Travel Agent Training and Education, 2023

March 14, 2024

When it comes and choosing a travel agent training and education program to pave your journey to become a travel agent, it’s pretty much like the wild west out there. You might be saddled with questions such as

  • How do I know if a travel agent education is legit?
  • Is it right for my level of experience?
  • Will it get me off to a strong start as a travel agent?
  • Will it advance my professional development?

Travel agent education can be a significant investment of time and money, and you don’t want to waste it. Overwhelmed at the thought of wrangling all that information? Don’t be.

We’ve collected a ton of info on all the different options out there from free DIY educational resources to full-fledged degrees. This article guide will help you determine what type of travel agent training program is best for you, how to evaluate the quality of a program and direct you to further resources.

⭐️ Travel agent training & Education: HAR highlights! ⭐️

Why Does Travel Agent Training Matter?

You might be surprised to hear that there’s no travel agent exam you need to pass or degree to earn in order to sell travel. That’s right. Nada. Better yet? You don’t need a degree or certification either. What exactly is required to sell travel? A travel agent accreditation. Beyond that, the only thing you need to sell travel is the skills to book a trip.

It sounds simple, but there’s more to meets the eye when it comes to booking a trip. Think of it this way: The average traveler spends over 20 hours browsing travel sites before they book a trip. Your task as a travel agent is to dramatically streamline the planning and booking process, booking the perfect trip in a fraction of the time.

This is where travel agent training and education opportunities enter the scene. They provide programs that cover all aspects of the industry ranging from getting more clients, marketing, booking, developing destination and product expertise, and much more.

Here's a teaser!

Do I Need a Travel Agent Training Program?

There are travel agent training and education opportunities abound. They cater to newbies as well as seasoned pros who’ve been selling travel before Millennials were out of diapers. So how do you decide which programs will meet your needs?

Here’s a few questions to consider as to whether or not a travel agent training program is for you:

  • Do I need a travel agent training or education program to join a host agency or consortium? Some hosts require either industry experience or an education program before you can sign on with them. If you’re interested in checking out host agencies as an option, be sure to check with your host to see what their minimum requirements are! (Pssst! You can ask them directly on the Q&A portion of their profiles!)

What the heck is a host agency, you ask? Read up on it here!

  • Do I need a travel agent training program to be accredited? Some accreditation organizations require travel agent training and education before signing on. Others require a certain sales threshold. If you’re interested in pursuing your own accreditation, take a look here for their eligibility requirements.
  • Do I have the time and resources to cobble together my own travel agent education? If you have time to research and explore, you can really get to know a ton of information about the industry . . . for free! With this route, you’ll have nothing to show for it but your sharp brain. But if you want structured guidance, a curriculum, a degree or certificate, and predetermined educational benchmarks to meet, then a program might fit the bill.

You might still be uncertain. That’s okay because it’s not a cut-and-dry question! Following we’ll review a few of the training agent training and education options that you can explore!

5 Travel Agent Training and Education Options

If you’re overwhelmed by travel agent training options, you’re not alone. Below we break it down into five main categories (with links in case you want to fast-forward to a particular option!):

1. Travel Agent Schools

2. Host Agency/ Consortia Education

3. Travel Agent Certification

4. Business and Sales Coaching

5. Other Industry Resources

We’ll give you a brief overview of each type of training, including what type of agent it might be good for! Most sections also include a link to a more in-depth look at that specific type of travel agent training and education program.

Let the rodeo begin!

1. Travel Agent Schools

Read Complete Guide to Travel Agent Schools Article

1. What is their delivery format?

When it comes to travel agent training, travel agent schools typically offer degrees or professional certificates to those who want to become a travel agent. Most travel agent schools are online, though there are still a few rare birds out there that offer a classroom setting.

2. Is it for me?

Travel agent schools can be a great option if A.) you know you want to become a travel agent B.) you are brand new to the industry with little or no professional background C.) You want a degree (or professional certificate) in addition to an education.

If you are already setting up your business, don’t want a degree or professional certificate, and have already established a niche and know exactly what you want to do, a travel school might not be the right tool for the job. (Or at the very least, you may want to evaluate other options.)

