8 Tips for Starting your Travel Agency Business
Updated: Jan 25
Starting your own travel agency business looks complicated. I love travel, it’s not easy doing travel arrangements and travelers will still look for expert advice especially when travelling to a destination for the first time. So with all the available information online and current technology advancement, I’m thinking I want to be sharing how to combine both online and offline initiatives in starting your own travel agency business.
Decide what will be your identity as a travel agency
There are two major type of travel agency: (a) International Air Transport Association (IATA) agent, these are licensed travel agencies that also serves as wholesalers where smaller travel agencies can purchase airlines tickets. Normally these are large corporations and has been in the industry for 2 or 3 years before getting an IATA license depending on the volume of transactions that they were able to produce on a yearly basis. IATA agents has more complex requirements to start the business and would need a lot of resources to come out successful.
Then there are the (b) Non IATA travel agencies that serves as retailers and caters to booking airline tickets, accommodations, tours, meals and travel packages. The Non IATA travel agencies are also called sub-agents or resellers of the IATA agents. It would be easier to become a Non IATA agent if we are just starting to get the business going. Attached here are the list of travel agency business requirements for your reference. While you are completing the list of requirements, you can already start doing the groundwork for your travel agency business.
Register your business
Business name, you need to secure a company name to start your business. For Single proprietorship, you can apply online here. Once approved and available, you can already list down your timelines for setting up the business. When identifying your business name, make sure that it’s easy to pronounce and it would be easy to remember.
Know your target market
As a starting travel agency, I suggest to make leisure market as your main target market while the target customers would be the free individual travelers (FIT), “barkadahan” (group of friends) and families. It is recommended that when you start your business, you need to decide about the travel market you want to address, understand their requirements by listening to what they want and giving them what they need. There is no one size fits all when addressing your target market needs. So be very specific when introducing travel products and services that the FIT’s, “barkadahan” or even family bonding groups would see them as interesting and worth buying.
Have the tools of the trade
You would need a laptop, an internet connection and network of suppliers that you can work with. Start as a home based business if you have not much capital to start renting an office or employ other people to help you. It is best to talk to Global distributions systems (GDS) providers (Amadeus, Galileo and Sabre) in the Philippines so they can giveyou access to their reservations system. There are free training provided by the GDS’s that would equip you with handling travel inquiries as well as familiarize yourself with frequently used travel related words. The GDS’s also gives access to airline, hotel, travel insurance, rail tickets inventory that you can sell and include in your product portfolio. Basic reservations training takes about 3 to 4 days, then we’re good to go.
Curate your travel products
Identify what are the products that we want to include in our portfolio. Since we’re from Manila, Philippines it’s best to offer domestic travel packages initially then start offering international travel packages when you are already comfortable selling other products. What you need is a list of suppliers such as airlines, hotels, tour operators and travel insurance providers. There are also a lot of online travel sites that can help you with their inventory of products for hotels such as Agoda and Booking.com , for airlines such as tripmoba , Skyscanner , and Cheapflights , though you can also go direct to airline websites. Please make sure to register as a sub-agent or a travel agency when signing up with these online travel sites good rates and download reports.
Aside from these, if you want to sell one particular destination and build your expertise from there you can do so. For example, you are from Palawan and you know a lot of things a traveler can do while in Palawan then try and curate travel packages that you can offer that is not being offered in the market. Make it your niche, create stories behind the travel journey and promote it.
Identify your marketing to-do-list
Today due to internet of things (IoT) travelers are very well connected to everything social, everything travel. You need to build your Social Media Assets, the most used for travel are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These are easy to create and you can find tutorials on creating an account online. Do not get overwhelmed, create 1 account at a time. It is important to have your own FB, IG and twitter as these can help improve your reach and network and does not cost as much. No need for flyers, brochures or other marketing collaterals early on since you are just starting, you would only need these when participating in travel trade fairs and during membership meetings of travel organizations.
Build your sales channels
Where can your traveler clients find you? You can have an office space or if you are home based, a separate table and chair or a receiving area will do. Then there’s the need to create a website, your website can showcase your travel products and depending on how much content you can include on your website this can be our point of sales. This is where you can communicate with your clients updated travel packages, promo from airlines and hotels and maybe later on write travel blogs to share your personal travel experiences as well. Actually, both FB and IG can also be a sales channel for you. Whatever content you have on your website can be replicated to our social media assets for a wider reach. Do not forget to also sign up with an email provider such as Gmail and Microsoft Outlook to document the mail exchanges between you and your client.
Grow your business and network
Participate in online travel communities, sign up with travel organizations, and join as an exhibitor or guests to travel trade fairs to meet more vendors and suppliers. Make sure to create a database of your clients, always monitor and check all your sales channels. It is always a good to reply to all inquiries not later than 2 hours for emails, and an hour for social media to make your clients feel important and take cared of. Business card should always be available, give them each time you meet someone that can become a prospective client or supplier. Make it a habit to read, read and read travel, tourism, marketing and online selling to learn more of travel industry trends and how you can generate revenue for your business.
These are all for now, I am truly excited sharing these simple guides and tips to start your own travel agency business. I have been in the travel industry for almost two decades now, if you come from a travel related business, may it be travel agency, tour supplier, hotel or airlines and believes that it’s time for you to start your own travel business then by all means start now. The passion and experience gained from your professional work can be your fuel to start your own business. Good luck and let me know should you need more help :-).