For many people, combining a passion for travel with the ability to make the dreams of others come true by organizing vacations that provide memories that will last for a lifetime is nothing short of being the ideal job.
But if you live in Florida, how easy is it to become a travel agent? Is it harder or easier than elsewhere? And are there any special requirements you need to know about? Here, we have answers to these questions and more as we explain how to become a travel agent in Florida.
How to Become a Travel Agent in Florida
What’s special about Florida?
Before we start looking at the job description of a travel agent, the kind of skills required and the path to becoming one, we need to say a few words about Florida specifically – what’s so special about working as a travel agent in the Sunshine State?
In most states, there is no particular licensing procedure for becoming a travel agent, but Florida is one of only a few states that require travel agents to become registered.
This is partly because the travel and tourism industry is so important in Florida, so the state does everything it can to regulate the industry and prevent unscrupulous outfits from operating.
As a result, if you want to work as a travel agent in Florida – or “seller of travel” as they are technically known locally – there’s a good chance you’ll have to get registered, which is why this post is about the process in Florida rather than anywhere else in the United States.
We’ll come to the registry procedure in a moment, but before we get to that, let’s take a step back and talk about the job itself in more general terms to see if it’s something you want to do and also to help you understand if you’d be a good fit.
What is a travel agent and what do they do?
A travel agent is responsible for planning, organizing and selling vacation packages, and the job description includes things like communicating with clients by phone and by email, making hotel and flight reservations and arranging car rentals or other transportation.
They may also be required to help out with issues such as lost passports and missed flights, and they should always be available to answer any questions their clients might have right up until the end of a successful trip.
What kind of skills and qualities do you need for the job?
The skills and qualities required for the job include the following:
- Great communication skills
- Meticulous attention to detail
- Passion for travel
- In-depth knowledge of the destinations and products being sold
- Competent IT skills
- Willingness to learn and develop
How can you become a travel agent in Florida
Generally speaking, there are a couple of options if you want to become a travel agent in Florida. These include joining an existing agency and working there as an employee, setting yourself up as a freelance travel agent or opening an agency of your own.
So let’s look at these possibilities in more detail.
Join a travel agency
Perhaps the most hassle-free way of becoming a travel agent is to join an existing travel agency.
However, it would be almost impossible for a person, even somebody with lots of travel experience and a passion for traveling, to turn up on their first day and start selling tours with no relevant training or experience.
As a result, the first thing to do is to make sure you have the necessary training to gain the skills you’ll need to do the job – and here, you have two main options.
Your first option is to get a job working in a travel agency that provides training for you “on the job”. In this case, you will be shown the ropes as you work and will learn about things like making phone calls, selling packages and creating clients’ itineraries as you go.
You will then be given more and more responsibilities as you master various skills until you have learned enough to work in the position by yourself.
The travel agency may also require you to attend certain courses to teach you about things like customer service, the destinations you are selling tours to, planning methods and much more.
This kind of training might be completed within only a month.
Study before applying
The other option is to complete a course before applying for a position. In this case, you can choose to study for a diploma or certificate – or you can elect to study for a full degree in a subject such as hospitality or tourism.
The duration of such courses can vary. For example, diploma or certificate courses can be completed in around six to 12 weeks – but degree courses can take as long as between two and six years.
However, the advantage of this option is that you will gain far more knowledge, giving you a much deeper understanding of the travel industry and everything related to it.
It will put you in a much stronger position when applying for jobs, even if you have no prior experience of working as a travel agent, and it will also set you up to be more successful in the long term.
The advantages and disadvantages of joining an agency
There are several advantages as well as some disadvantages to this approach.
If you join an agency, you can expect to receive the support and guidance of your peers and managers, and they can help you develop in your career as you gain more experience.
Another major advantage is that you won’t have to worry about registering individually since it is the agency that needs to register – individual travel agents working for existing businesses don’t need to register themselves.
This makes the admin side of the job a whole lot simpler, allowing you to simply focus on selling tours.
At the same time, you will be an employee at a company, so you will be working according to the schedule you are given and won’t have the freedom to choose your own hours or working conditions.
Set yourself up as a freelancer or open your own agency
On the other hand, you can choose to work for yourself, either as a freelancer or by setting up your own travel agency.
The major advantage of being a freelancer is that you can choose your own hours, and you can even decide to do a little bit of travel work alongside your main job as a kind of side hustle.
Opening your own agency can be hard work, but it can also be highly rewarding – both in terms of the nature of the work and the money you can earn.
However, both freelancers and travel agencies operating in Florida need to get registered before they are legally allowed to operate in the state, so let’s have a look at how this works now.
How to get registered
To become a registered “seller of travel” in Florida, you first need to complete a registration form and pay a non-refundable fee of $300.
You must also provide proof of assurance in the form of a surety bond. For agents who don’t offer vacation certificates, the surety bond can be up to $25,000. For agents offering vacation certificates, the bond can be up to $50,000.
If you provide vacation certificates, you also need to provide some additional documents and pay an extra fee of $100.
Once you have everything ready, the process is relatively simple – you can either send everything off to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) by mail or you can apply online.
Once you are registered, you need to renew your registration yearly.
After you’ve done this, you can get down to the work or organizing and selling tours to your clients.
Who needs to get registered?
According to the FDACS website, those who need to be registered include “any seller of travel that has a business location in Florida or that offers to sell travel-related services in Florida for individuals or groups. An annual filing fee of $50 is required for each independent sales agent.”
However, those “who have contracted with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) for three years or more under the same ownership and control” may be exempt.
How much can travel agents earn in Florida?
On average, travel agents in Florida can expect to earn over $40,000 a year, although this can vary depending on your location. However, freelancers may earn more, and agency owners may earn up to $70,000 a year.
You may also earn more depending on the kind of clients you deal with and the type of vacations you typically sell.
What’s the career outlook like for travel agents in Florida?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand for travel agents to grow by 20% in the next ten years, meaning that anyone training for this job now will stand a good chance of finding a position on completing their course.
Relatively simple – but you might need to get registered
As we’ve seen, becoming an estate agent in Florida is relatively simple, and with the increasing demand for workers in this industry, it’s an appealing career path for anybody with a love for travel.
The one thing to bear in mind is that in Florida, you may need to get registered – and this will include paying a fee and obtaining a surety bond – but other than that, it’s a relatively easy job to get into for those with the right kind of skills and personality.