Becoming an independent travel agent is an exciting career path for anyone who loves to travel themselves, and it can also be a highly profitable and fun way to earn a living and help others enjoy a more rewarding travel experience. If you love researching exotic new destinations and adventure trips, then you must have thought about how to start your own travel business by becoming a travel agent.
Though the internet has changed the way some people book their travel, travel agents still play a vital role in the travel industry. Many travelers still prefer to consult an expert, especially for big trips like honeymoons, family or group trips, or experiential trips that have a lot of moving parts.
In this article, you will find everything you need to know about becoming an independent travel agent—and setting up your business for long term success.
First Things First: The Logistics of Becoming an Independent Travel Agent
The first step to becoming a successful travel agent is starting your own business entity. The good news is that it requires relatively little overhead.
If you’re starting a travel agent business, you can operate from your home office as a home-based travel agent or even a corner of your living room, and there aren’t nearly as many upfront costs as maintaining an expensive storefront location.
Setting Up Your Legal Business Entity
Besides determining your location, you will have to think about what type of business you want to become.
Do you want to incorporate or become an LLC? Would you rather be a sole proprietor? Incorporating takes the most effort, and it’s often the most expensive.
Becoming an LLC is a good happy medium because it can help protect you as a business entity without having as many associated costs. Small business owners typically become LLCs to protect their personal assets. If you get sued as an LLC, someone can come after your business holdings but can’t come after your house, car, or personal savings.
Going it Alone as a Sole Proprietor
If you choose to remain a sole proprietor (which doesn’t require any fees or legwork), you are essentially a freelancer or independent contractor. You can be an LLC and an independent contractor, too — they aren’t mutually exclusive.
If you want to be an independent contractor, it likely means you’re working as part of a larger host agency, which is smart to do when you’re starting out as an independent travel agent. Down the road, you can also own a travel agency franchise. Owning a franchise might come with more overhead costs, and that would be a reason to incorporate.
As a travel business or agency owner, your taxes aren’t going to be as straightforward as a full-time employee’s might be.
You may have to start keeping track of your business expenses, as you might be able to write them off. You also won’t have access to things like health benefits from your employer. As you plan your new career, consider sitting down with an established travel agent to ask them some logistical questions:
- Where do they get their health insurance?
- How do they keep track of their income and expenses?
- Do they use an accountant to do their taxes?
While meeting with the travel agent, you can discuss the pros and cons of working for a larger agency, too. If you’re not sure how to get in touch with other travel agents, consider using social media, like LinkedIn or even Instagram.
Training: How to Get Up to Speed Quickly
Formal training is not an absolute requirement to become a travel agent, although there are some certifications you will need, in order to be fully compliant. Some colleges, community colleges, and trade schools offer tourism certifications, and previous training in marketing, hospitality or event planning can be very helpful. There are many options.
You could start your career immediately, go through the certification process or invest the time to achieve an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in tourism. You could also morph your experience from a related job, like destination wedding planning into a career as a travel agent. Ultimately, your knowledge of destinations, sales, itinerary planning, and booking software will be one of the most crucial aspects of your success as a travel agent.
Fortunately, there are dedicated online resources available that offer professional tools and support designed to make setting up and running your own independent travel agency easier.
For instance, Travel Industry Solutions is a subscription-based platform that allows you to access a plethora of educational resources and tools to help grow your client base, establish efficient workflows and operations, and ensure that your business has all the legal protections it needs to help you succeed and reduce any potential risks.
Getting Prospects to Take You Seriously as a New Independent Travel Agent
There’s no question that running an independent travel agency can be an exciting and rewarding business, but it can also be a challenging one. One of the biggest challenges is getting prospects to take you seriously.
In a highly competitive market, it is important to project a professional image that inspires trust and confidence in potential clients. Once your business is set up, you’ll want to explore the essential elements that you need to establish credibility and build a strong reputation for your travel agency.
Establishing a Professional Brand Identity
As an independent travel agent, your personal brand is as important as that of your business. Since email is your first point of contact with clients, it is essential to use a professional email address that reflects your business name.
Avoid using personal email accounts like Gmail or Yahoo, and instead, create a custom email address that includes your business name. This will make it easier for clients to remember your brand and to contact you.
The business name you choose for your travel agency should be easy to remember and relevant to the travel industry. It should also be unique and not too similar to other travel agencies in your area. A professional name can help to establish your brand identity and make it easier for clients to find you online.
A professional logo is another essential element of your brand identity. Your logo should be distinctive and memorable and communicate the essence of your business. A well-designed logo can help to establish your credibility and set you apart from your competitors.
Your Agency Website Sets the Tone
In today’s digital age, a website is a must-have for any business, including a travel agency. Your website should be well-designed, easy to navigate, and provide all the information that potential customers and clients need to make informed decisions about your travel services. It should also be optimized for search engines, so that clients can find you when they search for travel services online.
Professional Communication is Key to Building a Successful Travel Agency
Professional communication is key to establishing trust and credibility with clients. This includes responding promptly to inquiries, addressing client concerns in a timely and professional manner, and providing clear and accurate information about your services. Make sure that you and your staff are trained in effective communication skills and that they are courteous and helpful at all times.
Get Social with Your Agency Prospects
Social media is an essential marketing tool for any business, including a travel agency. It provides a platform to engage with clients, share information about your services, and build your brand identity. Make sure that you have a strong presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and that you regularly post engaging content that resonates with your target audience.
Your Best Salespeople are Your Current Clients
Customer reviews are a powerful tool for building credibility and establishing trust with potential clients. Encourage satisfied clients to leave reviews on your website and on third-party review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Make sure that you respond promptly to any negative reviews and take steps to address any concerns that clients may have.
Bringing it All Together
In conclusion, becoming an independent travel agent can be an exciting and lucrative career. However, if you want your clients and prospects to take you seriously, enjoy a successful business, and make more money with a career in the travel industry, you need to project a professional image that inspires trust and confidence.
This includes having a professional email, a unique logo, a memorable name, a full-functioning website, consistent communication, a good social media presence, and positive customer reviews. By focusing on these essential elements, you can build a strong reputation and establish your agency as a trusted and reliable provider of travel services.