3. What’s the end game?

It depends on the school, but typically a travel school will offer a broad (and hopefully in-depth) look at the travel agent sector of the travel industry. Some identify their main goal as preparing for the TAP (Travel Agent Proficiency) test, and most conclude with a degree or professional certificate.

4. How much do they cost?

There is a huge range and it will depend on how many credits you take and whether or not you also want a general degree. But the cost will range from $395 (for one course) to $14,000 (for degree-seeking programs)

5. How Long does it take?

The duration of a program also varies widely. It depends on whether you want a degree, a professional certificate, or both. The programs listed in our travel agent school article range from two months to two years.

6. What are the prerequisites:

This will vary by program. However, if you want to receive a general degree you will likely need a high school diploma.

Read more here about travel agent schools to see what's available and how to evaluate their programs

2. Host Agency/ Consortia Education

Read A Guide to Host and Consortia Education Article

First things first: what is a host and what is a consortium? At its most basic, a host agency is an umbrella organization that an independent agency (that’s you!) can align with for better commissions, supplier relations, and marketing/tech tools.

A travel consortium is a collective of host agencies, travel agencies, and/or travel advisors that join forces to combine resources in order to increase their industry footprint. This gives them more including buying potential, benefits, & commission levels.

To make things more confusing, since hosts are members of consortia, they may use that particular consortium’s travel agent education program and/or tools. A quick overview of these terms will get you through the article, but be sure to check out the links for more in-depth information on hosts and consortia!

Attending your specific host’s education program can be a really good primer. Why? Because it will also give you a good feel for their company culture and prepare you for their specific tools and technology.

Distilling host and consortia education options into a singular profile are almost impossible. Why? Well, we have over 140 host agencies listed on our site. Some of those hosts will have travel agent education programs, some won’t.

Among those that do offer programs, they may use different educational tools, systems delivery methods, etc. It’s mind-boggling! But this info will give you a sense of what’s out there before your plunge into specifics.

1. What is their delivery format?

Host agencies and consortia offer every kind of education under the sun . . . that is, depending on what host you join! Here’s just a few of the educational formats they provide:

  • Webinars
  • Online Education
  • Vendor training
  • Conference calls
  • Conventions or Meetings
  • Hosted FAM trips (when an agent visits a site/ destination)
  • Seminars at Sea
  • In-person training
  • Mentoring/ Coaching
  • Niche or destination education

2. Is it for me?

Some hosts and consortia will require some form of education or comparable travel agent experience before you sign on with them. If you plan to go with a host agency, and you know you want a travel agent education, their education programs might be a big determining factor for you.

Attending your specific host’s education program can be a really good primer. Why? Because it will also give you a good feel for their company culture and prepare you for their specific tools and technology.

However, if you want to join a host that has little or no educational support, then you may want to choose a different type of program to supplement your learning.

Also, some agents express that they don’t want to wait to complete a host’s education program before they’re able to book travel. So be sure to ask your shortlist of host agencies how soon you’ll be able to sell travel after signing on if this is a concern for you.

How do you choose a host agency? Start here.

3. What’s the end game?

Not to sound like a broken record, but it depends. Different educational formats will have different goals. Basic programs may familiarize you with a host agency and the industry at large. But a marketing-specific program might have goals like, “launch your travel agency website” or “increase your client list by 10%.”

4. How much do they cost?

Among hosts that offer education programs, 65% reported that their education fees are included in their startup or sign-on fees. Among hosts that do “itemize” the cost for their education ranges from a low average of $2,135 to and high average of $2,475. Of the consortia who replied to our questionnaire, the cost ranged from zero to $150.

Among hosts that offer education programs, 65% reported that their education fees are included in their startup or sign-on fees.

The cost of a host agency or consortia education program will depend on a few things including of its intended participants (new or experienced agents), the scope of content (is it general or specific), and its duration (e.g. a one-off webinar vs. a week-long in-person intensive).

5. How long does it take?

Hosts' responses to how long their education program takes ranged from one day to 6 months (for a coaching program). Many hosts have self-paced programs. The consortia programs listed (in the link above) range from 30-50min. Per training module, to 12 weeks.

