Nothing feels better than being your own boss.
In most fields, you need the infrastructure and support of a reputable corporation to reach anything beyond the low-hanging fruit. In the travel industry, things are changing—and if you move now, you can catch the wave.
While the industry used to be dominated by travel agencies, it is increasingly the domain of independent agents. Experienced agents already have the knowledge, training, and qualifications they need to professionally book travel arrangements for clients. According to a 2018 survey, 61% of these independent travel agents make between 10-30% more than when they worked for an agency, and 23.5% earn more than 30% more!
The most attractive part of starting your own independent travel agency is the freedom to work for yourself, on your own hours, with your own clients, in your own home.
But like all good things, independence comes with risks.
As an independent travel agent, you have to assume the risks of entrepreneurship. You must also develop a personal brand that distinguishes you from other agents and from corporate agencies. The right tools and partnerships can empower you to overcome these obstacles and start working for yourself.
Once you learn how to become a home-based travel agent, you will truly be able to enjoy your freedom and earn top commissions working directly with clients. You will be free to decide when, where, and for whom you work—and this guide will show you how.
How to Become a Travel Agent from Home in 3 Steps
If you have experience in the travel industry, then you're at a great advantage, however even if you're just starting, becoming your own agency breaks down to five crucial steps:
1. Find Your Grove
Customers look to independent travel agents for individualized customer service and niche expertise they can't get from a corporate agency. Although you may have experience with cruise lines, scuba trips, honeymoons, and adventure trips, you need to choose the types of travel experiences you're most familiar with and focus on them.
Once you know what your preferred niche is, you need to learn everything there is to know about it. This could mean being an expert in a specific destination—in its local customs, cultures, languages, and tourist attractions—or being an expert in a particular type of vacation.
In today's travel environment, we usually see the best results when independent agents combine different travel specialties to create a niche. For instance, combining scuba and cruise ship trips, or adventures and honeymoons.
Whatever your combined niche is, your clients will expect you to have answers for all of their questions, so be prepared to deliver.
The key to thriving as a home-based travel agent is knowing what your clients want and being able to deliver before they have to ask for it. Focusing on your niche allows you to deeply understand your clients and create a personal brand that speaks to their needs.
Young, adventure-minded travelers, for instance, will respond to edgy, exciting brand messaging. Retired veterans, on the other hand, demand different treatment—you must know your client.
As a home-based travel agent, you are directly responsible for your income. If you haven't brushed up on your sales skills, you may want to. Travel Quest World, EDGE, and regional travel conferences can help you create a solid foundation for your future.
Not only must you make sales without the large corporate team backing you up, but you also have to tend to the needs of a more demanding customer base—people willing to pay extra for premium service.
2. Consider a Host Agency
Independent travel agents still need to use state-of-the-art technology to manage their customer relationships, make timely bookings, and track commissions accurately.
You still need a top-shelf insurance policy to handle potential liabilities. Partnering with a host agency gives you access to these important tools and benefits.
This is a secret that large corporate travel agencies don't want you to know. The truth is that becoming an independent travel agent doesn't mean you're completely on your own. The key to starting a successful travel agency while working from home is choosing the right host agency to collaborate with.
The travel industry has evolved. Home-based independent travel agents are becoming the new norm because much of the time-consuming legwork that goes into making travel plans for clients can be streamlined and scaled using new technology.
The same Internet that enables travelers to book their own flights and make their own travel arrangements also makes travel agents' jobs easier. And although it may seem counterintuitive, the hyper-connected Millennial generation actually relies on travel agencies more than previous generations do.
This means that independent agents will spend less time typing code into a Global Distribution System (GDS) and more time talking to clients about exciting opportunities off-the-beaten-path. In fact, one in three leisure travel agents and one in five corporate travel agents prefer using the Internet to using a GDS.
But there are still certain things you need to assure your new career as an independent travel agent is a successful one. Host agencies lay the groundwork for you to showcase your expertise and deliver value to travelers while retaining 100% ownership of your travel brand.
3. What to Look For in a Host Agency
Not many people will tell you that when you learn how to become an independent travel agent, what you're really learning is how to become your own sales team, your own customer support service, your own commission manager, and your own marketing expert.
That's where having access to the powerful, intuitive tools host agencies make available becomes useful.
Some of these tools include:
Web Development and Design. Having a state-of-the-art website is an absolute necessity for today's independent travel agents. Potential clients will be browsing your website to determine how professional and trustworthy you are. Host agencies can provide you with destination-specific content, booking engines, and special trip information that boosts your online presence significantly.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software. You can't run your own home-based travel agency on Microsoft Excel. A professional host agency will provide you with a customized CRM solution that enables powerful, intuitive management of client profiles according to a variety of unique, indexed factors.
Commission Management and Accounting Tools. Independent travel agents need 24/7 access to an accounting platform that shows open invoices, close invoices, unpaid commissions, and more. Customized reporting lets you be your own accountant and stay on top of your financial situation with ease and accuracy.
Travel Agent Networking. When you work in a niche, your competition isn't so competitive anymore. Through your host agency, you can connect with other independent travel agents to cooperate, share contacts, and forge new relationships.
Which Host Agency is Best?
Choosing between host agencies for independent travel agents is one of the hardest decisions to make. Many organizations offer technical and marketing support to home-based travel agents, but not all of them represent an equal value.
Dozens of these agencies exist, and each one offers different benefits and drawbacks to its network of independent travel agents.
To choose the right one for you, follow these guidelines:
Identify What You're Looking For. Your host agency should complement your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses. If you're great at connecting with clients but not so experienced with customer management support and marketing, those would be the areas you want to focus on.
Ask for References. Remember that as an independent agent, you are interviewing hosts, not the other way around. Find other agents who are working with the host in question and find out what they have to say about the host's resources and offerings.
Look Beyond the Commission Split. Your commission split is just a small part of the overall equation that will determine your success as a home-based travel agent. The best host travel agency is not necessarily the one that offers the best split, but that offers the best value.
Choose a Pure Host Agency. Not all host agencies are really host agencies. Most retail travel agencies offer a few home-based travel agent jobs with commissions. A few of them believe this lets them describe themselves as host agencies—which they are not.
If an agency runs its own internal sales process parallel to yours, that creates a conflict of interest.
Is Travel Quest Network the Right Host Agency for You?
When you want to learn how to become a travel agent from home, you need to approach every relationship you build from a place of honesty and professionalism. When you run your own company and put your name on the line, your reputation takes the hit when things don't go as planned.
As a result, it pays to spend time interviewing host agencies and finding the right one to fit your needs.
When you're learning how to become a home-based travel agent, remember that the best host travel agency is the one that gives you the tools and knowledge you need to maximize the success of your independent business.
Ready to take the first step towards financial independence as a home-based travel agent? Talk to Travel Quest Network today and we'll show you how to get started.