Starting an online travel agency is no mean feat, I have had my fair share of travel mishaps.
I once traveled with my hubby and little kids, unfortunately for us, we were delayed a bit at the immigration point.
Because of that, we could not contact the cab driver who usually picked us upon arrival.
This meant we had to pick up anyone that was available.
Our mistake, because between handling 2 tired and cranky kids and offloading our travel bags when we arrived at the hotel, my hubby forgot his cell phones in the cab.
The cab driver had left before we realized it was missing. unfortunately for us, it was never returned.
We called the airport hoping he took it there, but since we could not give the name of the cab driver, he could not be identified.
That was how we lost those cell phones, It amazed us that those phones were never returned.
The moral of this story, had we used the services of an online travel agency,
We will probably have recovered those phones because it could have been traced to the person who picked and dropped us off.
Having said this, an online travel agency is a profitable business venture which anyone who has an interest in travel and tourism business can engage in.
In this post, I lay it out to you step by step how to start an online travel agency.
1 Decide the Niche you will be serving
2 Search out the Host agency to use
3 Set up your online travel agency Business
4 Market your Business
Steps to Starting An Online Travel Agency Business
1 Decide What Niche You Will Play in:
Deciding on a Niche to play in your business is a major question which everyone who wants to start any business online should answer.
In the world of online business, especially with starting a new online travel agency.
The only way you can make an impact and succeed is by deciding to play in a specific niche.
The jack of all trades master of none syndrome will not play here because you will not be able to attract your specific customers.
You may decide as you grow to increase your areas of expertise.
But in starting out you cannot afford to be everything to everyone, you are not ice cream hahaha,
So choosing a niche to play in is a major hoop you have to jump.
This one single decision will determine how you will attract your customers online and how you will market to them.
In making your Niche Decision you need to answer these questions
a Are you passionate about this niche :
Passion is a key decider of what you are going to do online because an online business requires that you be willing to work on it until you succeed.
Are you passionate enough about your niche to create products that will wow your customers?
For example, in marketing any product online, you have to write about it, that is blogging.
In some cases, you have to talk about this niche in the form of podcasting.
Now if you are not passionate about your product niche you may find yourself struggling to build this business.
Even though you were excited about it a moment ago.
So before you set on starting your online travel agency, you have to answer that question, what niche will I serve and am I passionate about this niche?
b Do you have the skills to serve this market:
In starting an online travel agency, do I have the skills to serve my market?
If you have worked with an established travel agency before you may be able to quickly answer this question because its something that you have been trained to do.
However, if all you have is just a desire to serve this market, then its time to take a course that will help you to acquire the skills you need in other to start an online travel agency.
You may also want to take some certifications in other to gain more credibility.
This is because people will always trust someone who was certified to do something, than someone who is just doing it without any formal training.
To become a certified travel agent you can check out Ashworth college for some courses to help you.
I will highlight some of the necessary certifications in the later part of this post.
Please note that these certifications do not necessarily mean you can not start an online travel agency without them.
It’s just that you will need them for credibility.
In the latter part of this post, I show you a shortcut to having the benefit of these certifications without you paying to acquire them.
Please understand that there is a difference between, certifications and training for your job.
Training for the business you want to start is just to help you to acquire the skills needed for you to set up and start your business.
While certifications are industry requirements which give you credibility.
c Do you understand how this market behaves :
In acquiring the skill you need, you may also want to check your industry statistics to understand what are the uptimes and downtimes for your industry.
For example, it’s not hidden that a lot of people travel during the summer in the western part of the world.
That’s because the weather is good and people love to be out and about
But what you may not understand is the reverse is the case for people who live in the tropics who want to experience the cold winters in the west.
So understanding how your industry operates is a major issue in setting up your online travel agency.
Examples of Niches available in this market
-Destination specialist travels
-Women only vacations
-Men only vacation
-Travelers with pets
d Do you have a travel agent business plan:
In starting your online travel agency, you will have to figure out how to make money in this business.
Afterall you are in business to make money right?
