How much do travel agents make? What factors go into how much a travel agent — or as we prefer, travel advisor — earns? We’re telling all.
Alternatively, you can learn exactly how much you can make by becoming a Fora Advisor. Sign up today and we’ll answer all your questions.
First, is there a high demand for travel agents? (Hint: yes!)
And demand is growing. Since travel restrictions were lifted after the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than ever are going on vacations and business trips (check out jobs where you travel) — more importantly, they’re smarter about how they go about it. And there’s no better way to book a trip than to use a travel advisor to get awesome perks, deals and the kind of personal touches that turns a good trip into a great one.
(Wondering how to become a travel agent? Our guide has you covered.)
How do travel agents get compensated?
There are a few different ways travel advisors earn income, and the source typically depends on the service. Here’s how it breaks down.
(Wondering about startup and upkeep costs? Check out our guide to how much it costs to become a travel agent.)
Travel partners (or suppliers, in industry lingo) pay commissions: think hotels, travel insurance, rental cars, cruise incentives, tours…
A large portion of a travel advisor’s income comes from commissions, which are a percentage — usually between 10 and 15 percent — of whatever service their client is benefiting from, be it a hotel reservation, travel insurance and so on. (Here are 5 types of bookings you can make as a Fora Advisor that aren’t hotels.)
Suppliers, such as hotel brands, cruise lines and rental car providers pay these commissions; and Fora Advisors don’t charge their clients for commissionable services. In other words? Fora Advisors get paid, and their clients don't have to pay anything extra.
The cool thing is that many of the best hotels and services know that happy travel advisors will send new clients back, so the suppliers will throw in complimentary perks to sweeten the deal. This is why Fora Advisors can offer the same rate as an online travel agency for a hotel room at, say, Virgin Hotels New Orleans (one of the most unique places to stay in New Orleans, by the way), yet offer cool extras for their clients at no additional cost.
Our guide to how much do travel agents make per booking gets into the details of the process if you’re curious.
Clients pay planning & service fees: non-commissionable bookings, vacation packages & custom itineraries…
Besides commissions, planning and service fees are the other major sources of income for travel advisors.
Why might advisors charge fees? In most cases, an advisor may charge a fee to develop a custom itinerary for a client. In this case, the client compensates the advisor for their time, much in the same way one would pay a financial advisor.
At Fora, it’s generally up to the advisor to decide how much to charge (if at all) for custom itineraries.
How much do travel agents make exactly? It depends
There’s no simple answer to this question, because Fora Advisors have the flexibility to work as much or as little as they want. Some treat their advisor position as a travel side hustle, only spending a few hours per month on booking rooms for friends and family, while others make a very lucrative living.
Can you make ‘good’ money as a travel agent? You bet
Is being a travel agent worth it? Fora Advisors will say yes. Many top Fora Advisors earn six figures per year. Again, when you join Fora, you can work as much or as little as you'd like, so the money earned will vary, but regardless, we'll teach you how to maximize your earnings.
Ready to start your lucrative career in travel? Become a Fora Advisor today.
What’s the average travel agent salary in the USA?
We can’t speak for all travel agencies, but some of the top Fora travel advisor salaries are measured in seven figures. And while such a salary is quite a bit above average, these top earners put in a lot of work, and have been doing this for a while.
On the flip side, plenty of Fora Advisors treat their travel business like a side hustle on top of their day job, earning an extra couple of hundred to several thousand dollars per month.
Factors that might affect how much a travel agent makes
A lot of factors go into how much travel agents make per month. Here are some of the most common.
Remote vs. brick-and-mortar travel agencies
There are a lot of advantages to becoming a travel agent online, but the biggest might be the substantial difference in overhead.
Travel agents who work from brick-and-mortar establishments have to pay rent or property taxes for office space. Remote travel agents only have to worry about internet connection and a comfy spot to sit.
In either case, you have to factor in your expenses when calculating how much you’re making as a travel agent, and remote agents have a clear advantage.
Independent vs. employed travel agents
Let's break it down. There are essentially three different types of travel agent jobs.
Employed travel advisors — that is, advisors who work for a company that sells travel — typically earn base pay, but there are a lot of trade-offs that make this business model less attractive to the advisor. Most importantly, there may be caps on the number of clients you have and / or reduced commissions that severely impact your bottom line.