6. what are the prerequisites?

Aside from being an IC (independent contractor) under a host or consortium’s umbrella, there are no set prerequisites for new agent education. For more experienced agents or specialized training (such as a FAM), the education may be invite-only or include a sales threshold.

3. Travel Agent Certification

Read Travel Agent Certification article

When it comes to travel agent training options, travel certifications are tricky to pin down. But here’s how we classify a travel certification. They are:

  • Travel-specific (often focused on a certain type of travel or niche)
  • A comprehensive training program (not just a specific destination or vendor)
  • Education that is NOT provided by a vendor, destination, or travel agency.

Most travel certifications result in giving you letters after your name (like ACC for “Accredited Cruise Counselor” or “VTA” for Verified Travel Advisor). This indicates to other industry professionals that you’re investing in yourself and your profession. (Most clients will not recognize a travel industry certification.)

Unlike a host or consortia program, most certifications culminate in a test you need to pass to be certified.

Unlike a degree or a professional certificate, many travel agent certifications must be maintained. What does this mean? It means that you’ll have to re-certify after a certain span of time.

1. What is their delivery format?

Most certifications nowadays are online. Some also may include (or require) in-person conventions/training. Some are a mix of both.

2. Is it for me?

At the end of the day, probably the best way to gauge whether or not a travel agent certification will be valuable to you and your business is to ask:

  • Will it further my knowledge?
  • Is this certification recognized by other industry professionals?
  • Does it open doors for me? (e.g. with some certifications, it allows you to be listed in an organization’s travel agent database for consumers to find.)

Some certifications are more niche-specific, and some are more general. Many travel agent certification organizations have tiers that range from beginning to experienced agents.

3. What’s the end game?

Aside from (hopefully) gaining knowledge, a travel agent certification culminates in industry recognition (letters after your name).

4. How much does Travel agent certification cost?

Among the travel certifications, we list on our site the cost ranges from $70 - $550 (which would not include travel expenses)

5. How long does it take?

Depending on the rigor of the program, the amount of time to become certified ranges from 3 months to 2 years.

6. What are the prerequisites?

Entry-level certifications usually don’t have any strict prerequisites. If a program has “tiered” certifications, you will need to complete them before you move on to the more advanced certifications. Some of the more advanced travel agent certifications also require you to meet a certain sales threshold.

Some travel organizations require that you’re a member if you want to certify through them. Also, some certifications are facilitated by travel organizations (like ASTA or CLIA). If this is the case, you’ll need to be an affiliate or member of their organization.

More certification fun, this way!

4. Business and Sales Coaching

Travel Agent Training and Education – Business Coaching

These types of travel agent training programs) are run by industry professionals—travel advisors, travel industry writers, agency owners etc.

Many times, these programs focus on a specific type of travel such as destination weddings or FITs. Many of them also include an element of coaching or mentoring. A few that come to mind:

  • 20K System & Toolkit Destination Wedding Business Course: This course, created by Destination Wedding planner Tami Santini, addresses how to build a six-figure income while working with 5 to 10 couples per year. (Cost is $2,997 Tami is offering HAR readers 50% off which you can get by following this link. Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, and will help the HAR crew feed our office dogs if you use it!)
  • Travel Business Mastermind, developed by business management and digital marketing consultant, Richard D'Ambrosio, offers growth-centric training modules, master classes, and consultation for advisors at any stage on their career journey. Courses run $95 for an individual class to $1,000 for a package of 49 online courses. If you'd like to test the waters, you can sample a free course here.
  • Romance Travel University, by DWHSA (Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Association): Offers niche-focused boot camps and events ($99/day for boot camps; $279 for membership; conference costs vary.)
  • Travel Beyond the Obvious: Developed by destination expert and agency owner of Italy Beyond the Obvious. Training focuses on developing in-depth destination expertise (for any destination). ($249 per course, $1,499 for complete training; free sample course available)
  • Travel Prolific & Kinship's Mentor & Coaching Program: Both programs are led by travel advisor and Kinship Vacations founder Ashley Metesh-McCoy, Travel Prolific offers hourly business/efficiency coaching for travel agents ($250/hr base price). Kinship's coaching & mentoring program is $1,500 for 12 months (for agents who are not hosted through Kinship).

