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Travel Agent Resources

How Much do Travel Agents Make?

By Courtney Eisen

January 9, 2024

Are you considering becoming a travel agent but want to know how much earning potential this career path has? Here is a rundown of how to determine how much you might be able to make as well as some averages that will give you insight into baseline earnings for travel agents.

Travel agents' earnings can vary widely, and the answer to "how much do travel agents make?" isn't straightforward. There are several factors that influence their income.

One significant factor is whether an agent is an employee or operates independently. Most leisure travel agents today are independent contractors who partner with a host agency, which differs from the past when many were employees of travel agencies. This distinction is crucial because running a business introduces additional variables that affect income compared to those who work standard hours as employees.

The specialty area of a travel agent also plays a role in their earnings. Corporate advisors often have higher salaries (we will discuss this further) than those focusing on leisure or vacation travel. Within the leisure sector, niches such as adventure and luxury travel tend to yield higher incomes than family or Disney travel.

The amount of time invested and the level of industry experience also significantly impact potential earnings. Independent advisors who manage their own schedules may work various hours, and generally, the more time and experience they have, the more they earn.

In the modern era, there's no typical scenario for travel advisors; the field is filled with exceptions rather than rules, making it an exciting career choice. However, this diversity makes it challenging for external organizations to provide an accurate picture of travel agent salaries. For instance, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics doesn't include self-employed travel advisors in their data, even though self-employment is a common route in this profession.

To offer a clearer view of travel agent salaries, let's delve into some specific categories:

  1. All Travel Agents: Including hosted, independent, and employee agents.

  2. Independent Travel Agents: This group includes both hosted agents and those with their own accreditation who are self-employed.

  3. Travel Agent Employees: These are advisors employed by a travel agency and receive a traditional W2 form.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, travel advisor salaries have increased by 26% over the last decade. However, their data, which reported an average travel agent salary of $46,400 in 2023, only considers full-time employees and excludes self-employed agents. In contrast, surveys that include both full-time and part-time self-employed agents show different results. For example, experienced full-time travel advisors reported earning an average annual income of $56,632 in a recent survey.

Self-Employed Travel Agents

Self-employed travel advisors run their businesses and fall into two main categories: hosted advisors affiliated with a host agency and independently accredited travel agents with their own credentials. The number of self-employed advisors has grown significantly, while traditional travel agency numbers have declined. Surveys indicate that full-time hosted travel agents with over three years of experience earned an average of $60,146, while their independently accredited counterparts earned $76,252. It should be noted that LuxRally Travel agents are trained to earn more than these average numbers. Our founder, David Eisen, earns seven figures just from his commissions.

These figures can be affected by factors like unreported income, tax write-offs, and the difference between a travel agent salary and company income in certain business structures.

Travel Agent Employees

For travel agent employees, salaries are more consistent and less dependent on commissions. They often enjoy benefits and a simpler tax situation compared to self-employed agents. According to a recent survey, full-time travel agent employees earned an average of $50,115.

Corporate Employees & Travel Managers

Corporate travel advisors typically earn more than leisure travel advisors. A report profiling corporate travel managers indicated an average travel agent salary of $128,439 for those in supervisory positions within companies.

LuxRally Travel is not a corporate host travel agency; we have no desire for our agents to handle the numerous low priced flights and hotel rooms. That being said, we do service corporations in their group travel needs, such as incentive trips and conferences. Training our agents to handle these aspects of travel services for corporations means higher earnings in less time. We explain group bookings thoroughly in our free travel agent training program.

Beyond salaries, many travel advisors find joy in their careers due to their passion for travel and the unique experiences the industry offers. Surveys show that a majority of advisors are satisfied with their income levels and the perks of the job, such as travel opportunities.

For those interested in becoming a travel advisor, there are choices to make regarding the type of travel to sell and whether to pursue a career as a self-employed advisor or an employee. Each path offers different benefits, from the freedom and flexibility of running your own business to the stability and structure of employment at a travel agency.

