How to become a travel agent: A wildly successful one

Let’s cut to the chase. You’re reading this blog because your travel agency isn’t where you want or hoped it would be.

There are things that you don’t want to do, you can’t seem to get rid of, take up all your time, and that don’t add value for your clients or to your bottom line.

  • Free proposals and endless revisions
  • Clients that don’t appreciate you
  • Wasted money spent on leads that never convert
  • Discounting your expertise and selling out of your pocket
  • The constant hunt for new clients
  • The 24/7 hustle: no weekends, no free time
  • Worry that you may forget something
  • Fearful about being sued

I’m here to tell you there are three key things that keep all travel agents overworked and underpaid: lack of ideal clients, lack of systems and processes, and being an overlooked expert.

In fact, we’ve asked hundreds of travel agents to rate their effectiveness in these three areas: attracting and retaining clients, effective processes, and protections, building a solid brand and authority. Travel agents only rated themselves 38% effective across all three areas.

Yep, you read that right!

I firmly believe that any plight of the travel agency owner can be traced back to one of the three culprits I just mentioned. Not recognizing their importance, understanding how they work together, and addressing them head-on actually can kill your creativity and enthusiasm, and quite frankly, put your exciting career on a downward spiral before it ever gets off the ground!

From experience, I find that travel agents tend to rank attracting and retaining clients as first on the list of their struggles they want to improve, outside of their inability to make money quickly. Most never choose building their brand and authority. Some blame their processes and protections on their inability to get their business where they want it.

What many agents (new and seasoned) fail to recognize is that you can’t attract the right travel clients if you don’t have a strong brand and authority. You can’t build your authority without an effective and professional operation. The three are linked!

Let’s say you are brand new to this career. You have no clients. You don’t really know what processes and protections you need. And maybe you feel like you have no authority because you haven’t traveled extensively to a wide variety of destinations, or you don’t have vast knowledge on travel products and suppliers yet. What now?

You are looking at your travel business and your “self-proclaimed” lack of skill and experience all wrong. Yes, I said it. You. Are. Wrong. And here is why.

You have skill sets from previous jobs you can use to increase your confidence as you build your understanding of the industry and your career as a travel agent.

Are you an extremely organized person? That means you’ll do a great job at putting together programs and vacations for clients or keeping track of your finances.

An organized individual would also be good at staying on task with their marketing and follow-up with prospects.

Maybe you’re amazing with research because you worked as a real estate agent before switching gears.

You can use the detective skills you used in that line of work to search out the best destinations around the world to send your clients. 

Perhaps you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. Moms have mad superpower skills! They are constantly juggling a million things at once, managing their homes and personal schedule of each family member to being the room mom in their children’s schools. All these skills can be used in running a travel agency!

The bottom line is this: You have more experience, knowledge, and skill than you think. You just need to learn how to transfer those skills to your travel business.

the bottom line

What do travel agents need to attract ideal clients?

One of the biggest reasons agents struggle in the travel industry with time-sucking clients, and THINK the problem is that they can’t FIND ideal clients, is that these travel agents disappear into the sea of sameness. If you don’t offer something of value that makes you stand out, even those prospects who are ideal for you won’t hire you. If you want to become a travel agent who finds the right clients, you must shine!

To be a shining star to your ideal clients, you need to learn how to speak their language, and offer the ONE thing they are desperately looking for.

Certainly, all you moms out there have mastered the art of speaking the language of your children, anticipating their needs, and swooping in for the rescue. Or, as an executive assistant, you’ve been able to cater to your boss’ whims without him or her having to ask. Right? So why aren’t you applying those skills when it comes to identifying with and serving up your authority on this matter with your prospects?

If you want to know how to become a travel agent that is a shining star to your ideal clients, you also must deliver an experience that will blow prospects and clients away by your brilliance. Get started with a detailed client qualification process, followed by a well-executed client-communication strategy; from the time you conduct your discovery call, present your proposal, and deliver on the vacation experience you promised your client would be designed with them in mind.

Ask yourself… what skill have I utilized in my previous life or job that will help me shine? When you tap into these skills, you’ll quickly find you can turn customers into clients who view you as an authority in business and who are HAPPY TO PAY whatever you charge for each and every program and service you offer.

