Breaking into the travel industry is a dream for many people, and as you’re reading this article, you’ve probably been saying to yourself, ‘I want to be a travel agent; where do I start?’ Well, you’re in the right place because we’re about to guide you through the journey of becoming a travel agent, and it’s not as complicated as you think. As long as you have the passion, determination and drive, we’ll show you how to become a travel agent without any former experience in the industry.
How to become a travel agent with no experience – 4 simple steps
Step 1 – Decide on a Business Model
Before you can start your research, determine what kind of travel agent you want to be. You may choose to set up online, reducing overhead costs and giving you flexibility in your working schedule, or you might decide upon a brick-and-mortar business. The model that is best for you will depend on your circumstances and goals for your business.
The two primary business models for inexperienced travel agents include teaming up with a host agency or becoming a travel franchisee.
Under a host agency, you will be an independent business owner with your own brand, but you would benefit from good commissions, low start-up costs, and ongoing support. Although this is a good option for newbies, the best option is almost certainly to join a travel franchise. Here’s why…
Most good franchises offer extensive support, ongoing training, and access to an already-established brand and marketing tools. Some franchises, such as The Travel Franchise, specialise in taking on people new to travel and new to business. As you can you choose your own hours, working part-time, anytime, anywhere, you don’t have to quit your 9-5 straight away.
Step 2 – Do Your Research
Now you have an idea of the kind of business that appeals, you can do some focused research to establish the steps needed to get there. It’s essential to work out the costs involved and your budget. With a franchise, you will usually pay a starting cost as well as a monthly fee and shared commission to the franchisor for vital support, technology (booking platforms), insurance and an established ready-to-go business with access to travel partners such as specialist tour operators who will also be keen to support your business. You will need to compare what each franchise offers. Some such as, The Travel Franchise, offer online training as well as training abroad in exotic locations.
Step 3 – Get Training
If you plan to go it alone, your inexperience means you should invest in some training. There are websites with guides on everything from systems management to customer service; make sure to take advantage of these training materials to make your business successful. If you choose a franchise, the training will be laid out for you in systematic modules and webinars, you simply need to attend these either online or in person.
Step 4 – Be Brave and Seize Opportunities
When a client uses your services to book a holiday, you earn a commission. The more expensive the holiday package, the more money you will make, so it pays to be brave and get your sales hat on finding customers who can afford to take such holidays. Don’t forget to seize all the business opportunities which come your way, however, and make smaller bookings as these often lead to larger repeat bookings. Network with people at events, speak to others on your training course and always think with a business mind.
How do I qualify as a travel agent?
The UK travel industry is heavily regulated, and whilst no formal qualifications are needed to start your own travel agency business, there are some regulatory laws with which you need to comply. Most travel franchises have this covered, but if you choose another route be sure to:
- Get your Business Plan in order
Regulators will want to see your business plan, so ensure you have it ready and prepared. There are numerous online guides and templates to help you construct your plan, and many franchises can advise you on this matter.
- Get an ATOL licence
To sell flights in the UK, you will need an Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL). An ATOL is essential for ensuring your clients don’t encounter difficulties if anything happens to your business while they are on holiday.
- Join a trade association
Although not required by law, it will drastically increase your chances of success if you join a trade association. The best known is the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Becoming a member will give your clients faith in your business and provide access to industry-specific training.
- Check PTR Regulations
The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 states that all travel agencies must comply with travel packages’ laws. A package is two or more travel elements sold to a client, such as a hotel and flight, a tour and dinner, and so on. Compliance with the law is essential to ensure your business does not leave clients stranded in worst-case scenarios.
Travel agents must be authorised to sell packages by the Local Authority in the location of your business. You will also need to be insured. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) offers package policies for travel agencies, including public liability, product liability, and professional indemnity.
How to choose a host travel agency?
When looking at host agencies and franchises, consider our top tips for selecting the right agency pathway for you.
- Are they reputable?
Whoever you choose to team up with, you need to ensure they are a well-established and reputable brand. Clients need to have trust in your business if it’s to succeed, but you also need to know that you’ll receive support from the host agency. Trustpilot reviews are a good place to start. Equally look for a company that has won numerous awards, such as five-time Homeworking Agency of the Year winner, The Travel Franchise.
Different agencies charge different costs, so it is essential to consider your business budget and how much you can afford to invest. Generally, the more you can afford to put into your business, the quicker it will grow. Many agencies and franchises have low start-up costs or budget packages, such as The Travel Franchise’s Lite Package which provides everything you need to start your successful travel agency for only £2,995 (plus VAT)! However, sometimes, the more expensive options, such as its Elite package (£14,995 plus VAT), offers more bang for your buck with lower monthly fees, higher commission sharing and long-haul trips thrown in too. This particular package also gives franchisees the option to get their start-up fee refunded if they sell a certain number of holidays in a specific time period. That means you could get your business for free!
- The level of support on offer
We all need different levels of support, so looking at what is available within your options can help to narrow them down. If you need more support, you may wish to purchase a more expensive franchise, and if you need less, you might want to join a host agency.
How hard is it to become a travel agent?
Becoming a travel agent with no experience is not difficult if you are prepared to work hard, learn and network. Your lack of experience means you’ll have an exciting and enjoyable learning curve. Here are some challenges you may face as a new travel agent.
Not knowing the laws
Compliance with the law is an absolute must, so it’s important to understand the laws which apply to your business and the licences you may need, such as ATOL and ABTA, before you dive into holiday sales.
Not understanding the market
You will need to read industry newspapers and keep track of trends.. You could specialise in extreme sports tourism if you live near the coast, or if you enjoy luxury cruises, choose this growing sector as your niche. It pays to do your research.
Your pay will be commission based, so you need to sell lots of cheap holidays or fewer at a higher price. If you are used to a reliable contracted salary, the jump to a commission-based career might be difficult. However, you could choose to start part-time or sell holidays as a side hustle in evenings and weekends, meaning you’ll still have your salary to rely on.
How long does it take to become a travel agent?
How long it takes you to get your business off the ground will depend on which business model you choose. For example, you could buy a travel franchise today and be on your way to getting your first customers after four or five days training. However, opting to use a host agency, gain your accreditation, and deal with your legal licences, will lengthen the process from business plan to success and could take a few months.
Do travel agents travel for free?
Many travel agents enjoy heavily discounted and sometimes free stays and flights from hotels, tour operators and travel franchises. This allows the agent to better sell the holidays to clients from personal experience. For many, being a travel agent is not just about the money, it’s about the lifestyle which enables them to jet off on bargain luxury holidays and help others enjoy the experience.
This guide has given you insight into the steps to become a travel agent without any travel experience. Deciding on your business model and getting acquainted with the regulations are key first steps. Once you have decided on a franchise or host agency, you can delve into training for your new role and start making good commissions. The amount of support you require will impact the business model choice but with the right amount of ambition and passion, you can make a successful travel agency regardless of your experience. If you need inspiration, it may be helpful to read real stories from people who have switched careers.