Travel Agent Training & Education [FREE Downloadable List]
Travel Agent training is a popular topic around these parts, and it’s no wonder why. The travel industry changes at the speed of light, and travel agents (both new and experienced) who want to keep their edge in the industry are always taking advantage of continued professional development opportunities.
The good news is that there are travel agent training options abound that come in every format—do you fancy an online course, a webinar, a conference or mentorship?—and these travel agent trainings cover just about every topic under the sun.
Wherein comes the challenge. How to sort through all the options and find what kind of travel agent training programs are best for you? That’s where we come in.
This article is going to focus on host education and professional development . . . I mean, that’s kind of our jam. But before we get to that grand finale, we’ll cover some other travel agent training options first.
Travel Agent Training: Travel School Programs
One thing to consider is it’s not required to earn a degree or pass any particular exam in order to sell travel. So if you’re in it for the degree (more than the education) you’ll want to find out what doors that degree will open for you.
When it comes to choosing whether or not you join a travel agent school, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions regarding what you’d like to get from the program.
- Do you want to earn a degree? If so, is the institution accredited?
- What are the goals of the program? Will it help you start your business? Is it intended to help you prepare for the TAP test? (Hint: If the TAP test is your main goal, you can get a study guide for the TAP test and take it own your own for what could be a fraction of the cost.)
- What topics are covered in the travel agent school's curriculum? Does it seem relevant what you want to learn? Will you learn something you can’t Google or teach yourself?
- What educational materials/textbooks does the travel agent school use?
- Who teaches the courses and what is their background in the travel industry?
I sent out some ravens to dig up a little info on travel agent school programs. Below is a small table of schools with travel agent programs. I only included programs that are Travel Agent-specific. I didn’t include hospitality, tourism or events management majors because I really think that those areas of study—though some skills would be applicable—are a different beast entirely. It’s just not the right tool for the job. Here’s some basic info on the travel agent schools that are out there:
Travel Agent Training: Travel Agent Certifications
Certification is different from certificates. Certifications allow you to add fancy letters after your name that will be recognized by the travel industry. Certifications are provided by organizations such as travel consortia, accreditation organizations (more on travel agent accreditation options), and travel industry membership groups such as GBTA or the Travel Institute.
I'm not going to go too much in depth on certification because we have a comprehensive resource on travel agent certifications here. I should note here that some host agency's professional development programs also provide designations or certifications such as Travel Leader Network’s Luxury, Active & Adventure, and Honeymoon specialist.
Host Agency Education & Professional Development
First off, if you're not sure what a host agency is, we've got just the read for you! Take a look.
Just about every host agency will have some kind of travel agent education opportunities whether it be a basic orientation or onboarding, a webinar series, or an immersive classroom experience. One of the things I personally like about host education is that it will allow agents to take what knowledge they already have, but become better-versed in the various program, technologies and policies used by their specific host.
Below, we have a table that covers a TON of host agency education options. It’s important to note that this table does not evaluate the host training programs. Like finding a host agency, we will leave that up to you to decide what training programs are best for your niche, your budget, and learning style.
The hosts included in the table completed a survey HAR sent out, but even hosts not included—but listed on our site—may have programs as well. We'll be updating the table annually to make sure it's always up to date
New Agent Training Opportunities:
The term "new agent" can be misleading because many host agencies express that they want new agents to already have a feel for the demands of the travel agent industry, whether it be professional experience as a travel agent or commensurate experience (yes, even for new agents). If you have zero experience as a travel agent, chat with your specific host to see if their education program is a good fit you.
Experienced Agent Training Opportunities:
Every host might define differently what they consider to be an experienced agent. But for the purposes of the table below, we consider experienced agents who have been with their host 2+ years, or agents with 2+ years who may be transferring to new host. But you'll want to check with your specific host to make sure!
How Do I Narrow Down My Options? An Exercise
The chart doesn’t give you all the answers, but we have a few strategies for you figure out how to narrow down your options. You’ll want to ask yourself these questions:
- How does a host’s education align with my niche? Consider what your niche is. (Not sure what your niche is? Read our finding a niche article.) This will be important when you dig for more info, especially for vendor trainings.
- What topics do I desire in a host education? Check out some of the options that the host listed. Which ones stick out to you the most?
- What are some of your favored learning styles and how the structure of a host’s training meet those needs? Do you prefer online courses at your own pace? Do you need a classroom environment? Do you benefit from one-to-one mentorship? Do you prefer the intensity of a conference? What learning style works for you?
- How much hand-holding do I need? It’s okay if you need a lot of support. It really is. On our message boards (and in some reviews), I’ve heard from agents who’ve been disappointed to learn that hosts’ professional development programs haven’t been as intensive as they wanted. It’s good to tell a host up front how much support you expect, and you can see if they can offer you what you need.
- How quickly do I want to complete this education? Do you have time to take it slow, or do you have a group of 50 people clamoring for you to plan a cruise ASAP? What kind of turnaround are you looking for?
Questions to Ask Host About Their Education Program
Once you’ve completed part I, you’re all set for part II. Part II is a table of questions you can adapt and ask host agencies about their education programs. These are probably questions you want to reserve for your “shortlist” of about 3 hosts.
- What examples of vendor training on [niche] have you had in the past year? Is that a topic you anticipate covering in the next few months?
- [Your hot topic] is particularly important to me. Can you give me an idea of what kind of education you’ve had on these topics in the last year or what facilitators/programs you have lined up to address this topic in the year to come?
- (If they have the one-on-one training/ mentoring) What is the frequency of contact agents typically have with their mentor/host advisor?
- May I have the contact of an agent or agents who have recently completed your education program?
- (If not explicitly listed) Based on what kind of education I want, what is cost and do you have any payment plans for that level of education?
- Do you have any data on education outcomes?
Of course, we made a cheatsheet you can use to fill out when you chat with your shortlist of hosts about their travel agent education programs.
Speaking of Travel Agent Training . . .
In addition to exploring all the bounty of travel agent training opportunities, you'll also want to go ahead and sign up for Host Agency Reviews' 7-Day Setup if you haven't already.
Not only will the Setup walk you through the concrete steps you need to take in order to start your own agency, it also curates the wealth of travel agent resources on the site—offering a broad view of the travel industry at large and providing an education of its own sort. Going through the Setup may also reframe what you prioritize what you're looking for in your own adventures in travel agent training! Who knows?!
Travel agent training 101, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
See, pretty painless wasn’t it? If you’re interested in host training, then finding one that’s a good fit for you is a great way to narrow down host options. That’s our goal 😊
Which path did you decide to go with for your travel agent training? How did you pick a host training that worked for you? Do you have ideas on questions to ask hosts about trainings? Let us know in the comment section below! We want to hear from you!