Cyndi Williams, CEO of Careers on Vacation and Wanderlust CEO has trained tens of thousands of newbies and some are now owners of 50+ person agencies. She says, “Growing a thriving travel business requires great marketing, solid operations, and delivering an exceptional client experience. When you fail to incorporate one or two of these, often times, advisors don’t see the success they could have otherwise.”

when you fail

How do processes and protections help you have a successful travel agent career?

Gone are the days of keeping handwritten notes and file folders full of paper, while flipping back and forth among a million technologies–each of which you use only a small portion of your time. If you want to make higher profits, i.e., more money in less time, the only way is ensuring your tools are effective and implementing tried-and-true processes to deliver them.

I built an $8 million agency in two years, with two people by putting in place the best tools, and then focusing on processes!

Here’s what you need:

A LEAN mean way of doing things in your business.

Start by automating every single repeatable task imaginable. Get as many easy tasks off your plate as possible, so you can create bandwidth to focus on the things that require you to be physically and/or mentally present. Use checklists and related cheat sheets to ensure you never miss a step in your outreach, booking, and follow-up processes with your prospects and customers. When you never miss a step, you build your credibility and authority every time. And what does this lead to? You guessed it. More Sales. More Customers!

TRUST [banked or lost–every step of the way]

Turn clients into invested partners by growing trust with every move you make. Do it right and you’ll never have to chase clients again. I’ve turned many clients into viral marketers for my agency because they value and TRUST me.

Why do they value and trust me? I flawlessly execute my communication and their bookings. Every. Single. Time.

Do you think that I have had visited every all-inclusive resort in Mexico? Or, been dropped from a helicopter for skiing in the French Alps? Nope! But my clients sure do trust that I can craft the right experience and execute their trip flawlessly. I can to this because I am exceptional at finding the resources and suppliers who can guide me (which gives me the confidence to sound like an authority); and communicating clearly and on point with my prospects and clients.

A BIG YES! [to all your work, followed by appreciation]

When you know how to captain your ship and make everything go exactly as planned, your clients will say YES to your proposals, without asking for alterations at all! EARN your “captain’s license,” and your clients will happily accept what you present and be thankful for all that you do!

What tactics can you use to build your travel agency brand and authority.

To successfully build your authority, you MUST first be equipped to do everything you claim you can do, live up to your promises, and deliver the finest level of service possible. In other words, NEVER make promises you can’t pull off!

Next, tap into strategies that will influence cold prospects to view you as an expert, even before they speak with you.

Here are a few things you can do:


Your blog posts shouldn’t be repeating the same, trite ideas that have been hashed out for years–you can do better than that. Producing quality content online means having fresh ideas and communicating them in an innovative way. Not only will this make you stand out from the pack, but it’ll also show your readers that you’re the only expert they need to know about! Not a great writer? Hire someone or tap into the resources offered by Travel Industry Marketing Association.


You can remain relevant to your target audience and continue receiving a consistent stream of leads by multiplying your content online. This means having a presence on all social media platforms and delivering messages that resonate with your community of ideal clients. Wanderlust Social has some great packs that not only include images, but also guides and sample itineraries you can use as lead magnets.


Start an email list fan club* to generate a steady influx of clients for years to come! This “club” will provide a fertile pool you can tap into with special deals, announcements, and offers in the future.


If you aren’t a people person and willing to put yourself out there, the sad truth is you may want to consider another career. Like realtors, travel advisors need to network to build authority. Interested in specializing in adventure travel? Join a local group that enjoys adventures! Want to focus on family cruise travel? Join a moms’ group. The point is, you must “fish where they fish,” to rub shoulders with people who fit the profile of your ideal client.

Stop thinking in linear terms or what I call silos. Start looking at how each interaction you have and every system, form, and resource you tap into has a domino effect on other parts of your company if you want to run a successful travel agency.

Most importantly, remember that success is not a straight line up.

Want head start? Travel Industry Solutions was built to get you on the path to becoming a travel agent who wants to have a sustainable and profitable business for years to come. Reap the benefits of someone who has already been there, done that, and found the secret sauce for industry success. Get started with one of our memberships today.

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