Maybe you’ve reached a point in your life that you want to make a change and you have always loved traveling so why not try it out. Or maybe you’ve just gone on your first big international adventure and now that you’ve caught the travel bug, you want to do it for a living. Or maybe you’re a very experienced traveler and you want to share your knowledge. Or maybe the practical perks of being a travel agent drove you to consider it - working flexible hours, being your own boss, and working from home.
Whichever one you are, you’re headed into an exciting and rewarding career. One which has been revered in the classy 1970’s and one which has been dragged through the mud during Covid. If there was ever a right time to join, though, it would be now. The travel industry is growing massively but the travel agent market is growing four times faster. And that is because of the demand for personal and professional support while planning trips.
But since you’re researching how to become a travel agent, you already realize that it is not a very straightforward process to get into the industry. There are trainings, new tools, and official government things you need to take care of before you can get started. Not to mention other questions I’m sure you have like “what if covid comes back”, “how will I make enough money”, or “I don’t know how to run a business”. While we cannot answer these questions for you, we can help you get started.
I’ve got good news for you! To sell travel products and services, you do not need any certifications. That’s right - you can get out there and start selling. But maybe you want to brush up on some business skills and get some industry knowledge first. Good, let’s talk about your options.
Just like in any profession, continuous learning and understanding the latest trends, technologies, and threats will keep you on top of your game and help you grow your brand and business. For travel agents, there are hundreds of great resources to keep you up to date on everything you need to know to keep your clients happy, safe, and on time. You will find your favorites over time.
The best way to learn, however, is just getting out there and starting to work with clients. They will tell you what you need to improve and it’s better than spending months on getting trained on every topic under the sun when you likely will not use those skills at the beginning. Please keep in mind that if you want to purchase flights via IATA, you will need to be accredited by them.
There are a few ways you can get started as a travel agent, ranging in independence, risk, and reward. Starting with least independence - you can either become an employee of an existing travel agency, become an independent agent at a host agency, partner with some other agents, or start your own business and eventually hire employees.
Definitely starting with some certifications and training will help and be sure to update your resume/CV to suit your new career. You can expect to get an hourly or yearly salary and share some of the commissions from your sales. This is a great way to get into the industry and build up some experience before jumping totally into being an independent agent.
If you’re not quite ready to be fully independent and responsible for all operations, transactions, and software subscriptions, you can join a host agency. To use the name, systems and relationships of the host agency, they will need compensation, but this may look very different from company to company. Generally speaking you can expect to pay some monthly host costs ($150-$1000) and they will take 10-50% of your commissions.
If you want to fully commit to your calling of being a travel agent, setting up your own company is the best way to have control over how you do business, in which regions, specialties, and how much business you want to do. A good way to start is to find a partner or group of other travel agents who want to work together. Otherwise starting on your own will give you the biggest reward and you can choose when to hire employees and grow your business.
To do this, you will need to set up your business in the state or country you will be operating in. For the US, start by setting up a LLC and get a business license for the state you will host your company. Make sure to put together a business plan and decide which regions and specialities you want to focus on at the beginning. Business set up costs can range from $300-$1000. Something to note is that you can create your company as part of a franchise.
Lastly, you will need to determine how you will make money and charge your customers. Most travel agents make their money through commissions, but this can constrain the choice of experience for the client and brings the risk that you will plan a trip in detail only for the potential customer to walk away with your itinerary and book it themselves. At Ravel Trips, we charge customers a small planning fee in order to secure their trip and ensure the trip planner can spend the amount of time he or she really needs to plan an amazing journey. You are welcome to join as a partner and be part of the Ravel Marketplace to sell your services to clients on the platform and charge them a planning fee to secure their trip while you plan it for them.
Travel agents are involved before, during, and after their client’s trip. That means that trust, organization, and communication are extremely important - so you need the tools to keep all of that in check.
You will need to create a brand, attract customers and convert the sale. This will be a lot of work at the beginning so be smart about where you put your energy.
Managing your customer flow through sales, retention and re-conversion will be key to making sure you are bringing in business and measuring how well you do it.
Of course you will need to share beautiful itineraries with your clients and this is where targeted and efficient feedback is important.
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