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Definition of a Travel Consultant

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Planning a trip? A travel consultant can help you make the most of your experience. A travel consultant has the expertise to create a customized itinerary for a unique, memorable vacation.

What Is a Travel Consultant?

Travel consultants assess clients' wants and needs, and can provide information about the best travel options. They work at understanding their clients so that they can build long-term relationships. Travel consultants work with hotels, airlines, as well as other venues to get the best prices for their clients. It's their job to attend to every detail so that travelers will have an enjoyable, problem-free experience. The average annual salary for a travel consultant is $40,372, but it can vary, according to geographic location, experience and other factors. Consultants often get industry perks, including commissions and free or discounted travel, which can offset relatively low salaries.

Travel Agent or Travel Consultant?

In decades past, the services of a travel agent were necessary to get airline tickets, book a cruise or create an itinerary for a vacation or business trip. The internet changed all that. With numerous booking sites and the ability for consumers to contact hospitality providers directly, the need for travel agents has dwindled. Still, a travel agent is helpful when you know what you want and you'd like someone else to make the arrangements. A travel agent is a salesperson who earns commissions from the hotels, resorts and entertainment venues booked for clients. Airlines no longer pay commissions to travel agents, which is a big factor in the declining need for travel agency services.

The average salary for a travel agent is $42,696 a year. There are no formal education requirements to get into the business. Some community colleges offer one-year certificate programs or two-year associate's degrees that will prepare you for the job. Online courses are available too; just make sure to do your research before enrolling so you understand what you'll be getting and what it will cost.

A travel consultant does not just fulfill a client's orders. As travelers are increasingly looking for customized and boutique experiences, the role of a travel consultant is to use their extensive knowledge of travel opportunities and their understanding of their clients to create a trip that's memorable and unique. If your passion is volunteerism, if you want luxury travel or you're seeking a one-of-a-kind adventure, a travel consultant can help you plan a trip that caters to your needs.

A travel consultant can also serve as an advocate should problems arise on a trip. If flights are cancelled, for example, a travel consultant can use industry connections to re-book a flight so the client does not have to stand in long lines of disgruntled passengers who need to make their own arrangements.

What's a Travel Manager?

A travel manager works for an organization and handles travel arrangement for employees. Travel manager responsibilities can include the administration of travel policies and guidelines, budgeting and utilization analysis. Corporate travel managers advise employees about travel requirements such as passports, visas and any special conditions. Typically, a bachelor's degree is required. Salaries usually range from $76,608 to $107, 022 per year, depending on geographic location, experience and other factors.

GDS: A Travel Industry Essential

GDS stands for Global Distribution System. It's specialized computer software that provides information on airline travel. GDS is more sophisticated than an airline booking site, as it not only provides flight times and costs of carriers, but also information on the aircraft, the classes of seating and other details. GDS is not for use by the public. In fact, you must have an accreditation number in order to log in, which you can get only after completing extensive training. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) offers a variety of online training courses for GDS.

GDS job descriptions are posted by companies that book high volumes of air travel. Because GDS is a complex system, it is not worthwhile to use it for individual or small numbers of bookings.

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About the Author

Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.