You can learn how to start your own travel agency. It almost sounds too good to be true, that you can own your own company, work from home, and even get offered free or significantly reduced prices on vacations, but it is a reality for many people.
If you love traveling, planning out the details of a vacation, and helping others, you could own a travel agency. It can give you the freedom of a flexible schedule, letting you work virtually from any location.
1. Conduct Research
You might have an idea of what type of travel agency you plan on opening, but it’s important to conduct some research to give you the time to determine your plan to market and where your business will fit.
By the end of your analysis, you should be able to answer the following:
- Who are my potential customers?
- Which companies, groups or organizations should I affiliate with??
- How large is my target market?
- How much are potential customers willing to pay?
- What is my value proposition?
Each question should be clearly answered, with back up to your findings where necessary. Taking the time to find specific results is worth the insight those data points can give.
With your research, you can decide on several travel niche’s you’d like to focus on. The great thing about a travel agency is that all types of people and niche’s enjoy travel. Here are five common types of travelers you can leverage in your travel agency.
a. Family Travel
Family trips are one of the most common reasons to travel. Being able to cater to that audience and provide fun for the whole family is key to family travel agencies.
There is a growing trend for multigenerational vacations. Often grandparents book trips for their entire extended family. These groups can be three, or even four, generations of a family coming together and enjoying their time together, sharing activities that are memorable for each generation.
b. Special Needs Travel
Traveling does not have to be a challenge for those with disabilities or special needs. A growing group of travel agents is specializing in promoting accessible travel that empowers all people to expand their horizons.
c. Cruise Specialist
Cruises are growing in popularity and affordability. People love them because they don’t have to worry about the small details of their vacation. Food and drinks? Entertainment? Lodging? It’s all onboard your cruise ship!
Cruises provide so many amenities, programs, and services, so a travel agency specializing in this niche can really provide a ton of value to their customers. s. A cruise specialist uses their knowledge to help customers get the most out of their vacation time on the water and at any dock.
d. Romance Specialist
There are always going to be honeymoons, destination weddings, and milestone anniversaries. When couples celebrate, they want to travel and find a place for themselves where they can enjoy each other’s company and come closer together. Your travel agency can specialize in romantic getaways and making sure your clients have the trip of a lifetime.
e. Destination Specialist
Destination specialists leverage their expertise about one part of the world. Suppose you have questions about the best authentic restaurant in Arezzo, Italy. In that case, a destination specialist can point you towards Convivio Ristotigelleria Toscana and tell you their stato brado is to die for, but if you want a more rustic homemade pasta, you should go to Terema Del Gusto instead. Rather than having a broad knowledge and experience with multiple locations, destination specialists become an expert of one.
f. Business Travel
Travel isn’t always about leisure and fun. Even though you can hold meetings digitally, there are still those who travel monthly, or even weekly, for work. In the US, there are over 400 million business trips taken every year. Specializing in business travel means you will have a steady stream of customer demand.
There is a wide range of specialties and needs within every market. Doing research will help you see where there’s a need, and how you can potentially fill that need.
2. Develop a Value Proposition
Your brand is more than just a logo; it’s how a customer perceives and interacts with your business. Your value proposition should cover everything from your branding, messaging, website, customer service, and sales. If your customers can see or interact with it, it’s part of your personal brand.
A well-developed value proposition will help your business stand out in the marketplace and bring in more customers. When you are developing your personal brand, consider why people would choose to use your services, and what you will provide that others can’t. Your brand will highlight those strengths.
Answer these questions when defining your purpose:
- Why does your travel agency exist?
- What differentiates you from your competition?
- What problem do you solve?
- Why should people care?
- Are you able to offer the customer a benefit?
Your answers can be the groundwork for your personal branding and can give you direction later while developing your voice, messaging, marketing, and goals.
Part of building your business is determining who your customers are. Knowing who you want as an ideal client can help direct your business choices and lead to better decisions. Rather than trying to market to everyone, you can be specific with your ads and marketing initiatives, which can get you better results. Knowing your customer persona gives you insight into your audience, which allows you to cater your services to their specific needs, rather than a general service that would overlook them.
To develop your customer persona, you should consider their:
- Education level
- Pain points
3. Create a Business Plan
Your business plan is the foundation of your agency. You can use it as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your business.
There’s no right or wrong way to write a business plan. What’s most important in your plan is to meet your needs and address how your business is going to function. Traditional travel agency business plans use a standard structure and go into detail in each section.
A travel agency business plan includes the following sections:
- Executive Summary – What is your company and why will it be successful? Include a mission statement, details about your service, and high-level information about your company.
- Description – Provide detailed information. Include problems your business solves and details about your target audience.
