Travel planners, or travel agents, held more than 64,000 jobs in May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. People look to travel planners to help them get the best deals on travel packages and advise them on where to go. Strong communication and customer-service skills and an orientation to detail are among the qualities necessary for success as a travel planner.
Travel planners help their clients make the best decisions about travel arrangements. They make suggestions on where to go, methods of transportation, car rentals, hotel accommodations, tours to take and attractions to see. They advise clients about their chosen destinations, including weather conditions, local customs, attractions, necessary documents and currency exchange rates. Travel planners sometimes visit resorts, hotels and restaurants to evaluate the quality and make informed recommendations. A travel planner's job also includes marketing travel packages and services offered by her travel office.
A travel planner spends most of his time in an office environment behind a desk -- filling out paperwork, communicating with clients, contacting hotels and booking flights. He'll spend a lot of time on the phone and at the computer. During especially busy traveling times, a travel planner faces a lot of pressure. He may have to reschedule flights or cancel hotel reservations as needed. Self-employed travel planners often work long hours, but some are able to work from home.
Education and Skills
Formal training and computer skills increase a job applicant's chances for work as a travel planner. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, training is available through industry professional associations, vocational colleges and two-year colleges. Adult education programs also offer courses, and some are available online. A typical travel curriculum includes geography, marketing, sales and key elements of the travel industry. Foreign language, geography, world history and business courses are also helpful for travel planners.Some colleges offer degrees in travel and tourism at the bachelor's or master's degree level.
Some factors that influence a travel planner's salary are agency size, sales ability and experience. In 2013, the median annual wage for travel planners was $37,200 according to the BLS. The highest 10 percent of travel planners earned $57,910 or more annually, while the lowest 10 percent earned $19,640 or less. Sometimes travel planners also receive perks, such as free or low-cost travel to evaluate the quality of destinations. The earnings of self-employed travel planners depend on commissions, and they may lack the benefits received by travel planners who work for an agency.
Advancement Opportunities and Job Outlook
Some travel planners start out as clerical staff in a travel agency but move up to planners or agents with on-the-job training and experience. Experienced travel planners can advance to managerial positions or start their own business. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for travel agents to decline by 12 percent between 2012 and 2022 as the Internet makes it easier for travelers to book their own trips. Planners who specialize in corporate travel or a niche market, such as adventure travel, will have the best job prospects.