You’re at a crossroads in your travel career, your next move unclear. Starting your own travel business may sound like a bold move... but its being made by more experienced travel consultants than ever before as self-employment continues to rise in the UK.
Whether you’re familiar with the concept of franchising or it’s something you’re only just starting to explore, we’re here to help you decide if it’s the right path for you.
There’s a whole host of benefits to starting your own business with a franchise – higher success rates, ongoing support and lower initial investment.
But with so many franchise and travel homeworking companies out there, how do you decide which one’s right for you?
These are some of the things you should consider when choosing the right company for your future.
1. How long has the franchise been established?
It’s important to choose a franchise that has a successful track record with a proven business model. So finding out how long the business has been established for is a good starting point.
If the franchise has been operating for many years, it goes a long way to demonstrating that the operation is tried and tested, and not just jumping on the trend.
If a franchise isn’t well-established yet, there’s a risk that their model may not be as “fine-tuned” as others.
Check out their credentials too – have they been recognised both inside and out of the industry with awards from reputable, independent organisations?
2. What can you sell?
When choosing a travel franchise, it’s vital to find out how you will be able to trade. You will be able to sell third party packages with all travel franchises, but not all will allow you to act as a tour operator.
Why does this matter?
When it comes to travel, the way to future-proof your business is to act as a tour operator to package together tailor-made itineraries for your customers. This is because heavy reliance on selling packages from third party suppliers, and therefor acting as an agent, puts travel consultants at risk should something happen to that supplier.
If the supplier moves away from offering rate parity, begins to undercut you online or goes direct to the customer and cuts out the trade entirely, a significant proportion of the agent’s business would be impacted.
We encourage Travel Counsellors to sell what is right for the customer, and sometimes that is a third-party package. We have competitive commercial agreements with a huge range of suppliers, and our commission rates include credit cards fees. This may only be one or two percent, but it’s important to compare like for like and look at the overall value of the commission you will earn when you book one of their packages.
3. Will I be lonely?
If you’re used to the buzz of a shop and having a team around you to bounce off, the thought of being a ‘homeworker’ can seem daunting. But, working from home on your own is just one way you can operate as a Travel Counsellor.
There are many groups of Travel Counsellors up and down the UK who share an office space. Most of them have their own businesses, but there are some franchisees who work together as a team on a shared business.
Other franchisees work from home but make the most of the events we hold and have their own friendship groups of local Travel Counsellors who they regularly meet up with. Others rent out a space in a shared office and take advantage of skills and networking opportunities with small business owners from different industries entirely.
There is no one way to be a Travel Counsellor. You can find out more ways of working here.
4. What training will you receive?
Most franchises will typically provide some form of training before you launch into your new business venture.
Even for highly experienced consultants who have been in the industry for years, comprehensive and well-structured training is essential if you’re going to be successful.
The quality of the training, as well as the knowledge and experience of those who will be delivering your training are certainly important considerations when choosing a travel franchise.
Don't be afraid to ask questions of your trainer either - what is their experience? How long have they been in industry? Are they qualified to deliver professional business training?
You may be a seasoned travel professional with years of experience selling holidays to your clients, but do you understand the ins and outs of running a business? At Travel Counsellors, we don’t just teach you how to use systems, we’ll coach and develop you in all areas of being a successful business owner.
5. What support will you receive?
Typically, most franchisors will offer a level of ongoing support to help their franchisees build their businesses, but the finer details of what that support actually consists of could be the decider when weighing up your options.
There’s a great deal involved with running a travel business beyond booking a holiday. Some key questions to ask include; will I have to do my own administration? Who is responsible for chasing client payments? Do I have to pay suppliers myself? What happens if there’s an issue while my clients are on holiday? What happens if I have IT issues? Do I have to worry about regulations?
Be sure to understand exactly what support is included in your franchise fees, and what comes with additional costs.
Visiting the franchisor’s head office is a great way to see the scale of the support available to you first-hand, and meet the people who will be key to the success of your business.
At Travel Counsellors, we regularly open our doors to potential franchisees for our regular Discovery Days, and actively encourage potential franchisees to meet existing Travel Counsellors.
They will give you an honest account of their experience, including the challenges they've faced along the way.
6. Is the business financially strong?
This is arguably one of the most important aspects of your research when looking into potential franchise opportunities.
Don’t rely on a company’s latest press release to assess how financially stable they are – take the time to dig a little deeper.
A quick search on Companies House will provide a wealth of company financial information free of charge.
The stronger a company is financially, the better equipped they’ll be to support their franchisees and continually change and adapt to meet the needs of the market – something that couldn’t be more important in an ever-changing industry like travel.
It also has an impact on the company's buying power which could have a big difference on your bottom line.
And it's not just your own financial security you'll need to consider. Ensuring your customers are financially protected when they book travel with you is paramount.
That's why we introduced our own Financial Trust which offers the highest levels of protection in the industry. The recent failures of Monarch and Low Cost Holidays proved just how effective it is when put to the test, with all of our customers re-booked and re-protected - in many cases, before they were even aware there was an issue.
At Travel Counsellors, we don't operate retail stores or bookable websites. Our sole purpose is to support our business owners - so we don't hedge our bets with other revenue streams (which would in effect compete with our business owners!).
We are only successful when our franchisees are.
7. How much do they invest in their franchisees?
As with all franchises, a percentage of your revenue will be paid to the franchisor.
In the travel industry, franchises or homeworking companies often work on a commission-based model, where the franchisee and franchisor each retain a proportion of any commission earnt.
The commission “split” varies from model to model, and when taken at face-value, some models can appear to be offering a significantly larger piece of pie to their franchisees.
The question you should be asking any potential franchise partner, is how much of that revenue are they re-investing back into their franchisees to help strengthen their individual businesses?
At Travel Counsellors, that reinvestment is huge; just one example is the £7m annual spend put into developing our technology platform to future-proof our TC's businesses and help them be more productive; new business development courses like our Digital and Cruise Accelerators, and 17 operating models now available to help our most ambitious business owners grow or scale to the next level.
8. What do existing franchisees say?
There’s nothing better than hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Speaking to existing franchisees is an important part of your own due diligence when deciding which is the best franchise for you.
They can provide you with an honest opinion about the support the franchisor provides and ensure the reality lives up to what you’re being told. After all, they’ve been in your shoes before.
It’s a good idea to speak to someone who has come from a similar background to you as you may find it easier to relate their experience to your own and also speak to people in different stages of their business.
Try and speak to someone who has started their business quite recently, as well as someone who has been operating for a long to get a variety of different perspectives.
We’re always happy to put you in touch with an existing Travel Counsellor, or you can reach out to someone in your local area.
Need more information?
We're here to help.