- Organization and Management – Who is going to run your company, and what will it look like? For most new travel agencies, you are most likely the owner and sole employee of the company. This section may be the shortest unless you have additional plans about how your agency will be structured.
- Service – Describe the service you offer. Explain in detail how your business will benefit your customers.
- Marketing and Sales – How are you going to attract and retain customers? Describe in detail how a sale will happen as well as your complete marketing and sales strategies.
- Financial Projections – Provide a prospective financial outlook for the next five years. Include forecasted income
4. Acquire Funding
You might have a great idea of how you’re going to be a one of a kind agency, but How do you plan to fund your new business?
Consider the following questions as you decide your company’s needs.
- What equipment do you need to buy?
- Are you going to work from home?
- How much will you need for marketing?
a. Personal Funds
If you have the funds in your bank account, you can always choose to invest out of pocket. This sets you as the sole owner of your company.
Banks and other lenders provide small business loans to help companies get started. Generally, you have to give the lender your business plan to show proof of concept before they will approve a loan.
5. Open a Business Bank Account
open a bank account for your business. If your personal account and business accounts are combined, your personal assets could be at risk if anything happens to your company. A separate business account will also make it easier for you to manage your business finances, collect receipts, and file taxes.
6. Launch Your Travel Agency
your home-based franchise business is finally ready to open! Up to this point, your travel agency has been nothing but ideas and planning, but now it’s time to make it a reality.
To make your opening easier, schedule out what you need for each month as you open. How many hours are you going to work? When are you going to work those hours? Stick to that plan as best as you can, and reassess your schedule and goals each month.
The hardest part of getting a new company started is trying to make a profit right out of the gate. Be patient. It takes time to build a reliable client base.
7. Market Your Travel Agency
Just because your company is open for business, doesn’t mean customers will calling you right away. With your travel agency just starting, a majority of your time should be spent on bringing in new customers.
a. Traditional Marketing
Traditional marketing can be helpful for a new business if you know how to do it right. Traditional marketing relies on strategies including direct mail (postcards, brochures, letters, fliers), trade shows, print advertising (magazines, newspapers, coupon books, billboards), referrals, radio, and television.
When you’re trying to pick which form of marketing you should use, consider how much money it will cost you versus how many new customers you can expect for that investment. Spending a few dollars for each new customer can be well worth the investment.
You should also consider the market that you are targeting. If you are a specialty agency, producing mass-market ads isn’t going to help you as much as targeted ads that will reach the market you’re aiming for. For example, if your specialty is romance vacations, placing a small ad in a bridal magazine for honeymoons can be worth much more than placing that same ad in a local newspaper.
b. Online Marketing
For most small businesses that are just starting, online marketing has a better return on their investment than traditional marketing. Not only is online marketing cheaper, but it is possible to tailor your ad to only be shown to your target audience. Social media ads allow companies with any budget to reach out to their target market and determine how long they want the ad to run.
Never forget about your online presence. Having a website or social media account can act as an advertisement for your travel agency. Taking pictures of your next vacation and posting them on Instagram, Facebook, or other social media sites with your company’s hashtag can bring in new followers and potential customers.
8. Get to Work
As you start to get new customers and build your client base, don’t ease off the gas pedal. You worked hard to get this far and find success; the worst thing you can do now is to stop trying or to give up.
Customer service should be your top priority. Give your customers the service you would want from a travel agency. Small personalized touches to make the customer feel appreciated and recognized can go a long way.
Here are a few of the most common questions people have about starting their own travel agency.
Question 1: How much does it cost to start up a travel agency?
Answer: You can start with as low as $3,500 to become a Dream Vacation Franchise owner.
There are discounts available for U.S. Veterans, active-duty spouses, first responders, community heroes, medical professionals, teachers, and experienced travel and hospitality professionals that can significantly reduce this cost.
Question 2: How do travel agencies make money?
Answer: Travel agencies make money through commissions. When an agent books a trip, a percentage of the cost of the trip is given to the agent. The more trips an agency books, the more money they will make.
Question 3: How do travel agents get clients?
Answer: Getting new clients comes down to what works best for your personality and style. When you become a member of Dream Vacations, our marketing, public relations, business development, and training and support teams are ready to help you. We even offer marketing programs for free to help you find what works best for your business.
Question 4: Do travel agents get better prices?
Travel agents do get better prices and discounts; it’s one of the best perks of being a travel agent. Suppliers often offer free or significantly reduced travel rates with travel agencies so you can have the first-hand experience with the products and packages you are selling. This allows you to share your insights with your clients and hopefully make more sales.
You can learn how to start your travel agency with Dream Vacations with our free 45-minute webinar. Get started today and learn more about how to make your dreams of owning your own business a reality.