Jun 2, 2023

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Travel Advisor Resources

How Do Travel Agents Get Paid? (& Why Fora Does It Differently)

Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora Travel

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A career as a travel advisor is an exciting opportunity to meld your passion for travel with your professional life.

As you dive into thinking about your new career in the travel industry, one of the first questions you’ll likely consider is “How do travel agents get paid?”

Before diving into the details of how a travel advisor earns money, make sure you’re in-the-know on what a travel agent is... The high-level overview is that a travel advisor (often used interchangeably with the term “travel agent”) is someone who earns money by planning, selling and booking travel.

Read on to learn how travel agents get paid in the industry at large, plus, get insight on how Fora sets up our advisors up for success. When you’re ready to dive into your new career as a travel advisor, sign up to become a Fora Advisor.

How do travel agents make money in the first place?

Travel advising is a commission-based industry. Travel agents, including Fora Advisors, are predominantly paid in commissions. A commission is a percentage of the cost of a travel experience (such as a hotel stay). Some agents also charge planning fees for additional services (more on that below).

As a travel advisor, you can earn money from booking leisure travel or corporate travel (or both)! Below, we've outlined an overview on the two primary ways travel agents make money.

1. Travel advisors earn commissions from booking travel

For the travel agent industry at large, commissions are the centerpiece of how travel agents are paid.

Let’s say a client wants to stay at a nice hotel during their trip. They connect with a travel agent, who books the client’s room on their behalf. The hotel will then pay commission based on a percentage of the room cost. The commission varies from property to property (every brand is unique). It’s worth noting that most 4- and 5- star hotels have commissions already baked into the total cost of a stay, and so your clients pay the same as they would if they booked direct (plus, you can often hook them up with extra perks and incentives along the way just by booking with you).

And it's not just hotel bookings. There are plenty of other types of travel that are commissionable for travel agents, with travel companies ranging from rental car brands, cruise lines, vacation packages, tour operators, travel insurance and more.

Again, commissions will vary from partner to partner, but typically pay the agent 10 to 15 percent of the booking cost, and sometimes more (depending on the brand and type of partner). For example, it’s not uncommon to see cruise lines that offer commissions at 20-25 percent. Commissions are typically split between travel advisors and their host agencies (more on that below).

2. Travel agents can also charge planning or service fees

There are other ways travel agents are paid that go beyond commissions. Many travelers want an agent's assistance to get the most out of their experience (or they simply want to outsource the trip planning to someone they can trust). Better yet, many of these clients are happy to pay a premium to take their travel to the next level. 

In cases like this, travel advisors can earn money from planning fees. Travel advisors can opt to charge fees for things like custom itineraries, airfare/airline tickets, add-on’s and more.

Many Fora Advisors count planning fees (charges for creating tailored itineraries) as significant revenue. The exact fee amount varies by advisor, but a common starting point is $250 per week of travel planned. Travel advisors with more experience often charge more. That fee adds up quickly if you have multiple clients planning trips.

How do travel agents get paid?

Fora Advisor Gaya Vinay

Travel agents are typically paid by their host agency

When you become a travel advisor, you’ll likely want to join a host agency. A host agency is a business that provides support and resources to travel advisors, especially those who are independent or work as freelancers. Think of yourself as a small business owner. (Learn more about how to become an independent travel agent).

By affiliating with a host agency, travel advisors gain access to a range of benefits including enhanced commission rates from travel suppliers (the travel brands that advisors book with).

This partnership allows travel advisors to focus more on client service and growing their business, while leveraging the buying power and industry relationships of the host agency. For new advisors, a host agency can also offer a structured path to enter the industry, providing necessary guidance and resources to establish themselves in the competitive travel market. At Fora, we’re serious about welcoming newcomers into the industry, and offer a comprehensive program to help you go from travel lover to travel pro.

Every host agency has a different way of approaching payments, but at Fora, we pride ourselves on our approach that makes commission payments easy. We offer our travel advisors complete commission tracking and payment services, which means that our finance team does all of the invoicing, tracking and direct deposit payments – so you can focus more on the fun part (travel planning, that is).

