Being an independent travel agent is certainly appealing. After all, once you taste the freedom and flexibility that comes from being your own boss, it’s difficult to go back. It’s also a great way to discover more about your leadership style and potential.
As an independent contractor, you will be exposed to multiple aspects of running a business. This exposure will enrich your career growth and help you build operational skills. So, if you are ready to boss up, here are some of the things you ought to know about becoming an independent travel agent.
How to Become an Independent Travel Agent
The first thing on your list should be research. Invest ample time in gaining a well-rounded understanding of the industry. Explore potential niches, identify possible challenges, and familiarize yourself with the competition. Without this step, venturing into any business may lead you down the wrong path.
Next, focus on acquiring the necessary qualifications. These may include online courses or attending travel agent school for certification. For instance, The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate program is rigorous yet comprehensive.
After getting certified, it’s time to up your business entity. Depending on where you reside and your specific needs, choose between sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), or incorporation options.
From this point forward, you have 2 main options:
- Join a host travel agency
- Open your own travel agency
Join a Host Travel Agency
If you’re new to the industry and have no connections, your best bet is to join a host travel agency. This move provides you access to a vast reservoir of needed resources. These may range from booking software, customer relationship management tools, and professional training programs to marketing assistance.
Moreover, being part of such an organization helps you tap into established relationships, adding credibility to your business. Host agencies often have steadfast connections with suppliers, hotel chains, airlines, and more. They could help you secure better rates or exclusive deals for your clients.
Another major bonus is higher commission possibilities. Because host agencies book massive volumes of travel annually through their numerous affiliated agents, they’re eligible for top-tier commissions from their suppliers – some of which get passed down to you!
Open Your Own Travel Agency
Once you consider you have enough experience, you can open your own agency. Focus on becoming accredited as an independent travel agent. This includes affiliating with recognized industry bodies such as IATA (International Air Transport Association) or CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association). This aspect will help you gain credibility with new customers.
Also, building partnerships is another vital step you need to take into account as an independent travel agent. If you’re no longer aligned with a host agency, you should consider becoming part of consortiums to tap into the power of solid networks.
To ensure your earnings will skyrocket, you also need a reliable customer service policy and a solid marketing strategy. Use techniques such as SEO content writing, smart social media use, and email marketing methods to promote your services efficiently.
What’s the Earning Like?
Nowadays, most travel agents are independent contractor entrepreneurs who work with a host travel agency. That’s because the number of storefront agencies that need regular employees has been on the decline in the last few years.
This happened due to more people using the internet to find their dream vacation destinations. You can do almost anything online, from booking transportation tickets to finding the right accommodation. Yet, it takes expertise and knowledge to find the best offers and put together a great trip (especially if there are several countries and continents involved).
So, there is still a need for travel specialists. Just not the kind who would sit in an office all day and answer phone calls.
As an independent travel agent, there are a series of factors that can impact your earnings. Since you’re the one in charge of your finances, time, and business operations, you have the potential to earn as much as you’d like.
For instance, one of the factors that impact your earnings is the niche(s) you choose to follow. Agents working as corporate advisors have the potential for better income than leisure agents. But even as a leisure agent, there are slices of niche (like luxury travel or adventure) where you can earn a lot more.
Overall, according to BLS, the average travel agent salary in 2023 is $46,400. On the other hand, independently-accredited travel agents with over 3 years of experience in the field earned as high as $76,252.
As you can see, becoming an independent travel agent can lead to personal and professional growth. However, keep in mind that this is a dynamic industry that calls for continuous learning. It’s crucial that you always stay informed of travel sector updates, customer preference shifts, and emerging technologies.
The ability to evolve with these changes determines the longevity of success in this industry.