Travel and tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Occupying a vast sector of the economy, the industry is comprised of countless individuals and companies that provide a wide assortment of services to travelers. With the number of travelers increasing annually throughout the world, it is expected that the travel and tourism sector will continue to expand.
When people travel for pleasure or business, most turn to travel agents to help them plan their trips. Thus, the travel agent is at the hub of the industry. It is the travel agent who guides travelers through the maze of choices for transportation, accommodations, tours, and rentals. While the Internet enjoys much press for the alternatives it offers to travelers who wish to book their own flights and hotels, the fact is that travel agents in the United States alone account for the sale of three out of every four airline tickets and the sale of nine out of ten cruise packages. In 1999, U.S. travel agencies accounted for close to $50 billion in ticket sales.
The future for the travel and tourism industry is bright. Currently the industry ranks as the second largest business enterprise in the U.S., and many economists expect that it will soon become the largest. The industry accounts for 6.7 of Americas GNP, and this, too, is likely to grow. The reasons for this are varied and include:
1. The world is getting smaller. Modern transportation systems reach into every corner of the globe, making it easier to visit places that just a few years ago would have been nearly impossible to visit.
2. More countries than ever welcome tourists because of the economic benefits they bring. Many countries that not long ago had closed borders are now open and eager for tourist dollars.
3. The decade of the nineties witnessed significant worldwide economic expansion, which increased the disposable income for millions of families. This is particularly true of Western nations and Japan.
4. The aging baby boomer population of the U.S. those individuals between the ages of 46 and 54 is at the peak of its earning power. Moreover, in many of these families, children are grown and have finished college, leaving their parents with new-found income and wealth. A big part of this wealth is used for travel. Indeed, American baby boomers are among the most active groups in the travel and tourism industry.
5. Retired individuals account for a large part of the travel industrys revenues. Free from the responsibilities of raising children and building careers, many retired people regularly travel to places they always wanted to visit but previously did not have the time or money. Given the fact that Americas population, as well as the populations of Western Europe and Japan, are graying, it is likely that "seniors" will continue to help fuel the travel industrys expansion.
All this bodes particularly well for travel agents and their agencies. Although the industry is highly competitive, hard-working travel agents enjoy great success. Aside from the pleasure of operating a successful business, there are many other opportunities that one may realize as a travel agent. Many of these opportunities are rather common, cited regularly in travel articles. Impressive discounts, complimentary accommodations, and free tours are typical, but there is much more for the travel agent who also views himself as an entrepreneur.
The creative travel agent does not limit himself to simply booking trips for others, but uses his position as a springboard for taking advantage of global opportunities. For example, when taking advantage of a free (or very low cost) familiarization tour of Europe sponsored by a tour operator to acquaint agents with his itinerary a travel agent may use his down time to explore business opportunities in the region. There may be local companies in which he may wish to invest, he may find that he can establish a tour for a niche market, or he may find through first-hand experience that the host countrys laws will enable him to invest in foreign securities at substantial tax savings. Opportunities abound for those who are willing to find them.
The closing years of the millennium have witnessed a revolution in the travel industry. In the past, the industry was filled with companies that maintained storefront offices. Indeed, some travel agencies maintained several offices. This is no longer true. While the offices still exist, the technological revolution has enabled many travel agents to work out of their homes, freeing them from the need of maintaining a large office with expensive overhead. A small room, a moderately priced computer and Internet connection, phone system, desk and chair are often all that is needed to conduct travel business from ones home-based office.
The industry has become open to virtually anyone who loves travel and embraces the challenge of owning a business. Using his phone and computer, the agent working from his home can easily book airlines, cruises, hotels, and tours, working when and as much as he or she likes. Some people become travel agents to establish a home business that will become their career, but many others prefer to work only part-time as travel agents. Whatever way you choose to operate your travel business, you still can enjoy all of the many benefits, prestige, and success that come with being a travel agent.
Individuals who are interested in becoming travel agents should not simply accept the traditional bounds and benefits that come with travel agencies, chiefly the booking of trips and the chance to travel cheaply themselves, but should look upon the many global opportunities that they can enjoy. While they should view themselves as travel agents, they should also view themselves as entrepreneurs.
Of course, to realize the many opportunities that will be available to you, you will need to keep your mind and eyes open, be willing to investigate and pursue alternatives for possible investment, and accept that hard work is essential to being successful in an increasingly competitive world. However, if you enjoy traveling at little or no cost, desire to own and operate a business, and wish to pursue investments and business opportunities on a global scale, becoming a travel agent is one of the most effective methods of attaining your goals.