How do I become a travel planner?
First, let's discuss the difference between a travel planner and a travel agent, although it can get very vague nowadays. Neither require a college degree or certification. More on that below.
What does a travel agent do?
A travel agent is often a full-time worker that is paid a low hourly wage by an agency, and makes a living nearly solely on commissions from travel suppliers that the agency has deals with. They often are able to get good prices for all-inclusives, tours and hotels through their supplier market. There are many independent travel agents that work for themselves.
What does a travel planner do?
A travel planner is almost always self-employed, works from home, and derives a large portion (if not all) their profit from service fees. Planners are free to book whatever and whenever for their clients, and are not bound to any particular travel suppliers. The owner here at Jess.Travel is a travel planner. Jess started part-time while maintaining full employment as a certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA).
So, our particular expertise will be in helping you become a freelance travel planner, with very little startup.
Becoming a personal travel planner.
As I mentioned, the good news is that you don't have to go back to college to earn a degree. No degree is necessary. Accreditation of various kinds through established companies like ARC, CLIA and/or IATA is highly recommended, but even that isn't completely necessary. There are a few states likes California, Florida and Iowa that require a "Seller of Travel" certificate, which you'd need to apply for. In Florida, where our agency is located, you go through the Department of Agriculture for it. I suggest reading our business startup article for more details on getting up and running.
This site has a great 7 day setup challenge for establishing your agency quickly.
Choosing the right host agency
Once your business is established, you'll most likely want to cut your teeth working with a host agency. A host agency can help teach you the ropes and get you established. The host agency will have already obtained certain credentials like a CLIA, IATA or TRUE number that they will share with you. You maintain your own business branding and identity, but you will use the host agencies credentials to get you access to travel suppliers that will pay you a commission on a booking. You do not have to go this route. You could charge higher planning fees, and not worry about commissions, but oftentimes the larger buying power of the host agency will get your clients better rates, and you'll make more money. It's a win-win for you and your client. You could also obtain your own credentials. These are called independent agents.
However, if you're looking for guidance with business startup, marketing, web design, and low start-up costs, you might want to partner with a host, and if you do go that route, we hope you'll choose Jess.Travel.
How does a travel planner get paid?
Travel planners get paid via service charges (aka planning fees) and/or commissions paid by travel suppliers (usually via their host agency).
Travel planning fees break down as such:
A flat fee
A per traveler fee
An hourly fee
A daily fee
This is entirely up to you. Jess.Travel uses the daily fee method for what it's worth. You can also charge fees for certain items you know you can not get a commission on like airline ticketing. These amounts are totally up to you, and dependent on what you think your customer will pay.
For bookings which you will receive a commission on, the agency will report and collect the commission and then distribute a portion to you (usually the lion's share if you're getting a good deal). It is common that your portion of the commission will start low and end high based on either time or sales. You'll sign an agreement with your host agency on startup that sets your commission rate.
How much does an independent travel planner make?
Well, that's the $61,000 question, right? Problem is, there's no definitive answer, and the range can be quite broad. Some motivated full time travel planners will make over 6 figures annually. Most will be well below that, especially early on. If you're an effective marketer for yourself, you will make a solid living, and with the travel perks, you'll love what you do.
For thorough salary details check out this site.