-spirited.

If you’re looking for Steph, she leaves a trace where ever she goes! You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (her fav) and Pinterest as 'iamstephly'. 🙂 You can also catch her on her Substack, Bumblin' Around, where she writes on things outside the world of HAR.