Launch Your Own Online Travel Agency – Launch Your Own Online Travel Agency With These Steps. This post offers a step-by-step guide.
Know a thing or two about travel? Looking for a way to make money where you can use this travel knowledge?
Starting your own online travel agency could be one way to do this. As an online travel agent, you can help customers to find the best travel opportunities by scouring the web and creating your own packages.
Just how does someone break into this industry? This post offers a step-by-step guide.
Consider getting some experience
It’s obviously better if you have prior experience as a travel agent in order to create your own travel agency. However, it could benefit you a lot if you have had experience working for another company.
This could help you to understand exactly how agents work with customers, including how to communicate with them and how to set prices. It may also allow you to establish relationships with travel providers.
You can look for travel agent vacancies online. You typically do not need any other work experience to become a travel agent, however many agencies may favour candidates that have travel experience or experience in a customer-facing role.
Find your niche
Almost all travel agencies have a specific audience in mind. This makes it easier to market your company and easier to develop specialist knowledge within a certain area of travel.
When choosing a niche, try to consider a form of travel that you are already passionate and knowledgeable about. A few example of niches could include:
- Large group holidays
- Ski holidays
- Around the world trips
- Holidays for people with disabilities
- Last minute getaways
- Holidays with young kids
Every UK travel company that sells holiday and flights overseas is required to have an Air Travel Organiser’s License (ATOL). This requires submitting an application online.
You will also need to submit financial projections to provide an idea as to what your business plans are. If your application is accepted, you will then be invited to take a course – the ATOL Accountable Persons online course. This is followed by a formal meeting with the CAA.
Following all this, you will then receive a letter to determine whether your licence has been approved. Once approved, you will receive an ATOL number that permits you to start operating your travel agency.
No qualifications are required to get a licence. You are instead approved based on your financial preparation and knowledge of ATOL policy (such as what to do if a customer is left stranded so that you can guarantee their safe return).
Connect with travel providers and agency partners
Good travel agents typically have strong relationships with various travel providers. This could include airlines, hotel companies, tour operators, cruise operators and various other travel companies.
By building relationships with certain companies, you may be able to negotiate exclusive deals for customers – as well as generous commission deals.
Don’t be afraid to also work with other agencies. Unlike some industries where working with competitors can create a conflict of interest, it typically benefits agencies to work together as it can allow you to access different exclusive deals and share commissions.
In fact, many small agencies find that it is necessary to work with large agencies in order to compete.
It is worth noting that there is also the opportunity of starting a franchise instead of starting your very own business. This allows you to generate business more easily by being able to promote yourself under a renowned brand. However, it may restrict you as to which types of holidays and prices you can offer.
You don’t need a lot of equipment to run an online travel agency. In fact, all you need is a PC and a phone.
Some agencies prefer to keep as much work on their PC as possible, while others prefer to do most of it on the phone. Typically, a mixture of email and phone communication will be required.
It is worth downloading specialist software in order to manage clients and packages. There are specialist travel agency software applications that you can purchase.
This travel agency software comparison guide lists some of the different programmes that could be worth looking into.
General business software such as accounting software or HR software could also be worth downloading. Accounting software is necessary for managing your bookkeeping and making sure that tax is calculated and paid.
HR software could be useful for managing employees if you decide to hire a helping hand.
Build your website
Your online travel agency needs an amazing website. This is where you can advertise destinations, packages and deals.
Your website needs to look great, be easy to navigate and be secure. Building a website yourself is an option – but you may find that you’re able to create a much more unique and exciting website by working with a website developer.
Shop around for website developers that have experience building travel websites.
You can work with hotels, airlines, fellow agents and other travel companies to provide photos and detailed information on fixed packages.
If you are selling custom packages, you’ll need to design an online form that engages customers – this could include features like interactive maps for choosing a destination or a number range slider for choosing the budget.
Integrating third-party content may also be an option. It could be worth investing in some new technologies to help your website stand out.
This could include a chatbot for your website that allows customers to ask questions without you constantly having to be online to answer them, or the ability to pay for holidays using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Get on social media
Social media is a great place to advertise your online travel agency. Consider setting up pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote destinations and deals.
Facebook is one of the best platforms for running sponsored posts. You can meanwhile use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to help people stumble across your posts who may be looking for related search terms.
When creating engaging social media content, focus heavily on visual content. This could include spectacular photos of hotels and destinations that you sell holidays for.
Video content is particularly good at encouraging engagements. These could be videos of destinations that you sell or educational videos on travel tips.
Consider other marketing strategies
There are many marketing strategies beyond social media marketing that you can use to promote your online travel agency. One of the most important is SEO.
This involves using a variety of tactics to boost the rankings of your website on search engines like Google and Bing.
You can pay an SEO agency to help boost your rankings, or you can choose a website developer that includes SEO as a service.
A popular marketing strategy used by travel companies that can attract visitors to your site and boost rankings is blogging.
A travel blog section on your website could provide various travel tips or information on destinations. You could pay a copywriter to create content for you, or you could create this content yourself if you enjoy writing.
You can also invest in paid search ads. This allows you to pay to place results at the top of Google and Bing’s search rankings whenever certain specific queries are searched for.
Paid ads are typically much more effective than SEO when it comes to advertising last minute deals and short term deals. That said, you can also use paid search ads to advertise long-term steady promotions.
Nurture your existing customers
Once a customer has a purchased holiday with you, make sure to keep up to date with any developments. It’s worth sending regular emails in the leadup to their holiday to help them prepare such as reminders to check-in or reminders to get travel insurance.
On the day of their flight, you could also set up automated messages to wish them a happy journey. Similarly, you can send an email after their holiday thanking them for choosing you and encouraging them to give private feedback or leave a review.
It’s worth also asking customers to sign up to your mailing list so that you can advertise future travel deals via email. These could be personalised to each customer. From these emails, you may be able to get some return customers.
Know when to grow
If you’re getting a steady stream of customers and making a good return, you may decide that it’s time to grow your business.
This could include taking on employees, working with more travel companies and pouring more money into marketing so that you can attract more customers.
Once you start hiring employees, you may want to consider moving into an office. It is possible to hire employees virtually, but having an office could make communication easier.
You could even consider setting up a physical shop so that customers can walk in and plan holidays the old-fashioned way.
Of course, a physical location is a big cost to take on, so you need to be sure that you’re making enough revenue to cover it.
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