With the vast amount of destination information, online guides and travel booking websites, it seems like a everyone is an armchair travel agent. This shouldn't deter you from creating your own travel agency business. As a travel agent you will be expected to provide sound advice on destinations, make travel arrangements and ensure successful trips.
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Develop a travel concept that targets a specific travel market. "Travel agents who specialise in specific destinations or in certain types of travel or travellers should have the best chance for success," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are hundreds of niches in the travel industry in which to specialise. Deciding on which niche you wish to occupy it is an important decision. Let your personal experiences guide your decision. If you've travelled Southeast Asia extensively, you could sell travel to those countries. If you love cooking, you could develop and sell culinary tours. If you are excited about a place or activity, it will rub off on your clients.
Develop a business plan emphasising marketing. A business plan does not have to be 20 pages to be effective. Your initial business plan should stress what type of travel you will sell, the costs of doing business and how you will sell your product. If you are planning on selling family vacations, research other agencies offering similar trips, paying close attention to pricing and how the trip is presented. The marketing plan should list all the ways to get your product to customers -- through a website, advertising, contacts and brochures, for example.
Become a legal travel agency. You will need to register your business, obtain a travel license, get insurance, set up an office and develop a website. License requirements vary from state to state, and some do not require a license. For example, Florida requires an application, fee and £6,500 surety bond for a travel license. Check with the state department for further information. Travel agencies should have general liability insurance with an "errors and omissions" written into the policy. Home offices are an effective and affordable way to have a workspace. Use Skype, or other online phone service, for cheap, worldwide calls. Utilise freelance website designers to save costs on developing your agency's site.
Network with travel operators. Create a list of all the possible resources you will use for planning your trips. If you were offering scuba trips in Southeast Asia you'd want to have a list of international and regional airlines, hotels, dive shops and local tour guides so you can provide all aspects of the trip to your clients. Travel providers such as Delta Airlines or Gap Adventures provide travel agents with special pricing. Call or visit local operators to begin building relationships with your travel providers.
Implement your marketing plan. This means its time to sell. It will not be good enough to put up a website and wait for customers to buy your travel. Get on message boards, get out on the street and get to where your customers are. If your travel agency sells "Lord of the Rings" tours to New Zealand, attend fan conventions and advertise on websites with connections to the trilogy. Selling your trips involves developing an exciting travel product, providing exceptional customer service and outdoing the competition.
Tips and warnings
- Working in a travel agency, even as a secretary, is a way to gain operations knowledge of the industry.
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