Have you ever thought of starting up your own travel consultancy? If you are great at selling travel, and have a passion for it, there has never been a better time to start your own travel business. The start-up costs are affordable and the return is better than anything you can expect from a desk job. That doesn’t mean that setting up a travel agency isn’t hard work. The market can be fiercely competitive, where established brands and online travel booking sites compete for the attention and business of the customers.
At Travel Counsellors, we have over 1900 agents around the world, who have customers from all walks of life. This means we have helped start a lot of travel agencies, and know all the must-dos for starting your own business. Here, we lay out how an experienced travel consultant who follows these guidelines can safeguard their success.
Create a Business Plan
It’s always good to go in with a plan, and that’s doubly true for starting your own business.
Even though it might be tempting to start making calls letting all your customers know that you’re in business, it pays to take some time to come up with a well thought out business plan.
Think about things like how much seed funding you will need and how you plan on developing repeat customers. Set yourself short, medium and long-term goals so that you have something to work towards. By setting goals, Travel Counsellor Tasmin Catto managed to go from a client base of zero to win Best Business Increase Award 2019.
Make Yourself Known
It can be difficult for solo travel agents to compete with the biggest store-based agencies in the industry, who have bigger market presence.
This is where it can be valuable to partner with an established brand, which gives you further reach and to access more customers.
Agents who start a business with Travel Counsellors get the best of both worlds. With Travel Counsellors, you will have the resources of an established brand with 25 years’ experience, while maintaining the freedom of owning your own business.
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. No one knows this better than a travel advisor.
As the business owner, you need to make sure you are protected with insurance, or you can be liable for costs when things go wrong. Personal indemnity insurance isn’t legally required in Australia, but if you go into business without it and the unexpected happens, you could be hit with costs that lead to personal debt. Travel Counsellors protects their business owners against this by providing unique insurance that provides full financial protection with a quick claims process with 24/7 care. This means your customers can get back to enjoying their holiday and you can rest easy knowing that Travel Counsellors has got you covered.
Build a Following
One of the most effective ways to build your business in the modern market is social media. Social media is a cost-effective way to build brand awareness as it lets you speak directly to and engage with your customers.
The important things to think about when establishing your brand social media are picking the right platform for you and posting quality content consistently. For example, if your focus is on corporate travel, then LinkedIn will be the best platform for you, allowing to connect with business professionals. If you sell a lot of Contiki tours, then you should be on Instagram to appeal to millennial audiences.
Whatever your market, make sure you devise a realistic posting schedule. Posting multiple times a day takes a lot of time and often leads to a sacrifice of quality, but don’t post often enough and you can get lost in the noise.
Keep Happy Customers
It’s important to make things as easy as possible for your customer. In the past few years, all of the world’s leading businesses have been focusing on improving the customer experience. This has led to a higher expected standard, where people expect the same quality of service from every business they engage with.
In travel, good service means having an easy to understand itinerary that’s easy to access (meaning, it’s online). Unpleasant surprises are kept to a minimum and when they do pop up, the customer is able to resolve the issues without much hassle.
Travel Counsellors had this in mind when we built the MyTC app which makes it easy for your customers to see their itinerary, gives them a direct line of contact to you when they need it and even post their itinerary to social media. Features like the inbuilt countdown times give them something to get excited about and 24/7 support takes the pain out of last-minute changes.
Travel Counsellors makes it easy for you to make sure your customers are always receiving first-class service.
Create Repeat and Referral Business
It can take a lot of time and money to find and chase new business. Why do all the hard work yourself when you could get your happy customers to do it for you? Enhanced with social media, word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful ways you can promote your business.
But beware, it can go the other way as well. When unhappy customers talk it can lead to a bad reputation that is hard to shake.
To help you keep your customers happy, Travel Counsellors has invested over $12M into our technology. The result is Phenix, the integrated digital platform which lets you craft every aspect of an itinerary in one place. Phenix makes it effortless for you to find the best prices and increase conversions.
Networking and Partnerships
Experience goes a long way in the travel industry. Experience means that you’ve had time to build relationships with partners that money just can’t buy.
To help you boost your networks, Travel Counsellors also holds regular events which give you an opportunity to connect with other people in the industry. Supplier Events help you build important business partnerships while the Annual Conference is a chance for the broader Travel Counsellors family to come together and celebrate the success of the year. These are great places to connect with other professionals, trading tips and tricks so that we can help each other to grow.
Extra Tip: Craft a Niche
A final thing you might consider when setting up your own travel agency is to craft out a niche for yourself. There are so many places in the world that it opens up an unlimited number of potential holidays and itineraries.
It’s impossible to be an expert on all of them, but by carving out a small area of expertise, you will make yourself the go-to travel advisor for this kind of holiday.
When thinking about your niche, don’t just go for the kind of travel you think will bring in the most business. Follow your passions. This will mean you’re more interested in the work and craft better itineraries, resulting in happier customers who recommend you to more people.
By partnering with a well-known travel brand, you can offer top-tier service while having the freedom to add your own personal flare that comes with owning your own business.
If you'd like to know more about starting your own travel business, get in touch with our careers team on 1300 889 123 or fill in the contact form.