What is Travel Agent Certification?
The Travel Agent Certification program is a series of classes you can enroll in to develop essential skills as a travel agent. Once you pass the TAP (Travel Agent Proficiency Test), you will be officially certified as an experienced and competent travel agent! Congratulations!
Travel agents in the USA can earn certification online through various programs that typically last two years or less. Here are the top programs to pursue for becoming certified as a travel agent:
The Travel Institute – Self-guided courses. In order to apply, you must have been a travel agent for at least one year. The test costs $450 and takes 12 months to finish, with a pass score of 70% required. In order to maintain your certification status, you must take 50 credits of classes annually.
ASTA VTA Program – Self guided classes that can take up to 12 months to complete. ASTA members pay $399 and non-members $598 respectively; before enrolling you must ensure your eligibility for ASTA membership. The renewal fee for the program is $179.
Global Travel Professional – To become a Global Travel Professional, you must have at least 3 years experience in the travel industry. The course costs $350 for GBTA members and $450 to non-members; your TAP Test determines how long it takes to finish; when signing up for the program, you will have the option to select when and how often you take the exam. Your certification must be renewed every three years.
Are Travel Agents Required to Accreditate?
Each state has distinct requirements for travel agent certification. You may need to become an independent travel agent or work at a host agency.
Please bear with us as we navigate this complex situation!
If you reside in or work with clients in these four states, certification as a travel agent is mandatory.
These are the states where a Seller of Travel (SOT) license is necessary. Each has its own requirements; let’s take a closer look at them:
Travel agents who work for a host agency but do not directly sell travel can avoid certification requirements.
A Sales Office Test (SOT) is required if you reside in California or work with California clients without going through a host agency. Register for your CST online, renewing it annually; the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation charges $275 to register as a travel agent and also needs to obtain a California business ID.
Does that seem complex? In our next installment, we’ll explain why becoming a certified travel agent could be beneficial.
A Florida SOT number is mandatory if you reside in Florida or work with clients there. It costs $300 annually and must be paid annually unless married to someone who has served in the military, then a Florida Travel Agency Surety Bond may also be necessary; costs range from $10,000 to $255,000 depending on income level.
In certain circumstances, you don’t need to become a certified travel agent. If you work for a Florida SOT-numbering host agency, however, certification isn’t necessary and the SOT number of the agency can be used instead. To become an independent travel agent in Florida however, you must complete this application process; the fee for doing so is $50 annually.
An SOT (Serviceability Certificate) is necessary if you reside in Hawaii with your clients. Apply here! If you’re considering becoming a travel agent or selling Hawaii trips, now would be more cost-effective to do so than in 2022 (an even year).
Your business must be registered with the state. Additionally, if you offer services such as bus tours or boat rides to clients, an Activity Desk license may be necessary.
Another thing! In order to work as an independent agent for travel in Hawaii, you will need a Hawaii bank. However, if you are working with a host agency located outside Hawaii and do not manage client payments yourself, then a waiver may be granted.
If you plan to work as a travel agent while visiting Washington with clients, you must obtain a license as such and open an account dedicated to the business. Furthermore, similar to Florida’s rules, you will have to purchase a Surety Bond for protection against potential liabilities.
No, you don’t need to be a travel agent if you don’t reside or work with clients in California, Florida, or Hawaii.
You should be aware that additional fees may apply if your clients reside in New York, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana or Massachusetts.
Delaware – If you reside in Delaware (and not your clients), a “Travel Agent Occupational License” is necessary, costing $225 annually and renewable annually.
Illinois – To receive direct payments from clients, you must open a trust bank account for your business.
Louisiana – If your business is a home-based agency, then there’s not much that needs to be done. However, if the location of your company is an office or retail outlet, then applying for a retail license is mandatory.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts-based travel agents do not need to acquire licensure or pay fees, however there are strict guidelines regarding selling travel. You can find these rules here.
New York- Similar to Massachusetts, New York does not require a license or fee to become a travel agent. However, you will still have to abide by certain rules.