What will your income streams be?
An example of an income stream in travel agencies include:
-Book travel tickets for a commission
-Sell travel guides
-Book tours for Groups
-Sell travel insurance
-Offer consulting services to people who want to set up a travel department
-Sell online courses for people who want to start this business
To learn how to write your travel agency business plan read this.
2: Search Out A Host Agency To Use:
Remember the shortcut I talked about earlier, yes, this is it.
Using a Host agency as a base for setting up your online travel agency is the shortcut you will need to bypass having to get some certifications required by the industry.
So what is a Host Agency to an online travel agency
A host agency is like that big corporation that is into a travel agency business,
You sign up with them and you present your business to other people with their qualifications.
This means that the certifications they have are available to you because you have their permission to sell for them.
Think of your host agency as the big guy that has subcontracted its part of finding customers for it to you.
You get to use their booking number and other certifications that are required for you to be accepted as a travel agent.
Pros of using a Host travel agency
-You bypass a lot of legal requirements which may require that you have your own accreditation before you start a business.
-Some of these requirements may be licenses and certifications
-Low start-up cost, because you do not have to worry about paying for accreditation before you have made money
-Opportunity to work with a known brand which already has credibility built up hence you cut down your time to market.
-Free training from them because they want you to succeed.
-You get to build up a portfolio of networks and suppliers and customers through them.
-Your business is typically dependent on them if they go south you go south
-You may find that you cannot build your own personal brand because you are using their name and number.
-Pay is commission based which will only come in after the buyer has used the service.
I am sure by now, you are itching to know the best Host travel agencies are available so you can begin to apply,
Not to worry here they are
Types of Host Travel Agency
-Travel Planners International
-Gifted travel network
-Cruise one/ Dream vacations
-Flight center independent
-Oasis travel network
To learn how to choose the best travel network, watch this video
Now that you have settled in your heart the Host travel agency to use as a travel agent, its time to set up your business.
3: Set up your Online travel agency:
To set up your online travel agency you need to take note of some legal aspects, they include:
This includes either to set up as a DBA or an LLC or perhaps even an enterprise or a corporation.
Whatever you decide to do, ensure you are well informed as to what the tax liabilities are.
For more information on this visit Small business administration
Set up your Business:
This includes deciding from the word go how you will want to operate your online travel agency.
If you want to become an independent travel agency that has its own licenses then you have to be ready to get the required certifications and licenses.
Here are some of them
Certified Travel agent- CTP
Travel and Tourism Professional- TTP
Total Travel certification-TTC
Professional travel agent- PTA
All these are not necessarily required before start off but they give you credibility.
Therefore, even though you may not have any as you start out, it is advisable you get one of them.
Apart from these certifications which help to boost your credibility, you are then required to have an accreditation number which helps suppliers to recognize you as an accredited travel professional.
It gives you the ability to book tickets, collect commissions and generally function as travel agency professional
Some of these Accreditation agencies are as follows as culled from Hostagency reviews
ARC- Airline reporting corporation: This is basically formed to operate for US-based travel agencies.
It acts as an accounting firm that handles financial transactions between airlines and travel agencies.
You do issue ticketing if you have the accreditation.
It may cost you up to 2000 dollars to get this accreditation and you will still get to pay 210 dollars annual fee.
To learn more go here.
IATA: International airline transport association: This accreditation firm is quite big and offers a variety of accreditation options for their accreditation number.
Their accreditation number is recognized worldwide.
In fact, if you ask me, I will say this is probably the one I have always known until I started writing this article on online travel agency.
So here are the varieties
IATA- For international travel agency with air ticketing
IATA- International with no air ticketing
IATAN- US based travel agency with air ticketing
IATAN US based with non air ticketing.
To read more about how they operate go here
CLIA- Cruise line international Association: This accreditation is for travel agencies who sell cruise line bookings.
They are specifically for travel agencies with more than 50 agents.
This means that you gotta be big before you can apply for this one
If you are just starting out this may not be for you.