One potential positive: marketing resources may be available through the company, but oftentimes, they’re not exactly modern in their approach (unlike Fora's!). And finally, employed travel advisors generally have to adhere to a traditional nine-to-five schedule — with little flexibility.
Fully independent travel advisors, on the other hand, can enjoy all the flexibility they want. But, as business owners, they also have to consider things like licensing fees, marketing materials, business insurance and so on that employed advisors don’t have to worry about. These fees and extra expenses can dampen profit margins, and can be prohibitive for prospective advisors who don’t necessarily want to risk the startup costs.
Our guide on how to start a travel agency from scratch provides more details, but we’ll be frank: there’s a much easier path to making great money as a travel agent.
The third option (and sweet spot)? Join Fora. Fora Advisors are technically independent travel agents — sometimes referred to as independent contractors — except they operate under Fora’s licenses and have access to an incredible wealth of resources (including extensive travel agent training).
Plus, thanks to Fora's global network of travel partners, our advisors unlock tons of exclusive client perks at thousands of hotels.
Want to learn more? Here’s how to become an independent travel agent through Fora.
In a literal sense, how do travel agents get paid?
Across the industry, travel advisors are paid via the old-school, commission-check-in-the-mail method. At Fora, travel advisors are paid via direct deposit. And our advisors don't have to chase down their commission payments. We take care of all that.
Read about how travel agents get paid for more details.
Are there ways to maximize the earnings a travel agent makes?
Certainly. How much a travel agent makes depends heavily on factors like their niche, host agency (if applicable) and — of course — travel planning skills.
Can’t wait to start your travel career? Become a Fora Advisor.
1. Consider adopting a niche
A niche can go a long way in boosting how much a travel agent makes because it gives them a focus. Rather than trying to be good at everything, niche travel agents become great at only one or two aspects of travel — at least to start. This allows them to build a wealth of knowledge in their niche that will impress clients, potentially drawing in business from new clients seeking a similar trip.
At Fora, there’s no limit to the type of niches an advisor adopts. You could specialize in selling cruises, Disney vacations, trips to a certain location (such as Las Vegas or Barcelona) — whatever you’re most passionate about.
2. Expand your partnerships with hotel reps, tour operators and other travel-related services
Incentives like VIP hotel perks — complimentary hotel upgrades, meals, etc. — give travel advisors an edge over online travel agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com. As such, expanding these partnerships allows travel advisors to offer a wider range of trip benefits while remaining competitive.
Fora Advisors can unlock awesome perks for their clients at over 4,500 hotels around the world and counting. And Fora’s HQ is constantly working to expand its network of partnerships.
3. Work with a travel company that cares about your success
This may be a shameless plug, but our advisors will back us up on this one. Just check out our advisor-sourced guide to the best reasons to become a Fora Advisor.
In any case, your choice of host agency is critical. Plenty of old-school agencies essentially throw their advisors into the wild, only stepping in if sales quotas aren’t met.
At Fora, we offer unwavering support to all our advisors, plus loads of awesome resources, including a bevy of marketing materials, thorough travel agent training and access to an engaged community filled with travel experts.
Here are a few insider tips for how to be a successful travel advisor.
4. Give your clients the star treatment (because thoughtful advisors will get repeat business)
Possibly the most important factor affecting how much a travel agent makes: their customer service skills.
The simple truth is that clients will only use your services if you actually help them. Putting the time and effort into making sure your clients have an amazing experience will pay dividends later. Not only will you likely win their future business, but you could win the business of their family members, friends and peers, too.
(Read about how travel agents get clients.)
5. Keep at it: being a travel agent can be stressful, but so worth it
Finally, patience and dedication have a dramatic effect on how much travel agents make.
Chances are, you’re not going to start with a dozen clients planning 20 trips. It takes a lot of time and effort to get to that point, but if you can, you’ll find that travel planning can be a very rewarding career.
Need to know more? See what it takes to become a travel agent.
How much do travel agents make? Ask (or become) a Fora Advisor
Ultimately, the best way to find out how much you can make as a travel agent is to try it out for yourself. Sign up to become a Fora Advisor today.
Not quite ready? Check out these travel advisor resources, too: