Despite what you may have heard about the travel agency industry, there’s still plenty of money to be made by putting together exciting getaway packages for clients. Especially for entrepreneurs, a travel agency can be quite lucrative under the right circumstances. While becoming a travel agent isn’t particularly difficult, it’s not so easy to profit as one. To accrue healthy revenue on a consistent basis, one must have a thorough understanding of the industry and its unique challenges. Here’s one possible blueprint for success.
Pick a Travel Niche
Before you do anything else, you should choose a travel industry niche to focus on. Specialization is the key to exceeding your expectations. For instance, your travel agency could specialize in booking cruises for retirees. Alternatively, you could create vacation packages for more adventurous travelers that like to venture off the beaten path. Pick something that caters to your own passions and strengths. If you’re personally interested in the types of vacations you book, you’ll be more motivated to make them exemplary.
Settle on a Business Model
When starting a travel agency, there are basically three ways that you can structure your enterprise. One popular option is becoming an independent consultant for an established agency. In effect, you earn commissions by referring clients to large travel companies. You could also purchase a franchise and run it as a standalone entity. Finally, you could start your own agency from scratch. This last option requires a lot of effort and capital to get off of the ground. To make life easier, start out as an independent consultant. As a consultant, you’ll need an IATA number to conduct business.
Get Your Ducks in Row
Before you get started, be sure to get all of the usual business odds and ends sorted out. Acquire a business license, form an LLC or S corporation, get insurance if needed and set up a home office. None of this is particularly difficult or time-consuming. If you need start-up funds, an SBA loan might be an option for you. Just be sure to have the details ironed out well before you launch your consultancy. In addition, set up a business bank account to handle transactions.
Acquire Your First Clients
Start off by creating a basic website to promote your services online. The first step on the path to ultimate success is establishing credibility for your fledgling business. As an independent consultant, you’ll get plenty of tools and advice from your parent company on how to acquire new clients. Put together vacation packages for friends and acquaintances at a discount to get the ball rolling. This will give you needed experience and allow you to rack up plenty of favorable reviews to boost your reputation.
Market Yourself Aggressively
With a few booking wins under your belt, you can focus on expanding your operation. Networking with your colleagues and competitors is incredibly important, so be sure to join both the American Society of Travel Agents and the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents. Besides building synergy with your peers, you can use social media promotions like Facebook contests to get the word out about your travel agency business. Email marketing is another great way to promote your business intelligently.
Taking It to the Next Level
In an ever-changing industry like the travel business, staying ahead of the curve is vital. You need to constantly refine your business and expand your offerings to remain relevant. Once you’ve mastered the independent consultant game, you can move on to purchasing a franchise or starting your own agency from scratch. Use the invaluable experience you’ve gained as a consultant to set yourself apart. If you’re a hungry entrepreneur that’s not afraid to change with the times, the travel industry offers a lot of potential.