How to start a Travel Agency
Everything you need to know about starting a travel agency
Research & Refine your Business Idea
The travel industry contributes significantly to the economy with millions of people going on holidays yearly. You should understand that travel booking is something some people would rather do by themselves, so you have to give your potential clients an incentive to patronize you.
Setting up a travel agency from home has its own perks and challenges, so before you make the move, you have to be sure this is really what you want.
The next step is for you to develop a business plan. A business plan is a must for all entrepreneurs who want to start a business as it will give you the required direction to run your travel agency. With this plan, you can also get additional funds from investors when it’s time for expanding.
Your business plan should not contain words alone, investors want to see information like cash flow analysis, break-even analysis, projected financial data etc. Make sure you put in the required effort when drafting your plan, if it’s too complex, you can always hire a professional to help out.
Most times, a lot of people confuse a travel agent and a tour operator, they’re totally different things. A tour operator sells holidays while a travel agent is in charge of organizing them.
Setting up a travel agency requires a lot of planning, it involves giving or selling advice to your customers. You have to give your customers the assurance that when they get to their destination, they can hire a car, tour the city, visit nice restaurants and seeing notable tourist attractions. Hence, providing a personal touch is highly essential.
It is not a must for you to be an expert in the industry, although it could be a plus. The key thing here is that you should be willing to learn a whole lot when setting up your travel agency.
If you’re a seasoned traveler with a solid background in travel booking or sales and you wish to work from the comfort of your home, you can consider setting up your own travel agency.
Creating your Business Website
This is necessary to successfully operate as a home-based travel agency. The reason is that most of your business, as well as your first meeting with clients, will be done online. In addition, a well-designed, user-friendly and detailed website shows potential clients how serious you take your travel agency.
Your website is also a great way to be discovered by potential clients who hitherto had no means of knowing about you. So you have to invest a great deal in conveying the right first impression to your clients.
Your website and social media is a vibrant marketing tool apart from your brand’s personality. Your website embodies your business every second of the day. As much as we advise you not to break the bank, don’t also settle for an easy and quick solution.
Setting up a website isn’t as hard as it may sound, in fact, many hosting providers have tailored their service around small businesses who may not be tech-savvy. We suggest going with BlueHost to host your website, they’re service is simple and easy to use/setup and they’re currently offering 60% off hosting, including free domain registration.
Additionally, creating a blog on your website is also a great way to attract organic traffic and expand your business. Check out our full guide on the best and easiest way to setup a WordPress blog here.
Get Ideas for your Travel Agency business name!
Marketing Your Business
Marketing your travel agency business is vital for the survival of your business and it can be done in various ways. Your marketing should depend largely on your target audience and their habits. Nevertheless, virtually all forms of modern marketing is done on the internet, and we advise you take advantage of this as a travel agency startup — since most of your business will be conducted online.
Don’t forget to use social media. Create a profile page for your travel agency on all platforms you think will help market your business like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc. Always post the latest information about the services your proffer and offers that will be useful to your clients. This not only attract new business to you, it will also give you the much needed visual exposure.
You can go as far as creating a channel on video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo and showcase resorts or destinations which your clients have booked recently. Try to link all your website and social media accounts together. Do not isolate any.
You can also create an incentive program for your customers. This would help you get more business through word-of-mouth. Give old customers rewards when they refer new clients to you like a voucher for discounted services in future, gift certificates they can use in stores or local restaurants.
A great way of getting marketing yourself to the right customers is by joining professional travel agent organizations. By joining these organizations, your credibility with customers improves considerably. Some of these organizations are the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), or the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). If you can, it’s not a bad idea to belong to the 3 organizations.
Setting Goals and KPI’s
Setting goals for your business is a practice you must maintain constantly. Working without a goal will only make you work without the proper focus and motivation, and you won’t have a way to measure and monitor your success or how good your plan is.
When we refer to goals, it means an action that is positive and achievable which is consistent with the mission statement you wrote on your business plan.
The goal refers to an anticipated outcome. Consequently, a goal you can strive to achieve after setting is to get a certain number of clients within the first 6 months after launch.
Another goal could be giving your clients the best satisfaction they could ever imagine. Keep in mind that your goals should easily be validated when compared to your mission statement. Whatever goal you set should be monitored along the line with key performance indicators to show that you’re on track.