“With Fora, I just forward confirmation and details, and we have our own back-end customer relationship manager that shows us the progress of the booking and the commission status,” Fora Advisor Amna Ismail said in an interview with TravelAge West. “There’s a department just for commissions, so they do the following up. It's an awesome perk.”

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Advisor - Amna Ismail
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Amna Ismail
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Travel agents get paid after their client finishes traveling

If you’re used to a career that pays hourly or by salary, getting used to a commission-based role may seem daunting, but the process is relatively straightforward.

In terms of how it works, once your client finishes their travel experience, the travel partner (supplier) pays the host agency a commission. Without getting too into the nitty gritty, the main thing to know is that a host agency has an IATA number which is used in the process of commission claims and payments (it identifies the agency in transactions with travel suppliers). Then, a host agency then pays its advisors. At Fora, we handle all of the commission tracking and payments for our advisors.

On average, how much do travel agents make? Do travel agents make good money?

An important aspect of the answer to the question, “How do travel agents make money?” is how much that pay is (i.e., how much do travel agents make per booking, personalized itinerary, etc.). There’s no easy answer to this, and for many, you get out what you put in.

Ballpark estimates: some of our full-time, expert advisors earn well into the six figures (or beyond). Others make extra income as a flexible, part-time role. You can learn more in our guide on travel advisor salaries.

For a more lucrative career, you might consider focusing on a niche, like working as a Disney travel agent or focusing on high-end travel (learn how to become a luxury travel agent). Or, you can specialize in something like cruises, which typically offer higher commissions. Learn more how to become a cruise travel agent. Ultimately, picking a niche and focusing on it is an incredible tool to help you build your book of business.

How does Fora help travel agents get paid?

Fora Advisor Brit Healey

From handling payment logistics to a offering best-in-class training, here’s how Fora is different from traditional travel agencies — especially when it comes to how our travel agents get paid.

We handle all of the invoicing & payments

You might be surprised to learn that most traditional travel agencies and agents often have to chase down the commission they're owed. Not at Fora. We invoice our travel partners for you, track commissions and follow up with partners to ensure you get paid.

How do travel agents get paid by Fora? When you make a booking via our all-in-one booking platform, our in-house finance team is automatically alerted. In Portal, our integrated travel advisor platform, you'll be able to see the status of past and upcoming commission payments in an easy-to-view layout. We take care of all the invoicing and payouts, so you don't have to lift a finger. Your commission will be deposited directly into your bank account. (By the way, it's not uncommon for old-school payment methods – ahem: checks – to exist somewhere along the payment pipeline in the rest of the industry. As a modern travel agency, however, Fora pays advisors via direct deposit.)

Fora doesn’t have minimum sales quotas

Book as much or as little as you want, on your own terms. Our flexible approach allows you to build your career as a travel advisor the way you want.

Fora offers a wide suite of preferred partners (many of which have enhanced commissions)

Fora has established partnerships with over 4,500 hotels worldwide, granting our advisors the ability to offer their clients unique upgrades, perks and benefits at these locations. This extensive network includes esteemed hotel groups like Virtuoso, Four Seasons and Rosewood, among others.

In addition, we have our own in-house preferred partnership program, called Fora Reserve. Our collaborations span across luxury and boutique lifestyle segments, ensuring we cater to a diverse range of client preferences.

For all of our preferred partnerships, we have a dedicated team that helps to negotiate travel agent commissions to offer our advisors higher commissions at many properties around the world.

We’re focused on the bottom line of your business

There are two more areas that affect how travel agents get paid, at least in terms of their bottom line: travel agent certification and travel agent training. Traditional travel agencies often require prospective travel agents to pay hefty fees and tuition before they ever get paid a commission. These upfront costs impede how quickly you can build your business.

Fora does things a little differently. We offer in-house training ranging from the basics of becoming a travel agent to more advanced topics like group bookings and working with DMCs.

All of this training is fully remote (learn how to become a travel agent from home for more info).

Last but not least, we support our Fora Advisors with building their book of business. Get our five tips on how to build your clientele as a travel advisor for a little preview of our approach.

Have more questions beyond “how do travel agents get paid?”

We have plenty of resources for you, including our comprehensive guide on how to become a travel agent.

Interested in joining us? Sign up to become a Fora Advisor today.

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