Travel agencies sell holiday packages offered by tour operators and their branches can be found on most high streets. Some agencies are independent; others are part of a chain. Counter staff are responsible for selling holidays and extras such as car hire and insurance, advising of any visa and vaccination requirements and dealing with customer complaints or queries. The duties of a travel agency manager include: recruiting, training and supervising staff; maintaining statistical and financial records; meeting profit/sales targets and managing budgets; and preparing promotional materials and displays.
This article was last updated before the start of the pandemic in 2020. As a result of Covid-19 and the restrictions to travelling it has brought about, it's likely that finding work or experience in this area of work will be difficult for the time being. Rest assured, however, that future employers won't look unfavourably on your application as a result of this – as our article on filling a coronavirus-shaped gap on your CV makes clear. For guidance on finding work under the current circumstances, take a look at our advice on job hunting during the coronavirus pandemic.
The work can be demanding during busy periods. It is important to remain calm and helpful even when under pressure from large numbers of customer enquiries. Both counter staff and branch managers spend the majority of their time out on the shop floor.
Getting in and getting on
Most degree subjects are accepted, although travel, tourism, languages, leisure/business studies or management degree holders may be at an advantage, especially when applying for management roles. Work experience in a travel agency, retail or sales environment can be useful and employers look for candidates who are commercially aware with good interpersonal, numerical and verbal communication skills.
Fluency in foreign languages (particularly European) and personal travel experience are also highly valued. Some travel agents offer graduate or management training schemes. However, competition for these is fierce so many graduates enter the profession as junior counter staff (travel agency clerks/consultants), moving into managerial positions after having gained several years’ experience.