Without a doubt, when the number of your clients increase, your business will not only grow, it will prosper. When you are able to satisfy your clients, they’ll definitely request your services when traveling again and they’ll put in a good word for you to others who seek to use your services.
Make sure your goals are developed in line with your SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) this should also be part of your business plan.
Plan your Finances
Plan for your start-up needs financially. Getting the required capital to start up would determine if you will have a travel agency or not. First, you have to write out a detailed list the things you’d require like supplies, equipment, employees to hire etc. Before your start operations, write out the reason for the item on the list and estimate how much it would cost. This should be included in your business plan.
Since you will be running your travel agency from home, you could improvise or use some of the things that you have already like office supplies, a pc, Wi-Fi or modem etc. However, for tax purposes, we advise you separate business and personal materials. To get tax write-offs, keep the receipts for materials you’ve bought for business.
Calculate your projected cash flow. Think through likely financial duties like business licensure, insurance premiums, and related taxes. Next, you should anticipate your projected income, which is based on present travel market data and your local target market. This data is a vital part of your business plan, and it will also determine the viability of your travel agency. Don’t fall into the trap of overestimating your possible earnings, this could spell disaster.
Another pitfall to avoid is you must ensure emergency or one-time expenses are duly accounted for, expenses you incur during the first period of operation.
A good practice that would go a long way in helping you is to open two bank accounts. The first account is for the business, and its purpose is to handle business expenses and to receive all income. While the second account is will be used to hold all your client booking funds. This will be used for covering all expenses incurred by your clients during travel.
Adopt an Entrepreneurial Mindset
Virtually everyone has great ideas. That is the same way opportunities abound everywhere. By default, most people want to be entrepreneurs, to be their own boss etc. To be an entrepreneur, you have to adopt the entrepreneurial mindset.
This is where the problem is for most people, adopting this mindset. The entrepreneurial mindset does not just entail a great idea, the important thing is taking action. Having the zeal to see an opportunity and going for it. The mindset means pursuing opportunities with fervor, creativity, and determination that will then overcome whatever restrictions or challenges you encounter.
Although some have the entrepreneurial mindset without any sort of education, it is not something that you’re born with, you have to learn it. By adopting the entrepreneurial mindset, you can thrive and be successful in business conditions that are volatile.
As an entrepreneur, you get to define your success. You’re your own boss and you should set achievable goals. Adopting the entrepreneurial mindset would let you focus on what’s important to you without distractions. Entrepreneurs find their purpose which is very important and validate their definition of success.
When you look around you’ll notice that some entrepreneurs drop out of school, others followed less traditional education and career paths. Entrepreneurs have the knack of working with what they have and making something out of nothing literally. This can only happen thanks to the mindset entrepreneurs adopt while believing that it is possible. They aren’t deterred even if they’re likely to fail.
Entrepreneurs are a resilient bunch. Entering the business world is not always rosy as it seems. Entrepreneurs see mistakes and challenges as opportunities which they learn from. Become accustomed to your plans and hold it as an opportunity to learn something new.
Other things to consider when starting your Travel Agency
Before your journey as the owner of a travel agency starts, you need to make sure you’re on the right side of the law by registering your business. You have to check both local and state laws, and ensure you’re obeying the applicable laws pertaining to travel booking. There are various paperwork you have to file to be recognized as a business in the state you’re residing, although the red tape is not much when compared to other businesses.
If the laws are quite much for you to handle, you can leave it to professionals who’ll take care of everything for you. They’ll even go as far as telling you which things matter and which do not, which could save you a lot of money.
What’s the structure of the business (i.e. Corporation, partnership, LLC, etc.)
Next is for you to choose your business structure. Note that the business structure you select largely depends on how you want to fund it and the plans you have for the business. If you intend to get funding from outside investors, you should consider a business corporation. As a home based travel agency you can consider sole proprietorship. Each has its pros and cons, decide carefully which suits you best.
Is the business name already taken?
The next step is to name your business formally, you have to choose a unique name, easy to remember and that has not taken by someone else. You need to file for a DBA (doing business as) and to apply for an Employer Identification Number/Federal Tax ID number.
In the beginning, you may not need to hire employees as you can handle some of the basic things yourself. If need be, you can hire remote employees who can work for you regardless of their location. Some task like keeping your books tidy can be outsourced to professionals or you can simply use apps like Xero to generate invoice, payrolls etc.
As your operations increase, you can then hire more hands.