However, if you want to play in this niche then the best thing to do is to join a host agency and become a hosted travel agent.
This will give you the opportunity to use their own CLIA number since you may not have one.
TRUE: Travellers retailers universal enumeration
This accreditation is mainly for independent travel agencies who sell small tour packages, they cater to mostly niche operators and are internationally recognized.
They do not sell airline ticketing but basically tours and cruises.
People who have this code can also work with a host agency so it’s a double plus for them.
To learn more about acquiring TRUE go here.
Benefits of Having your own accreditation number
-Direct commission paid to you without splits
-Build volume and status and acquire your own customers who remain yours
-You build your own brand albeit slowly
-Choice of marketing and sales channels
-You choose what suppliers you want to work with
-Elevated credibility and status as a travel professional
Different ways you can start your online travel agency firm
Independent travel agency: In this case you have your own bouquet of customers, you build your brand and get to pay for your own accreditation.
You also have to be responsible for training, marketing sales, and customers service.
In fact, it’s like running your own full-time business.
Hosted Agent: In this case, you work as a travel agent under the hosted agencies mentioned above.
The cost is minimal, except for registering your business, all you do is partner with them.
They provide you with the required training and resources to succeed, you get paid on a commission basis.
You have access to multiple accreditations without paying for it or maintaining it.
Corporate travel department: In this case you work as an independent corporate travel department official for a company.
Where you are responsible for booking flight tickets and making reservations for a companies personnel
You are like a staff member whose job it is to do such jobs, you will decide how much you are paid for your services.
If you have made up your mind on how to play in the industry, the next thing you need to do is to set up your website online.
To set up your website you will need to first choose a hosting plan
A hosting plan here has nothing to do with a travel agency in this case.
It’s just a rent you pay your online landlord so that you can build your online business which in this case is a travel agency.
When choosing your hosting plan, you should consider these key points,
The speed of load of your site: How long does it take for your site to load when clicked on, the industry average is 3 seconds.
Percentage uptime: What is the percentage time your site is up- 99.9% is great.
Cost: How much does your hosting plan cost
There is a variety of hosting plans out there, but the one that beats all of them hands-down is Bluehost.
That ’s why I recommend it.
Because you will get a low-cost package with very great speed of load, a high percentage of uptimes and finally great customer service available to help you with the setup.
To get Bluehost plan, click below
If you have never built a website before and you are afraid,
Not to worry, this 10 dollar resource will make your website set up, a walk in the park.
You just watch and do and your site is up within 2 hours.
To get the resource which is a Video which walks you through from the time you get your link from your hosting plan seller to when your site will be up
Go here to purchase it.
4 Market your online travel agency:
If you have done a thorough job in following the steps outlined above
Then you will not find it difficult to get the customers you need in other to get your business rolling.
This is because as at now you should have determined who your customers are.
What niche you want to play in and assessed yourself to see if you have the requisite skills required.
We move on to the main gist of the matter, that is marketing your new online business.
Now that you have set up your website, the next thing is to market it to the right audience.
Before you get into marketing you have to determine what your target audience persona is
Set up your audience Persona
What is a Persona
A persona is like a fictitious person who has the characteristics you will desire in a customer.
For example, if you chose to cater to people who do special vacations like Honeymoons,
You will be looking for about to weds who may be considering going for a vacation for their honeymoon.
Some characteristics to look out for will be: their age group, market size, earning potential and also willingness to buy.
Finally, when are you likely to have a spike in the demand for such services.
Set up your social media channels
Create a brand from the onset: To learn how to build a brand for a small business go here
Blog about your service offerings
Start an email list: where you offer your readers lead magnets so that they cam optin to your email list
Partner with parallel workers in your industry: For instance, if you do honeymoon vacations partner with wedding planners and ask them to recommend you to their customers for a commission.
Launch your business: let your family and friends know that you are into this business, ask them to recommend you to their friends for a fee, this may mean setting up affiliate commissions for your customers who refer you.
To start your Online travel agency get your hosting plan now
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