How to become a Travel Agent

  • Price: £5.99
  • Published: June 2017
  • Type: Business Opportunity Profile
  • Format: PDF
  • Qualifications and skills
  • Key market issues and trends
  • Trading, commercial and legal issues
  • Legislation
  • Further information

Travel agents source, arrange and book accommodation, flights and other services such as excursions to both UK and overseas destinations for holiday, business and leisure travellers. They act as agents on behalf of travel suppliers such as airlines and hotels, sell package holidays on behalf of tour operators and often provide related services such as currency exchange, car rental, travel insurance and advice about visas, passports and vaccinations.

Travel agents who book and sell flights must hold an Air Travel Organisers' Licence (ATOL). The provision of package holidays is strictly regulated under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 (PTRs), which are expected to be updated under new legislation due to come into force in the UK in July 2018 under the revised European Directive on Package Holidays and Assisted Travel Arrangements.

Travel agents should not be confused with tour operators. While travel agents act as agents for suppliers, tour operators provide package holidays and act as the principal in relation to bookings made by their customers. For more information about tour operators, see BOP407, Tour Operator.

The UK travel industry is dominated by international providers, such as Thomas Cook and Thomson, which often operate as both travel agents and tour operators. Hays Travel, the UK's largest independent travel agency, has more than 100 branches and reported an annual turnover of around £800 million in 2016.

This profile provides information about starting up and trading as an independent travel agent. It describes the skills required, the training available, the current market trends and the key trading issues. It also explains the legislation that must be complied with and provides sources of further information and support.

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