Tourism companies provide so many exciting offers for families, couples, and friends who travel together that more people should think about becoming travel agents because there is an entire earth to sell. Today, traveling has become a general norm in most people’s lives. Running away from monotonous routine or just developing it as a hobby – traveling and exploring places is widely used for several reasons. So, if you are thinking of becoming a travel agent and help people visit their dreams, then you might as well be on the right path. All you need is a little guidance and good planning to succeed in this career.
In this blog, we will share the steps needed to become a travel agent online. Go through them and implement them, step by step. By the end of it, you will surely start your career fruitfully.
Overview of the Profession
You can become either an online travel agent or offline, or both. However, online experts are gaining popularity amongst tourists and travelers. The role of travel agents may seem quite simple: arrange transportation, accommodation, food, and entertainment for group travelers, individual tourists, and business people, after identifying their needs. However, it is not that simple to make everything work perfectly, in a budget, on time, while ensuring the travelers are entertained and have a good experience. Therefore, travel agents are highly regarded today and let us also add that they do run a profitable business.
You can choose a specialty and become a niche expert. For instance, you can choose to be a travel agent for a particular destination, like India, Asia, Europe, etc., for business or leisure, for family or honeymooners, or for students and adventurous nomads. Your work would entail preparing trip itineraries, recommending travel places in the budget, planning trips, and promoting travel packages on behalf of tourism groups, cruise lines, and resorts.
You may either work independently or work in a travel agency. The median annual salary travel agents earned in the year 2017 was $36, 990. The figures may differ based on your specialty and country/state. Specializing in a particular area will increase the chances of better job opportunities, and fast growth and success.
What Will You Do as a Travel Agent?
A typical travel agent has the following job duties:
- Book tickets for flight, road, and rail for both international and domestic trips.
- Manage all aspects of the booking, including checking fares, selecting the best package, handling visa, passport and other documents, review itineraries, communicate with staffs on behalf of customers, look after vaccination, medical check-up, final payments, intra-city transportation, and ensure quality control.
- Market and sell trip packages, destinations, hotels, resorts, airfare, cruises, etc. to travel clients.
- Design trip plans based on clients’ interest, time, and budget.
- Select and book accommodations based on clients’ demand.
- Prepare documents, learn travel tools, and become proficient with different travel destinations, their culture, places to visit and stay, and food.
- Ensure ownership of each documented record to make sure all details, such as seats, meal preferences, room stays, upgrades, special amenities, sight-seeing, cab facilities, etc. are done as per client’s satisfaction, until departure.
- The answer to the client’s queries and requests, resolve issues and emergencies faced by clients and follow up everything to ensure the effectiveness of resolutions.
- Keep client account information up to date.
- Create personalized tour packages, negotiate a price with both the owners and the end clients, and provide all-inclusive information that the clients ask.
- Learn and use travel tools and software applications.
- Associate and network with clients, vendors, local transportation providers, etc.
You must possess exceptional communication and negotiation skills to market and sell the world. You should always thrive to please the customers at all points. Having well –traveled and strong working knowledge of world geography will give you an added advantage when persuading client.
Before you travel on this career path, make sure the career is a good match for your interest, passion, and personality type. You must have a commitment to provide exceptional customer service, you must have good time-management, project management, and analytical skills, must be comfortable working inflexible schedules, and must be business minded to work independently.
If you believe you have all of the above skills, then sure thing this is your career line. Move on to read the steps required to become an online travel agent.
Steps to Become a Travel Agent
Step 1: Decide the Type of Travel Agent you Wish to Be
Aim to become a sought-after expert, rather than a travel agent who jumps to help people interested in all travel destinations. In an industry where competition is limitless, instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, aim to be a master in one. You must settle down with one cuisine to serve your clients. So start thinking about the type of packages or destinations you would want to focus on.
For instance, you can choose to be a corporate travel agent and arrange for companies whose staffs travel for business. Or you can choose to be a leisure travel agent and make arrangements for pleasure and personal trips. The scope of being a leisure travel agent is vast. You have so many sub-categories here, such as themes including adventure, romance, and family, destinations, budget trips, cruises, or customized packages based on clients’ interest, which may be anywhere between historic places and cultural fests.
Your interest will play a major role in your career. Try to pair your interest with destinations so that you are always high on enthusiasm. For instance, if you are interested in paragliding and sky dividing, you should pair them with areas on your list of destinations that promote sports, like Spain. If you love Victorian places, London, Italy, Venice, etc. should be on your hot list. And, if you are an animal lover, do not forget South Africa and Australia.
