Often through travel agent forums I find myself answering questions from travel agents trying to get started in the business and I am amazed at the lack of knowledge with regard to becoming a travel agent.
The most important tool for becoming a successful agent is your business organization. Beginning a new business, any business, without knowledge of the trade is not only dangerous for you, the agent, but the clients as well. Poor advice can be very costly.
As a new agent you may want to join an established agency as an independent agent. Ask if you can sit in the office to gain insight on how they set up client itineraries, which suppliers they consult and join seminars sponsored by suppliers. When you bring in new business, ask questions about the planning. It is in the best interest of the agency owner to help you succeed. Your commission split in the beginning may be under a standard commission rate, but think of this as your educational tuition.
Take courses offered through ASTA, CLIA, The Travel Institute and others. It will be well worth your time to learn about destinations and suppliers. If a familiarization trip is available to destinations you want to sell, take advantage of the offers. These are by no means ‘fun vacations.’ They are hard work, but very rewarding and a great way to network with other agents and suppliers.
Experienced agents going out on their own, remember to invest wisely in your business. During a seminar I was presenting, I asked about 200 agents how many had websites and social media exposure. The number of agents with websites was less than half the room and even less for social media. The answers as to why they did not have a website varied from cost to not knowing how to build one. In my opinion, both are poor excuses. As an independent agent, your website is your storefront, and an integral cost of business. There are several companies with ready-made travel websites that can be designed to meet your needs. And the costs can be very affordable. If you are a consortium member, a personalized website may even be available for you at no charge.
Marketing is your priority! Have a professional business card printed that screams “Travel Agent.” Don’t print cards from your computer or promote another business on the other side. These cards immediately send an unprofessional message.
Once you are properly set up, announce your arrival. Tell family and friends you are in business. Become involved in community affairs through schools, little league teams and religious organizations. You may even want to join the local chamber of commerce. While networking, hand out small, personalized note pads, pens or other small useful item and keep your name in front of potential clients.
Before you do any business, consult an accountant or attorney. Make sure you have the proper business structure including licenses and insurance.
Travel is fun—we all know that. But it can quickly turn into a nightmare when the proper foundation is not laid beneath your business
Adrienne Sasson, with Rubinsohn Travel in Jenkintown, PA, has been creating travel memories for clients for over 16 years as a travel. She has been successful in brand creation and is well versed in sound marketing, continuing education, and creating strong relationships. Adrienne has been asked to speak at the NY Times Travel Show and contributes to industry magazines both for agents and consumers.