So, you still want to be a travel agent, travel the world and make a lot of money. Not so fast. There is a lot to learn before you are ready for that first client. Before the commissions and fees start to roll in, you really need to know a little bit about yourself and how you fit into the industry. What’s next? Let’s start with the basics–where, when, how, what and why.
Where are you going to have your workspace? Do you have a dedicated office in your home? Or, are you planning on using the kitchen table? A dedicated office space is ideal. Either a home office/den or an extra bedroom turned into an office. The kitchen table—not so much. I know some travel agents that make it work. But, it really isn’t the best place. Plus, the access to the kitchen, refrigerator and washer/dryer can be too tempting. You need to set boundaries with your family—no one really wants to hear you scream at your kids while they are dangling on the line. The mute button on your phone is a marvelous tool; know where it is and how to use it.
When you work is entirely up to you. To be successful you need to be available not only to your clients, but to have access to reservation departments during business hours. Most successful agents I know work full time. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it part-time, it’s just a bit more challenging. Being accessible, responding back to clients and leads in a timely manner is crucial to your success.
How are you going to market yourself? A marketing plan is essential. You need to figure out your value, what you bring to the table, and why people should be booking travel with you. With the Internet—travel can be purchased anywhere. You need to sell you! Not products.
What are you selling? First and foremost sell yourself. Then sell your expertise. Find a niche that you are passionate about. Love cooking? Culinary travel might be a good fit. Become an expert. Know everything you can about culinary travel. Again, the Travel Institute has niche classes in almost everything. Subscribe to Bon Appetit, Food & Wine and other magazines that cater to your niche. Travel to destinations such as Italy, France, Spain and learn about food/wine in these regions. Familiarize yourself with cruises that offer themed food/wine cruises or have cooking demonstrations on-board. Know the best restaurants to send your client in Paris, best place for gelato in Rome, best wine tasting in Tuscany. Some other ideas of niches include, golf, fitness, spa & luxury. Or, be an expert on a destination such as Spain, France, Italy, Disney, etc. Learn as much as you can, travel to the destinations, read, read, read and become a resource for your clients. Keep learning. Attend FAMs, webinars, destination training. Sell your expertise!
Why are you selling what you sell? You should have passion. You should be excited about what you sell. You should be happy to answer every phone call and convey that enthusiasm. Beyond that, you should have a good business plan. It doesn’t have to be 50 gazillion pages. Keep it simple. There are a ton of resources out there how to do a business plan. CLIA (Cruise Line International Association) has a class on business plans, SCORE Society of Retired Executives is a great resource, local colleges, SBA (Small Business Association). Or just Google ‘business plans.’ A good business & marketing plan is essential no matter how small your business is or how many hours you work.
Once you can define the where, when, how, what and why; you will be well on your way.