Despite obvious setbacks over the last year and a half, the travel and tourism industry remains one of the largest in the world, with estimated global contributions of around $7.6 trillion.
This makes travel a tempting field to break into. The question is, how exactly do you break into an area that’s already bursting with successful competition?
Firstly, it’s important to realize that the in-person travel business is, if not dead already, definitely getting there with 15% drops in clientele happening every year on average since 2009.
This is due in large part to a fast increase in the use of online travel agencies that now account for around 65% of global travel and tourism sales.
A move online is not only the most lucrative way to get your foot in the travel door, but it’s also the best way to get started for less.
Unfortunately, with top online agencies like Trip Advisor and Expedia already holding a huge market sway, a competitive, informed approach is still essential to success. Here, we consider what it takes to start a successful travel agency online in 2021 and beyond.
# 1 – Find your niche
Success in any already flourishing area requires a specified and unique niche. Before you even begin trying building an online travel enterprise, it’s therefore fundamental that you think hard about potential points of difference.
In many ways, this is dependent on your understanding of the field as it rests, which couldn’t be easier given that your competitors are operating online and out in the open. Spend a little time watching their offers and activity, and then start thinking about what you can do that they can’t.
It may be that you’re able to offer lower prices, or perhaps you want to focus on a more boutique, experience-driven vacation package. Either way, it’s vital that you settle on a niche that works, and that you take the time to understand what exactly the target audience for that unique offering looks like.
# 2 – Make a plan
You can’t start an online travel agency without a business plan. In cases where you need to apply for funding (which will be crucial unless you have substantial finances already,) a business plan that tackles everything from services to strategy is an essential way to get your foot in the door.
Even without financial challenges, a detailed plan is crucial for providing you with a light at the end of the sometimes challenging tunnel of starting a travel agency from scratch. A five-year plan is especially useful for giving you an idea of the trajectory you’d like to see from your sales and profit margins.
Planning everything in detail should also give you a clear in-point for marketing that gets your name in metaphorical lights as soon as possible.
# 3 – Take care of certification
While taking a travel agency online does simplify that sales process, it doesn’t remove accountability. In fact, strong competition puts even more pressure on you to dot all the legal i’s of operation before you start selling.
For travel agencies, this means making sure to get certified or to work with a host agency that offers this benefit at a small commission.
Admittedly, most certification in this field is a recommendation rather than a requirement, and will also depend very much on your niche and location (some countries have stricter regulations than others.) Some certificates that could most definitely help you to stand out above the crowd include –
- IATA (International Air Transport Association)
- CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association)
- TRUE (Travel Retailer Universal Enumeration)
- And more
# 4 – Build your brand
Strong branding is a prerequisite for any new business but is especially essential in a crowded market.
Clear brand guidelines are especially useful here, providing you with consistent messaging in relation to everything from your logo to your typography and color palette. Outside of that, specific marketing focuses that you’ll want to take advantage of include –
- Strong, sharable content (blog posts/video/etc.)
- Expansive social media presence
- SEO focuses
- Feedback and reviews
Take off with an online travel agency today
Even in a disrupted market, travel and leisure continue to drive huge profits, and will surely see a resurgence as soon as borders reopen. To be on the cutting edge of that change, now is the ideal time to start a travel agency online.
Make sure that you’re entering the market at flying speed by taking care of these essentials, and enjoying the staying-power of a business that can stand the test of time.