Step 2: Determine Your Client
You have to create an avatar of your customer to know which client niche you must target – what kind of location your client would choose, what the dream package look should like, and how much money your client can afford to spend. For instance, bungee-jumping and cage diving may interest younger crowds, while wine tasting may be for mid-aged people. Narrow down your list and segregate them to determine your client base.
Step 3: Start Your Business
In order to start the business, you must begin with a business plan that focuses on the mission, budget, goals, resources, competition, and marketing. Here is a breakdown of the steps to start the business:
- Budgeting: Secure finances to buy equipment for an online travel business, including a laptop or PC, internet connection, printer-scanner-copier, fax machine, phone, and a website. If you have the money, then a mobile application as well. You will also need money for registering the business and obtaining a license, and for training and certification.
- Learning about the industry: Visit forums, talk to an experienced travel agent, and attend webinars and meetings to find out what the industry looks like currently, what issues the industry faces now, what the threats and barriers to entry, competition, as well as opportunities. You should consider joining a professional travel network and subscribe to publications.
- Business name: Keep your online business name short for people to easily remember and search. Make sure that no other company or domain has taken the name you have chosen. Include a core concept of business in your name to increase its prominence. For instance, you can use a self-explanatory name with the exact phrase, such as “Indian Cultural Tour” or “Srilanka Underwater Tours”.
- Registering your business: Determine your business structure. It could be a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, partnership, or a corporation. For accurate information and advice, contact a lawyer or an accountant who can look at your financial position and suggest an appropriate structure. Since an online travel agency is a small business, sole proprietorship or LLC should be a preferable choice. Enquire if you have to register a DBA name with your state or local government in order to establish a sole proprietorship. A DBA works as a license for a travel agent, which officially grants you to work from home.
- Opening a bank account: Separate your business finances from your personal finances by opening a business checking account. Before that, apply for an EIN for your tax purposes. Also, apply for a credit card that should be exclusively used for your company.
- Marketing your business: Start from your family. Go through your contact list – friends, family, friends of friends, cousins, relatives, classmates, co-workers, etc. – and find out if they can help you promote the business or assist you in any way. For better promotions, use social media, like Facebook, Instagram, and Share links of whatever is happening on your website. Make sure you ask your friends and other people from the immediate social circle to refer to potential customers.
- Branding your Business: Branding is very important. It gives an identity to your business and services. For branding, you need to develop a unique factor that will differentiate you from your competitors. Start with a lovely logo of your company. Add a tag line. Then think of a primary differentiator – what is so special about your online travel agency that your competitors lack? It could be anything from your choices of destinations, your packages, your discount offers to any other promotional tactic.
To encourage your potential customers, offer them special prizes, special discounts, free lunch coupons, and thank-you gifts for referrals.
Make sure there is a continuous flow of communication between your existing clients and you, and your potential clients and you.
Your website will play a very important role in your branding and marketing. Make sure you make it user-friendly, informative, easy to navigate and responsive. If you have the time and resource, we also suggest you to start writing blogs. Travel blogs that interest your niche clients is a great way to attract more people to your site.
Step 4: Consider Signing-up with Host Agency
Consider starting as an independent contractor in a host agency instead of starting an online travel agency. A pre-existing infrastructure will give you less stress while working as a new businessperson. It will help you learn the trade more easily and quickly, and gain insight into what is required to build a successful online business. A great host agency will also provide you with sufficient training and support. With a host agency, you will be able to lower your overhead cost as well.
Step 5: Familiarize with Host Agencies
Best way to identify good host agencies is by reading customer reviews about them. Visit forums that other established travel agents or former agents of that particular agency visit. Find out what kind of experience they had. You can also try calling the former agencies and talk one on one. Some of the information you should be looking for before selecting a host agency include:
- Method of payment they promote
- Percentage of commission they offer
- The kind of software program they use
- Whether the software program is available at a discount with the agency
- The kind of community support you would receive
- Sign-up fee or any other fee in the future
- Is training provided
Step 6: Sign Up with Your Preferred Agency and Get Your Travel Agent Certification
Make sure the agency you choose offer tours within the niche you want to specialize in. You can choose between a large company and a small company with personalized options. You should also determine whether you would want to work remotely or work for a local business. The programs of each agency vary, so will their courseware and fee structure. Choose an agency that offers a certification course against a fee. Although certification is not a legal requirement to be a travel agent, it will give a boost to your career. However, if your agency does not offer certification, you can seek one through special travel organizations.
Being an online travel agent is a popular job now. Follow these steps and by the end of your contract with a host agency, you will be quite established. For queries, please use the comment box below.