Do you have dreams of working from home? Maybe you want to explore amazing places when you have free time.
Becoming a home based travel agent is a great way to accomplish both of those dreams. It also presents a very lucrative opportunity.
More people are exploring the world. The global tourism industry accounts for $8.8 trillion, or 10.4% of the global economy.
That’s a significant chunk of money that you can get by starting your travel business. Even a tiny fraction of market share would be a great thing for you personally.
It’s not easy, though. You have to have the right plan in place to have a thriving home based travel business. Read on to learn the steps to start your new travel venture.
1. Do Market Research
A lot of new entrepreneurs get so excited about starting a new business, they miss this important step. They jump right to starting the business.
You have to do your research before you begin. The travel industry is very competitive, and you need to understand what you’re up against. You also have to know where the opportunities are.
When you do market research, you may find that there’s so much information available, you get lost in it all. Instead of getting lost in the weeds, have a list of questions that you want the research to answer.
These are some of the things that you want to know about the travel market.
What is the overall market size?
Are there niches that aren’t being served?
What do people want and need from a travel agent?
What are the specific audiences that have a need that you can serve?
Who is the competition and what are they doing?
How can you make your business different or more appealing to customers?
There are several ways to conduct market research. Two of the most common ones are primary and secondary market research.
Primary market research examples are surveys and focus groups. Secondary market research involves using secondary sources, such as market reports and research you’d do at the library.
2. Your Niche and Your Brand
In the travel industry, you need to find a way to set yourself apart from everyone else. You do that through your brand, your niche, and your unique selling proposition.
You nail these things down, and you will have a much better chance to get the right kind of people to your business.
Your niche is the segment of the market that you serve. It is much easier to say that you serve a specific area than being a one-sized fits all travel agent.
You can specialize in Disney trips, cruises, European getaways, or cultural adventures to name a few niches. This way, when you explain what you do, you become the go-to person for that niche.
Once you have your niche, you have to tell people why they should book through you instead of anyone else. That’s your unique selling proposition.
All travel agents can find great deals on vacations. You have to explain why someone would use your agency as opposed to the others.
You have to do this in a way that is short, sweet, and resonates with your target audience. It takes a while to get just right.
Your niche and unique selling proposition can help you define your brand. Your brand is a lot more than a pretty logo. It’s a promise. Do you remember the game free association? That’s where you hear a word and say the first thing that comes to mind.
A brand is similar to free association. It’s what people think and feel when they see your logo or hear your travel agency’s name.
You can create a brand by writing down all of the things that you want people to think about related to your company. You can also create a brand personality, which is a fun exercise to humanize your brand.
3. Get Certified
The good thing about being a travel agent is that you can’t just turn on your computer and decide that you’re a travel agent.
You have to have the appropriate education and certifications. You can become a certified travel advisor through the American Society of Travel Advisors.
You’ll find that there are a lot of organizations that offer certification programs. You want to make sure that your certification program is legitimate and will give you the education you need to get started.
You’ll want to have industry credentials to sell travel through the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
4. Write Your Business Plan
A business plan is an important step to becoming a home based travel agent. Even if you’re the only person, you need to have a plan.
A business plan is your long-term map for your business. You’ll also need it if you plan to get a loan or other financing for your business.
This step will help you see the big financial picture of your agency. You’ll be able to know how much it costs to start your business, your monthly operating expenses, and how much in revenue you need each month.
5. Pick Your Business Structure
A business structure is how you legally set up your business. There are legal and tax implications to think about when choosing your business structure.
The most common options are sole-proprietorship and a single-member LLC (assuming you have no one else in the business with you).
A sole proprietorship is easy to start, but you and your business are treated as the same thing legally and tax-wise.
That means that you file your personal taxes and use a Schedule C form to deduct your business expenses. You also are legally liable if someone decides to sue your travel agency for a bad experience.
An LLC would shield you in the case of a lawsuit because you and your business are legally separated. Single-member LLCs are still taxed the same unless you decide to be taxed as an S-Corporation.
6. Register Your Business
You have to register your business with the secretary of state’s office in your state. This requires an application, and a few other documents to register as an LLC.
You’ll need to have articles of incorporation and an operating agreement. You can pay to have an attorney do that for you, hire a service, or do it yourself.
If you’re in California, Hawaii, Iowa, Florida, or Washington State, you have to get a Seller of Travel License, too. You’ll need to check with your state and local authorities to see if you have to register your travel business there.
7. Find Financing
Starting a home based travel agency can get a little costly. Plus, you want to make sure that you have an income as you start getting things off the ground.
You can find small business funding for your travel business. This will help you take care of certifications, registrations, marketing, and your income for the first few months.
8. Get a Host Agency
As a home based travel business, you may want to partner with a host agency that already has the technology, tools, and accreditations.
You are a partner of an affiliate of that hose agency, having access to their tools and accreditation. They basically provide the backend for you. In exchange, you share your commission with the host agency.
In some cases, they’ll have tools to manage customers and help you build your website, too.
9. Have Systems in Place
You’re going to be juggling a lot when you start getting travel clients. You have to find a way to manage your business and deliver outstanding service.
You’ll want to have a customer relationship management system to manage your customers and prospects. You’ll also need an email marketing service to communicate with your prospects on a regular basis.
You also need to have a way to accept payments. Most people are going to want to pay via credit card. Here’s a little known fact about the travel industry: banks think of it as a high-risk industry.
That means that you’re going to have a difficult time finding a payment processing company. Travel has a high number of chargebacks and fraudulent transactions, which cost banks and consumers money.
What you can do is seek out a high-risk credit card processor that is willing to work with new travel agents. You can check with industry associations for recommendations.
10. Start Marketing
You have the foundation, now you need to let people know about your business. You’ll want to pick ways to market your business that reach your target audience.
For example, if you specialize in honeymoons, you can partner with wedding planners and advertise in wedding magazines.
You need to have a great website set up and you’ll want to invest in SEO to get it found in search results.
Start Your Home Based Travel Agent Business
Are you ready to start your home based travel agent business? There’s a lot of research and work that you have to do on the front end. These steps build a foundation for a successful business.
Are you ready for more travel business tips? Come back to this site again for more helpful articles.