What is a Travel Agent (and How Do You Find the Right One?)

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Fora Author Fora

The Modern Travel Agency


    If you thought travel agents were a thing of the past, surprise! Travel agents are more in demand than ever, and travelers are using them for everything from extravagant honeymoons to weekend staycations and everything in between.

    But what is a travel agent, exactly, and how do they work? We’re going to break down everything that you need to know about them, how to use one, and most importantly, how to make sure you’re finding the right travel agent for you. Plus, if you read to the end, we’ll even tell you how to become a travel agent right from your own home.

    Ready to take the first step? Become a travel advisor today.

    What is a travel agent? What does a travel agent do?

    A travel agent works with you to find and book the perfect trip. They help with planning trips and the best travel advisors provide you with insight and firsthand experience to book the perfect trip based on your personal style. Not dissimilar from a real estate agent when you buy a house, a travel agent is essentially someone who can guide you through the process of making a purchase so that you have everything you need for a perfect experience.

    Travel advisor vs. travel agent: what’s the difference?

    You might be wondering what the difference is between a travel advisor and a travel agent. The truth is…

    Travel agents & travel advisors are the same thing.

    While at the end of the day they’re pretty much the same thing, more and more travel agents now refer to themselves as travel advisors. This is because they do so much more than just booking trips.

    Travel advisors have unique travel experiences that they can use to make custom recommendations for you and your travel style. They have relationships with key people, like the General Manager at the hotel you’re staying at, or a really good tour operator for a local food tour. And they can offer you specialty perks and upgrades just for booking with them. In that way, they’re advising you on your trip and helping you have the best experience possible, not just pressing the “book now” button.

    Travel advisors often work with a host agency, which is an organization on whose behalf they book trips for their clients. Those agencies give them an IATA number, a unique code that allows them to book travel for you. Fora is a host travel agency that provides our travel advisors with an IATA number to book.

    TLDR: Travel agents are the same thing as travel advisors, although some have a preference for one identifier over the other. At the end of the day, travel advisors are essentially travel consultants that help you book the perfect travel arrangements for your unique travel style.

    When should I use a travel advisor?

    Travel advisors aren’t just for that once-in-a-lifetime safari trip, or that 20-year anniversary getaway. They can plan all types of travel, from work trips to corporate retreats, cruise line bookings, travel packages and even a staycation when you need a moment for R&R. (Read more about how to become a cruise travel agent.) Your travel advisor gets to know your personality and your unique needs so they can save you a ton of time and energy searching for places to stay, while also helping you think of ideas that you might not have considered before. 

    While you’ll see a noticeable difference on your first travel advisor-planned trip, it’s a relationship that will just keep getting better with every trip you plan. That’s because you’re interacting with a real person who gets to know you, your preferences and needs, and even picks up on things you wouldn’t realize about yourself, like that you always ask for an extra pillow when you check-in, or love a good ocean view. 

    Plus, they really come in handy when you’re traveling with family or a partner. They can fuse all of your travel styles and needs together so that you can have a trip that works for everyone without the headache.

    What types of travel do travel advisors book?

    While the job description of a travel agent varies based on the individual you are working with, most travel advisors can help you with a number of parts of the travel planning process, and it usually starts with identifying a travel destination with you and booking a great hotel. These could include large chains if you’re looking for more consistency, or small boutique hotels and family-owned businesses if you want more local charm. Any hotel that you can find on a booking site is usually one that a travel advisor can also book for you. Resorts and cruises are other components that you’ll usually find in a travel advisor’s wheelhouse. 

    You can book both business trips and leisure trips with a travel agent, as well as international travel and domestic travel. Travel advisors can book a wide range of trips, helping you choose everything from the best bachelorette travel destination to a great place for off-the-beaten-path travel. What is a travel agent if not an all-in-one travel Swiss Army knife, after all?

    You might also want to consider a travel advisor for travel insurance, and they shine when you’re planning a group trip and need to take into account multiple people’s needs (whether travel preferences, accessibility needs or other accommodations) at once. Services from travel advisors are particularly useful as we start to travel during the pandemic, because they can share updated safety protocol with you as well as help you navigate changed travel plans.

