There are many different types of travel agencies, from those that specialize in specific types of travel, such as adventure travel or luxury travel, to those that offer a more generalized service. No matter what type of agency you choose to start, there are some basic steps you will need to follow to get your business up and running.
10 Steps to Launching a New Travel Agency Business
1. Choose Your Type of Travel Agency Business
The first step in launching a travel agency business is to identify the type of travel agency you want to launch. You might choose from the following types among others:
- Adventure Travel Agency: An adventure travel agency that specializes in planning and organizing trips that involve activities such as hiking, camping, backpacking, cycling, and other outdoor activities.
- Corporate Travel Agency: A corporate travel agency focuses on providing business-related travel services to companies and their employees.
- Destination Management Company (DMC): A destination management company provides comprehensive travel services to groups and organizations planning trips to specific destinations.
- Digital Travel Agency: A digital travel agency is an online travel agency that uses the internet as its primary source of bookings and reservations.
- Full-Service Travel Agency: A full-service travel agency offers a wide range of travel-related services, from booking flights and hotels to planning itineraries and providing travel insurance.
- Home-Based Travel Agency: A home-based travel agency is a travel agency that operates out of a home office rather than a retail location.
- Host Agency: A host agency is a company that provides support services to home-based and independent travel agents.
- Independent Contractor Travel Agent (ICTA): An independent contractor travel agent is a self-employed travel agent who contracts with a host agency to access its booking systems and other resources.
- Leisure Travel Agency: A leisure travel agency focuses on planning vacations for individuals, families, and groups.
- Luxury Travel Agency: A luxury travel agency specializes in planning high-end trips that include first-class travel, five-star accommodations, and other luxury amenities.
- Online Travel Agency (OTA): An online travel agency is a travel agency that offers its services exclusively online.
- Retail Travel Agency: A retail travel agency has a physical location where customers can walk in and book travel arrangements.
- Specialty Travel Agency: A specialty travel agency focuses on a particular type of travel, such as cruises, tours, or specific destinations.
2. Name Your Travel Agency Business
Give your travel agency business an identity so people will think of it as a well-known and respected brand. You can take the name of your travel agency business from your industry, focus on a geographical location, or use your own name among other options.
The main goal for naming your travel agency business is to make it sound appealing and trustworthy so that people will want to use your services.
3. Determine Your Travel Agency Business Model
There are several possible types of business models for a travel agency business including:
- Commission-Based Model: A travel agency that operates on a commission-based model earns a percentage of the total price of the travel arrangements it books.
- Flat-Fee Model: A travel agency that charges a flat fee for its services charges a set price regardless of the cost of the travel arrangements.
- Pay-Per-Booking Model: A travel agency that charges a pay-per-booking fee, which is a set price for each booking it makes.
No matter which model you choose, make sure that it aligns with your business goals and the services you offer.
4. Choose a Legal Form for Your Business
By incorporating your travel agency business, you will limit your liability. You can incorporate as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), a C Corporation (C-Corp), or an S Corporation (S-Corp). Or you can operate as a sole proprietorship.
The business structure you choose for your travel agency business will determine the amount of taxes you pay and which state or federal tax forms you need to file.
Read our article comparing the most common travel agency business structures.
5. Write a Travel Agency Business Plan
All travel agency business owners should develop a business plan.
A business plan is a document that outlines the goals, strategies, and operations of a business. It can be used to secure funding from investors or lenders, as well as to guide the day-to-day operations of the business. The business plan should include information on the company’s products or services, market analysis, financial projections, and management team among other things.
Read our article about how to write a travel agency business plan.
6. Apply for the Necessary Permits and Licenses
There may be required licenses and permits you need to obtain before launching your travel agency business.
For example, many travel agency businesses are required to have a seller of travel license. This license is obtained from the state in which the business will operate.
Other licenses and permits that may be required include a business license, a permit to sell alcohol (if you plan on selling alcoholic beverages as part of your travel packages), and a Certificate of Authority (if you plan on doing business in multiple states).
You must also register your travel agency business as a legal entity with the state where you plan to do business. You can simply file an online form through your Secretary of State website.
Registering with the federal government is also essential so you can properly pay taxes for your business. You will also need an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which you can apply for at the IRS website, if you plan to hire employees.
Read our article about obtaining the proper travel agency business licenses.
7. Determine Your Budget & Apply for Funding as Needed
In developing your travel agency business plan, you will figure out how much funding you need to start and grow your business.
If you have your own funds to invest in your travel agency business, you may consider taking advantage of that. In addition to your personal funds, other forms of potential funding for your travel agency business include traditional bank loans, SBA loans, credit cards, angel investors and family and friends.
