Hospitality, leisure and travel

Travel agents: area of work

Help customers book the holidays they want in a graduate career as a travel agent.

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.

Working environment

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.