Combining a passion for travel, a desire to be your own boss and the reward gained through helping people, becoming a travel agent is a great career choice. As the travel industry is making a big comeback after the pandemic, it’s the perfect time to realise your dream.
The costs for starting any business can quickly mount up, with training, technology, marketing expenses and licence purchases all necessary components of a successful self-managed career. But with extensive opportunities to make money, how much will you have to invest in yourself to set up as a travel agent?
How much is it to become a travel agent?
While becoming a travel agent allows you to travel the world, enjoying adventures in every corner, and the financial rewards can be great, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s hard work, especially at the beginning of your journey.
When working out your starting budget, there are several things you need to consider to have a solid foundation to build your travel agency.
While no specific education is necessary to become a travel agent, it helps to have some geographical knowledge as well as a good grasp of maths and English.
Degrees in tourism or hospitality can be acquired through colleges, and universities, either online or by attending face-to-face classes.
Although it’s worth checking out your local evening classes, or searching for online courses, if you left school without any qualifications, don’t let that stop you from starting your own travel agency.
Costs vary depending on how you gain your education, with university degrees costing the most at around £10,000 and taking about four years to complete. However, student loans and grants allow you to pay for your course in stages. Loans usually only start being paid back once you earn over a set amount, making them much more affordable.
Depending on your level of education, you might want to build on what you already know with some more targeted travel agency training. Several widely recognised courses and qualifications are available online.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) offers a range of travel and tourism courses, including tourist-focused social media marketing and geography when applied to travel planning. Their online courses are around £100 and can be completed in your own time.
Reed has an extensive catalogue of industry-recognised courses, many of which lead to professional certifications. These start from as little as £12, and there are often discounts for buying a bundle of related courses.
Slightly more expensive, the Association of Learning offers a year-long course in Tourism Management which costs around £390 – although this can be paid in monthly instalments. It covers many topics, including eco-tourism, achieving tourist satisfaction and focused marketing.
An online search brings up many more courses that you might find both helpful and exciting.
The travel industry is highly regulated, and licences are designed to protect the consumer if something goes wrong. Being licenced shows the holiday companies you deal with that you take your business seriously and provide a legitimate, reliable service between them and the customer. It also assures your holidaymakers that they’ll receive the best service possible if something goes wrong.
Generally, the type of holiday you plan to sell determines the licence you’ll require:
- ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence): This UK scheme offers financial protection for air travel package holidays and flight-only bookings. The small business ATOL costs £1,223.
- ABTA (The Travel Association): This trade association covers UK travel agents. It offers financial protection for non-flight package holidays, such as cruises or holidays by train, and ensures customers can get home if something goes wrong. The criteria for joining ABTA vary depending on your income and customers. The application fee is £750 plus VAT, with a joining fee of £1,250.
- Travel Trust Association: The TTA provide complete financial protection for your customers, regardless of the type of holiday they’ve booked. The membership fees vary depending on the package you want, and there’s an application fee of £150 plus VAT.
As businesses, all travel agents should have insurance to protect them and their agency in case of legal action from customers, holiday companies or anyone else they deal with. The insurance policies you decide to take out depends on several factors, including the type of holidays you sell. A quick online search will reveal many companies offering standard cover or more tailored policies.
If you plan on running travel agency from home and selling holidays online, it may not be worth getting standard public liability insurance. This provides cover if someone visiting business premises is injured or damaged. However, many insurers offer online retail policies, which can include data breach cover if an unauthorised person gains access to customer details.
Professional indemnity cover, however, is essential. If a customer or holiday company brings legal action against you, professional indemnity will cover the costs. For example, if a customer’s dream holiday goes wrong, they may seek compensation from you.
To successfully sell holidays, you need to market your travel agency, which is another cost to consider. Posting on social media platforms is generally free, but for a more professional look, platforms, such as Facebook provide business pages and advertising space for a fee.
Once you’re established, word of mouth is a great free advertising asset; however, to grow your business initially, you’ll need to factor marketing into your costs.
What opportunities are there to become a travel agent?
There are a number of ways to become a travel agent, and the model you choose will dictate how quickly you can grow your travel business and start earning an income.
- Independent travel agent: If you’re starting your business from scratch and don’t have any industry contacts, becoming an independent travel agent is very hard, with no guarantee of making back the money you’ll have spent on training, licences, insurance and so on. Over 50% of independent businesses close within the first two years, often leaving people with financial problems.
- Using a host agency: As an alternative to going solo, teaming up with a host agency allows you to be independent with fewer risks. Provided you choose your agency wisely, you can capitalise on their customer base and industry knowledge while receiving ongoing support.
- Partnership: A partnership with another more experienced travel agent means you can use their expertise. However, partnerships often encounter difficulties over disagreements, primarily where money is concerned.
- Travel franchise: If you’re new to the travel industry or have never run your own business, becoming a member of an established franchise is one of the best options. You’ll receive a ready-to-go travel agency, support and guidance, and many travel franchises offer big discounts on licences and insurance, allowing you to start earning quickly.
The Travel Franchise costs
The Travel Franchise are committed to your success. They offer expertise gained over 22 years in the industry and have helped hundreds achieve their dream of running their own travel agency. With a Trustpilot rating of 4.9, the five-time Homeworking Agency Of The Year delivers 450 leading tour operators and 12 million travel options right into your hands.
There are three membership packages, all offering a vast range of benefits to support you on your journey to success, and all with finance plans available to make it even easier to start your travel agency.
Lite package at £2,995 (plus VAT)
The Lite option contains everything you need to start your business, including training, both at events and ongoing, following your 5-day induction course. It also gives you the ABTA bonding, allowing you to save that cost and up to 60% commission share. You’ll also receive your own website, software, marketing material, and an experienced partnership manager.
Elite package at £14,995 (plus VAT)
With the Elite package, you’ll get everything from the Lite package, plus more. A maximum commission share of 75%, access to Millionaires Retreat, and a 5-day luxury overseas experience are included with Elite, plus the Money Back Challenge, a unique opportunity to get your travel agency for free!
Entrepreneur and Supreme packages, from £29,995 (plus VAT)
Designed for members who want to build a bigger agency more rapidly, you’ll gain access to even more mentoring, marketing support, materials, thousands of pounds worth of extras, and higher commission earnings.
What does it cost to become an independent travel agent?
If you choose to go down the independent travel agent route, including training, licences, and insurance, it could cost you in excess of £17,000, and take well over four years, with no guarantee of success. Starting a business from scratch by yourself can be exceptionally hard work, too, with constant admin tasks, marketing, networking and negotiating all the rules and regulations.
Providing guidance through the process of becoming a travel agent, giving you thousands of pounds worth of software to deal with the boring but unavoidable admin, and giving you your own partnership manager, The Travel Franchise alleviates all that stress. This allows you to focus on the rest of growing your travel agency.