Read our article about the costs associated with starting a travel agency business to help you determine if funding is needed.
Read our article about how to fund your travel agency business.
8. Get the Technology & Software Needed to Run Your Business Efficiently
When you start your travel agency business, it’s essential to have the right technology in place to maximize efficiency. You definitely need a computer with Internet access, and accounting software for tracking expenses and revenues.
You may also want to invest in a business management system that will allow you to keep track of bookings, reservations, and payments. There are many software options available for travel agency businesses, including Travel Agency ONE, Agent Studio, and AdventureWorld.
The technology you need will depend on the size and scope of your travel agency business. But in general, it’s important to have technology that will make it easy for you to manage your business and provide a good experience for your customers.
Read our article about the technology and software you need to run a travel agency business.
9. Market Your Travel Agency Business to Potential Customers
Before you start selling your services, you have to let the world know you exist. The first step is to create a website so people can learn more about your services and how they benefit them.
After you launch your website, start promoting it through social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Also consider networking with other people in the travel agency industry through social media and blogs so they can help share your business.
You also need to start gathering the materials needed to execute on your promotions strategy, which is your strategy for attracting new customers. Travel Agency businesses should consider the following promotional strategies for which you should start getting prepared:
- PR (Media Coverage)
- Referral Programs
- Events (Seminars, Trade Shows, etc.)
- Content Marketing (Articles, Whitepapers, Reports, etc.)
- Social Media Advertising
Read our article about how to market your travel agency business for more tips.
10. Get New Customers & Grow Your Business
When you promote your services, you’ll start to get interest from potential customers.
Make sure you’re ready to serve these customers. Also, be sure to establish systems to ensure consistency and reduce costs. And be sure to find and train the right people to help you grow your travel agency business.
Read our article about how to effectively grow your travel agency business to learn more.
Starting a Travel Agency Business FAQs
There are many reasons to start a travel agency business. As a travel agent, you'll have the opportunity to help people plan and book their dream vacations. You'll also be your own boss, which means you'll have the flexibility to work when and where you want.
To start a successful travel agency business, you'll need to have some personal funds to invest in the business. You'll also need a computer with Internet access and accounting software. Additionally, it's helpful to have a business management system in place to keep track of bookings, reservations and payments.
If you want to start a travel agency business from home, you can do so by setting up a website and promoting your services through social media channels. You'll also need to gather the materials needed to execute on your promotions strategy. Additionally, you'll need to find and train the right people to help you grow your business.
To start a travel agency business online, you'll need to set up a website and promote your services through social media channels. You'll also need to gather the materials needed to execute on your promotions strategy. Additionally, you'll need to find and train the right people to help you grow your business.
- Research the industry and create a business plan.
- Get the necessary licenses and permits.
- Set up your business structure.
- Choose a niche market.
- Find a location for your business.
- Invest in technology and create a website.
- Start promoting your business.
- Get new customers and grow your business.
- Train the right people to help you grow your business.
- Find a business management system to keep track of bookings, reservations and payments.
A simple checklist to use when starting a travel agency business is as follows:
- Choose Your Type of Travel Agency Firm: This should be based on what you are best at and how much experience you have. Remember to keep your interests, skills, and experience in mind at all times.
- Name Your Travel Agency Business: This should be done with care, as your brand is important for attracting the right customers. A simple, memorable name will go a long way.
- Choose a Legal Form for Your Business: Whether you choose to become a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, corporation or another option will depend on your business. Ensure that you are aware of all the implications of each type.
- Determine Your Travel Agency Business Model: Determine how your business will make money. Will you sell products, services, or a combination of both?
- Write a Travel Agency Business Plan: Your business plan will also help you determine what your start-up costs will be and will provide a roadmap with which you can launch and grow.
- Apply for the Necessary Permits and Licenses: In most locations you will be required to apply for a business license and/or permits before you can begin operations.
- Determine Your Budget & Apply for Funding as Needed: You will need to know how much money you have to spend on all of your business-related expenses before opening any doors. If needed, apply for a small business loan or other funding options.
- Get the Technology & Software Needed to Run Your Business Efficiently: You need to have the right tools in place to succeed. Implement software that will help you manage your time, contacts, and business operations in general.
- Market Your Travel Agency Business to Potential Customers: A solid marketing plan will be crucial to your success. It should focus on attracting the right customers so that you can provide them with the services they truly need.
- Get Customers & Grow Your Business: Once you have a solid marketing plan, it's time to actively pursue and secure those who could benefit the most from your services.
Starting a travel agency business can be a rewarding and exciting venture. Use the tips and information in this article to help you get started on the right foot. With careful planning, research, and execution, you can build a successful business that will provide customers with the travel services they need.