Who better to learn from than people who have gone through it and succeeded? If there’s a program that fits your niche, and you like the person who runs it then I’d seriously consider it as a contender.

5. Other Industry Resources

Oh no. Just when you thought you exhausted all travel agent training possibilities I throw in an “other” category. But here’s the deal: There’s a ton of other educational opportunities out there if you have the patience to cobble together your own schooling! Not only that, but many of these resources are free.

This option is great for DIY-loving newbies who may want to test the waters before investing in a travel agent training or education program. It’s also great for you if you just want a quick refresher in a specific niche, supplier, or type of travel.

Here’s some of what’s out there:

HAR’s 7 Day Setup

Speaking of free resources, we happen to have oodles of those on our site. But I have to say, that at this stage in the game our 7 Day Setup LITE takes the cake. Why? Because it connects you to all the resources you need to launch your agency in one week.

7-day Setup

Destination/ Supplier Training & Webinars

It will come as no surprise to you that suppliers want you to be successful in selling their products and destinations. Want to get connected to a webinar? Check out what’s happening on HAR’s event page, for free training and webinar options.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check a supplier’s website, Facebook group, or social profile to see what they’re cooking (and then tell them to post it for free on our events page).

Industry Conferences & Events

Most industry conferences and events aren’t free, and you can quickly wrack up a steep bill with travel and lodging expenses. But these events can be an invaluable educational resource. Good events connect you with suppliers, provide educational panels, offer ample networking opportunities.

Want to go the extra mile? You can also tack on a cruise ship inspection or resort inspection.

How do you know what event to go to and make the most out of a travel conference? We wrote all about that topic here.

Have you seen HAR's beauteous Events Calendar yet? Don't miss out!

Tips on Evaluating Travel Agent Training & Education Programs

In each of our linked articles, we go into more detail on how to evaluate specific types of travel agent education and training. But if you really want to go the extra mile before you commit, here are a few extra steps you can take:

  • Talk to agents who've taken the program. Ask the program director for emails of a few agents who have gone through the program (though most likely they will direct you to agents who have nothing but good things to say about it). Another good place to check? Facebook groups. If you’re interested in HAR’s 7 Day Setup (7DS) program, join our 7DS Facebook support group and snoop around.
  • Ask for a sample course. Probably the best way to see if a program is good for you is to try it out. Ask the program if you can do a sample class or take a look at a recent syllabus. (They don’t have one?! Yikes!)
  • Who runs the program? A travel advisor education will only be as good as the people “in front of the room.” Who runs the program? What is their industry experience? Who teaches the classes and how much real-life travel experience do they have?
  • Ask for data. Nothing speaks louder than actions (errr, data). So what does their data tell you? How many agents complete education through the program? Do the agents find jobs? Do their sales increase? If the program boasts increased lead generation, do they have the numbers to back it up?
  • Spy on their alumnus: Actions speak louder than words: Poke around on Linkedin or Facebook to see what career path alumnus followed after they complete their education.

Let’s Wind Up

Ride into the Sunset

I’m not going to lie. I’m impressed that you made it this far. You’ve conquered the Wild West of travel agent education and training opportunities.

It’s time to mosey on: drop a comment below about you personal experiences with travel agent training programs, or give me a holler at Hello@HostAgencyReviews.Com

⭐️ Don't Miss HAR's Travel Agent Training & Education Series! ⭐️

Editor's note: This was originally published on December 18th, 2019 and updated and republished Feb. 22nd. 2021.

photo credits: Austin Distel and Yudi Susilo

About the Author
Mary Stein - Host Agency Reviews

Mary Stein

Mary Stein has been working as a writer and editor for Host Agency Reviews since 2016. She loves supporting travel advisors on their entrepreneurial journey and is inspired by their passion, tenacity, and creativity. Mary is also a mom, dog lover, fiction writer, hiker, and a Great British Bake Off superfan.