    While a travel advisor isn’t usually going to plan out all the details of a trip, they often identify and help with the key logistics. In addition to setting you up with your stay, they’ll help you get a lay of the land, identify what’s around your hotel, what to expect on-site and where to go for dinner. You may also find some travel advisors will hook you up with a unique offsite activity.

    If you want a travel advisor who will go even further and book your airline tickets, research vacation packages, help with car rentals, plan your full itinerary, or even help with visas... some can, though they may charge you a fee for that service.

    Do travel advisors really give you VIP treatment?

    There’s something about being greeted with refreshments upon arrival that just make a person feel seen. From scoring you a room upgrade or getting you free breakfast to special welcome snacks and gifts, travel advisors have the hookup on special perks for their clients that you simply can’t get on your own. That’s because you’re utilizing their wide network and tapping into their connections. Hotels love travel advisors (and why wouldn’t they? They bring quality clients time and again), so hotels give travel advisors incentive to keep them coming back, and you reap the benefits. It’s like showing up at that new swanky hotel with the cool aunt who knows everyone – you’re an insider, even if you’ve never been there before.

    What type of credentials do travel advisors have?

    You don’t need specific credentials or a bachelor’s degree (or even a high school diploma) to become a travel agent, but many choose to invest in ongoing training so that they can best serve their clients’ needs. At Fora, we offer our travel advisors multiple training sessions every week so that they are always in-the-know with the latest information on travel.

    Travel advisors are usually independent contractors, or freelancers, which means they are self-employed and can work as much as they want, whenever they want. Sound like a dream job? Become an advisor today.

    How much do travel advisors cost?

    Sounds expensive, right? That’s the best part – it’s actually free to use many travel advisors. That’s because they make their income from commissions on the hotels and properties they recommend, just like a booking website like Kayak or Booking.com does. But unlike booking engines, they can make a customized recommendation based on the person they know – YOU – versus a bunch of online reviews.

    Combine that with the special perks and all the time you’ve saved researching your own trip, and you’ll find that hiring a travel advisor to plan your next trip is not just free; it actually saves you money. Yup; it literally could not get better than that!

    How much money do travel advisors make?

    How much travel advisors make often depends on how much they’re booking. The great thing about being a travel advisor, especially with Fora, is that you can work on your own schedule. Some advisors work full-time, while others manage their travel advisor responsibilities alongside a day job or other freelance gigs.

    Advisors typically earn anywhere from 5-15% on a hotel booking, so a $5,000 vacation could put as much as $750 in an advisor’s pocket. Compare that with the 30 percent that online booking sites make, and you’ll see that working with a travel advisor not only gives you a better experience, but it supports a small business (your travel advisor), and keeps more money in the pocket of the properties you’re staying at so they can continue running their business, too. Learn more: 5 Surprising Things We Can Learn from Travel Advisors.

    Where can I find a travel advisor?

    It seems like the only question remaining is how to actually find a travel advisor – and lucky for you, we can help you with that too. Fora helps hundreds of travel-lovers (like you!) build careers as travel advisors, and you’ll love working with them because they’re real experts in their space. You can browse our list of travel advisors based around the world and find one that aligns with your travel style, or request to be matched with an advisor based on your preferences.

    How can I become a travel advisor?

    Are you the go-to person for travel tips? Maybe you have a following and are looking to level up your creator business? Established audience or not, you may consider starting your own flexible career as a travel advisor with Fora. We've rounded up a post with all of our tips on how to become a travel advisor. When you're ready to transform your passion for travel into meaningful revenue, get started with us today. We’ll hook you up with everything you need for success in the travel industry.

    Or, for more info, check out:

    Are you the go-to person for travel tips?

    Transform your passion for travel into your dream job. We'll set you up with everything you need to succeed as a travel advisor. From training to top-notch tech, marketing assets, community, commission tracking & payments (and more), we've got you.

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