Certified travel agents earn a lot more than their untrained peers

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Travel agents who have completed some form of certification or training are more likely to have higher annual sales and compensation than those who don't, according to the Travel Institute's "Changing Face of Travel Agents" study.

The first part of the study revealed a dramatic rise in independent contractors in the past 10 years. The second part of the study, released Monday, focused on compensation and job contentment.

According to the study, the average compensation in 2017 for agents who had no certification or specialist training was $19,428. Conversely, agents who were Travel Institute-certified (as Certified Travel Associates, Certified Travel Counselors, or Certified Travel Industry Executives) had average compensation of $42,953.

Compensation for agents who were Travel Institute-certified as destination or niche specialists averaged $37,534; CLIA-certified agents, $33,332; supplier/other destination niche specialists, $31,645; and Travel Institute TAP-certified (Travel Agent Proficiency), $21,968.

The Travel Institute said 22% of Travel Institute-certified agent, and 16% of CLIA-certified agents, earned more than $60,000 in compensation in 2017. Only 7% of noncertified agents earned more than $60,000.

Trained agents also had higher average sales, the study found.

Agents with no certifications or specialist training averaged $215,114 in sales in 2017. Those with CTA, CTC or CTIE certifications averaged $554,880. Travel Institute-certified destination and niche specialists averaged $488,336; CLIA-certified agents, $446,512; supplier/other destination and niche specialists, $403,775; and Travel Institute TAP-certified agents, $265,541.

"I look at these results, especially compensation, as a trifecta for our industry beginning with well-trained travel professionals who are earning significantly more money than agents without advanced learning," Travel Institute president Diane Petras said in a statement.

"Secondly, for suppliers, whose distribution network is immensely smarter and more proficient at selling travel, including their specific products. And lastly, the consumer who truly benefits from agents' hard-earned knowledge and skills that go hand-in-hand in creating an extraordinary vacation experience."

The Travel Institute also compared its recent study with another, conducted in 2008, and found agents are happier in their jobs today. In total, 96% reported being happy in their current position, compared to 84% in 2008; 97% said they were likely to remain in the travel industry for the rest of their career, compared to 52% in 2008; and 68% said they would recommend a career in retail travel, compared to 29% in 2008. Eleven percent of agents said they had high job-related stress, compared to 29% in 2008.

The study was based on responses from 1,808 travel agents in the U.S. to an online survey conducted last December by Schreiner Research Services.

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