Written By: Gregg Eppleman, Cruises Inc. Recruitment Specialist
Becoming as travel agent has never been a better choice for starting your own business. When you consider 80% of all cruises, 70% of tours and packages, 50% of airline tickets, 30% of hotels and 25% of car rentals are booked through a travel agent, becoming a travel agent gives you an excellent opportunity to succeed in your new venture.
But where does one start? There are a number of considerations involved in becoming a travel agent. The most important is finding a host agency to affiliate with. Affiliation enables you to team up with an established brand in the cruise market, giving you a name people know and trust, and allowing you to utilize their buying and commission power to make more money, faster.
Here are some of the key points to investigate before becoming a travel agent with a host agency:
-How long has the host agency been in business
-What is their reputation with the travel vendors like cruise lines and tour companies
-Is their technology platform state of the art, combining sales, customer service, and CRM functions in the same tool
-Do they offer different variations of consumer websites for you to use
-What level of training do they supply, live, virtual and text
-What level and quality of marketing materials are available to you
-What is the size of the support staff that will be assisting you before and after the sale
-Do they give you the Seller of Travel licenses for the states that require them
-Do they supply you with a CLIA membership (Cruise Line International Association)
-What awards have they received
-Do they supply Errors & Omissions insurance (travel agent liability)
-What travel industry certifications to they make available to you
Once you have the answers to these questions, you are well on your way to becoming a travel agent. The next step is making sure you are, or are capable, of performing the functions necessary to be a successful travel agent. Training is the key to becoming a travel agent that people can look to for answers to their travel questions, and guidance in choosing their next vacation. You’ll want to make sure that current and ongoing training is sufficient enough to keep you on top of the world of travel.
You’ll want to go to the websites of as many of the travel vendors out there as you can. Becoming a travel agent is so much easier when you utilize the online “universities” they offer to learn and test your knowledge of today’s travel products. This is an excellent resource because it affords you the results of all their marketing efforts as to what travelers are looking for in a vacation. In most cases, they will certify you in their product line, which gives consumers more confidence in your ability to help them decide which vacation is best for them.
Another key ingredient to becoming a travel agent is to have a forum available to you where you and your fellow agents can exchange ideas, and get help from agents like yourself who have already been through what you are looking for solutions to, and getting new ideas to accomplish. They is no better support than that of successful travel agents within your own company, who have already passed the career thresholds you have coming up.
A marketing plan when becoming a travel agent enable you to determine where your business will be coming from. One of the essential marketing pieces that most travel agents forget about is marketing yourself, both locally and online. Consider joining Facebook and Twitter for getting the word out online that you are travel agent, and utilizing flyers, cards and the local media to familiarize the local market with your ability to handle their travel needs.
Because internet marketing is a key component to becoming a travel agent, make sure you seek out resources that show you different methods used. One of the best ways to become well known on the internet is to publish a blog like this one, and become the “go to” person for answers to travel related questions, and current trends in travel. Along with that, seek out and research other travel blogs on the internet so you can see how your peers are relating to the travel world.
Finally, you are probably well on your way to becoming a travel agent just on the basis of having taken your own vacations, whether it be a cruise, land tour, or a quick trip to the next state over. You can utilize your own experiences in airports, at cruise piers, on tour buses, and in resorts to give people firsthand knowledge of what to expect once they embark on their vacation, and things to be aware of once they get there, and before they head home. Being a travel agent is not just selling the vacation, but also the client education and contact before and after the trip. People do business with people they like, respect and consider being an excellent resource.