Your First Year is the Hardest

In your first year, you will learn sales tools, build your knowledge about destinations and travel vendors, and gain your first clients. Because you will be doing so much groundwork in year one, expect to earn less income. Additionally, it is essential to note that you don't make your commission right away; you get paid after your client travels, usually 30-60 days after travel (depending on how quickly the hotel pays your host agency). This delay in payment can cause earnings for bookings made in year one to fall into year two. Our highest-earning new agent made $73,012 in their first year (2023). Our founder, David Eisen, earned $60,000 in his first year as an agent and $250,000 in year two; He is now well into making seven figures consistently from his own bookings. We have built the training program to reduce the learning curve for others, are constantly pushing to maximize the earnings of our agents, and are continually refining our training and resources.

According to a survey done by Host Agency Reviews, the average annual income for a travel agent in the first year is $2,470 (part-time agents) and $2,662 (full-time agents). Our agents earn $28,904 on average in their first year, with no prior experience, and earn from a few thousand to over a million in commissions annually. If you are trying to determine how much you can make, know that it varies dramatically from person to person. Here are some tips to consider when thinking about how lucrative this career could be for you specifically.

Suggested Article: Travel Agent Commissions

After year one, if you have put in the effort and taken this career seriously, your name will have permeated your networks, and you will receive new clients regularly from referrals. Expect to spend 3-4 years maturing your networks.

You Get Out What You Put In

Earning six or seven figures as a travel agent requires dedication and hard work. Our founder makes upwards of one million dollars a year in commissions from his bookings. We have found a glitch in the money-making matrix and want to share it with others. However, this is different from a get-rich-quick scheme. You will need to both push yourself and be patient. To earn seven figures in this industry, you must put in the hours, develop knowledge of multiple travel products, and understand how to gain and retain clients. All of these skills are emphasized in our training process.

When you go above and beyond for your clients, you are more likely to get referrals, and word-of-mouth referrals can bring you some big clients. Many ultra-high-net-worth travelers only work with people who are referred by a friend or family member. If you live in America, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, you most certainly have high-spending people in your network. You might not know them personally yet and may not win them as clients right away, but if you commit to this industry and implement our best practices (we disagree with most travel agencies' best practices), you will likely get them. It may take years, but it's absolutely possible. That is the first thing to understand: if you play your cards right, you will eventually find your way to the right people. You may be separated by five degrees from a billionaire, and that billionaire may get referred to you by someone who makes $40,000 a year. We've seen it happen. Working your network and giving your clients positive things to talk about with their friends, family, and co-workers goes a long way in increasing your earnings.

Your Network Will Determine Your Earnings

Don't know anyone? Have a hard time being social? This might not be the right industry for you. Most of your clients will come from your personal networks, and if you know a lot of wealthy people, you will earn exponentially more. That doesn't mean you can't become an agent if most of your network is middle class; All-inclusive resorts and cruise lines pay high commissions. However, it does mean that knowing people with large amounts of disposable income will make it easier for you to become a high-earning agent. We started as an exotic car rally, so our networks largely came from the car community, which is comprised of everyone from billionaires to broke car photography kids. These connections, at all levels, allowed us to build a reputation and gain massive amounts of clients.

When considering how much you think you can earn, consider how easy it will be for you to sell travel to your networks. This is obvious but a major indicator of success. Know a bunch of teachers? Perfect. Be prepared to do volume in bookings for the summer season and national holidays. One of your teacher clients likely has wealthy people in their network and will refer them to you in year two or three. No matter where you start in your network, you can grow revenue year over year. Just expect a less wealthy network to take longer to mature into a six-figure income stream.

Get it While it's Hot

When dealing with your VIP clients, you need to be ready when they are ready. We mean it. If you need to step out of an IMAX screening of a movie you've been waiting to see to make a $5,000 commission, we expect you to leave and take the call. Waiting to service a client who is excited about booking a trip can cause you to lose the deal. We read travel agent forums frequently and know there are many agents who disagree with this stance. We are here for the money, and so are our agents. We may or may not be the host for you, but if you like money and understand that buying out a theatre costs less than $1,000, you'll enjoy working with us.

Making the Big Bucks

To be a top earner, prioritizing high-priced and high-commission items is critical. While all-inclusive resorts pay high commissions and are easy to sell, all of our agents still sell them; you want to make sure your network understands that you can handle ultra-luxury and large bookings with competency. It is critical to properly position yourself in the consideration set for these high-earning opportunities.

While you may not have the clients for hyper-lucrative bookings off the bat, it is still important to let your network know that you are capable of competently handling such trips. If people think you only do all-inclusive resorts, they won't refer you to their wealthy friends. Consider the following. First-class and business-class international flights pay up to 25%, and they aren't cheap. Even at the lower end of $10,000 per seat, you could bring in a couple thousand dollars in commission just from booking the flights. Each ultra-high-net-worth client you have can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars if they regularly do long stays in presidential suites. We sell one suite in Houston that ranges from $50,000 to $100,000+ a night. At 10% commission, an agent will make $5,000 per night that a client stays there. Group bookings are also incredibly lucrative, from destination weddings to incentive trips for sales teams; these contracts can make you large sums of money with minimal work. Our agents are able to easily snap up group contracts as we don't charge fees and negotiate aggressively. If you know business owners or decision-makers for group travel, this could be a huge opportunity to increase your earnings. We have seen a single group contract yield over $300,000 in commissions. Landing one group in your first year will have you earning multiples of the average agent. Getting a multi-year contract with a group will also provide income stability.

Your Training Matters

We train our agents to be fast, accurate, and service-oriented. Part of our travel agent training focuses on quick-quoting. Average travel agents can take days or weeks to plan a trip. We teach you how to plan, quote, and close deals in under 45 minutes (unless it is an ultra-high-touch booking like a group trip, which requires a bidding process that can take a week or more to complete). Our clients have a better experience because they get immediate gratification, and our agents earn more per hour because they use their time efficiently.

We don't train our agents to make lengthy itinerary PDFs to pitch clients, we ban charging fees, we push our agents to be hyper-responsive to clients through texting or whichever communication method the client prefers, and we always work on tools that increase productivity. These are just of the few ways we are different from other host agencies.

How Much Time Do You Have?

This is another important variable to consider. The more time you have to focus on this job, the faster your earnings will increase. If you have a solid lead message at noon but cannot get back to them until the evening, you may have a harder time closing the deal. They might be busy in the evening, which will delay a meaningful conversation. While the two of you play phone tag, the lead might decide to book elsewhere. Being available is critical to closing leads and satisfying clients.

A Travel Agent Side Hustle Can Be Worth It If...

Circling back to our opening remarks, there is no straightforward answer to the question: how much do travel agents make? However, if you know luxury travelers or frequent travelers, people who make decisions on group bookings, or have a diverse network of people taking a variety of trips, becoming a travel agent can be a lucrative side hustle and eventually become your full-time career. If you have a large network of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, you can make six figures from each VIP client.

The largest single leisure booking we've seen made was for $600,000, and the agent made a little over $60,000 in commission. This was one trip, one booking, and took a few hours to oversee. Who you know plays a big role in how much you can make as a travel agent. This should not discourage you if you don't know any high-net-worth people, but it is an insight that you should start finding ways to get your name in front of high-net-worth people if you want to maximize earnings from your travel business.

Conclusion: Earn More by Working With Us

This article has touched on some high-level insights into how to think about your potential earnings. Our training, however, goes much deeper. We are, unapologetically, the best host travel agency for highly motivated new travel agents. We have free comprehensive travel agent training with full travel agent certification and don't make money until you do so. Rest assured, we are very motivated to help you close deals. 

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