travel agent business how it works

Travel Agency Business Model: What It Is and How it Works

travel agent business how it works

In 1758, Cox & Kings became the first travel agency in modern history. Since then, the traditional travel agency model has grown and evolved into a $149 billion industry while the new online traveling agency model generates over $400 billion. It’s clear that this is a business model that has withstood the test of time. Let’s take a look at this business model , its advantages and disadvantages, how it makes money, and a few examples.

The Travel Agency Business Model

The travel agency business model is a framework that travel agencies use to provide travel-related services to customers. At its core, this model involves acting as an intermediary between clients and various travel service providers, such as airlines, hotels, and tour operators.

Travel agencies understand customer needs, preferences, and budgets to create personalized travel experiences. They leverage their expertise and industry connections to access information and deals not readily available to the public. Typically, travel agencies earn their income through commissions from the service providers they book with, service fees charged to clients, or a combination of both.

However, technology has expanded how this model works and how it generates revenue. No longer are commissions the only method by which agencies make money. As the world has changed, so has this model and its income-generating capabilities. Let’s take a look at a few different ways to make money from this model.

How Travel Agencies Make Money

Traditionally, the way travel agents generate revenue is the same way other businesses using the agency model make their money: through commissions. When an agent or agency recommends a hotel, cruise, or airline, they receive a commission from those entities. The size of the commission usually depends on the type of service purchased. For example, hotels typically offer a 10% commission per booking. 

On the other hand, c ruises offer up to 18% commission to agencies for vacation packages sold. 

  • Commission from bookings : Earn a percentage from bookings for hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators.
  • Service fees: Charge for personalized services like itinerary planning, booking assistance, and on-trip support.
  • Travel insurance: Sale of travel insurance to clients for additional income and enhanced customer service.
  • Exclusive tours and packages: Organizing and selling their own tours and packages for higher profit margins.
  • Travel-related merchandise: Selling merchandise related to travel.
  • Strategic partnerships: Leveraging partnerships for mutual promotions and additional revenue.

Types of Travel Agencies

Traditional brick-and-mortar agencies.

Traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies are physical establishments where clients can walk in and consult with travel agents face-to-face. These agencies offer a personal touch, with experienced agents providing customized travel planning services.

They are particularly valuable for complex travel arrangements, like multi-destination trips, cruises, or group travel. Traditional agencies often build strong local customer bases and can provide a level of detail and customer care that is hard to match online. They are ideal for customers who prefer in-person interactions and seek expert guidance and reassurance throughout the booking process.

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

Online Travel Agencies, or OTAs, operate strictly on the internet. Travelweb.com and Expedia were among the first online travel agencies that helped visitors find hotels and flights without working with a human agent. Sites like Travelocity and Orbitz soon followed. Eventually, those agencies were acquired by Expedia Group. 

OTAs provide the advantage of easy comparison shopping, allowing customers to quickly compare prices and options for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more. They often offer competitive pricing and are accessible 24/7. However, they may offer less personalized service compared to traditional agencies. OTAs often make money using different pricing models.

Here are some examples of the different pricing models used by OTAs:

  • Airbnb – Peer-to-Peer Model
  • TripAdvisor – Advertising Model
  • Booking.com – Agency and Merchant Model
  • Travelocity – Merchant Model

Airbnb, which was once known as a rental company has pivoted into a travel agency. 

Specialty Travel Agencies

Specialty travel agencies focus on particular types of travel or destinations. These agencies create a unique selling point by offering expert knowledge and specialized services. This category includes agencies that specialize in areas like luxury travel, adventure tours, eco-tourism, or specific regions of the world.

They cater to niche markets and provide in-depth knowledge and unique experiences tailored to their clients’ interests. For example, an agency specializing in safari tours would have detailed knowledge about various African destinations. They would also know the best times to visit and any unique accommodations. These agencies are ideal for travelers with specific interests or who are seeking an extraordinary travel experience.

Corporate Travel Agencies

Corporate travel agencies specialize in handling the travel needs of businesses and organizations. They manage business trips, conferences, and other travel-related needs for companies. These agencies are adept at navigating the complexities of business travel, such as corporate rates, expense management, and travel policy compliance.

They offer services like 24/7 support, travel risk management, and detailed reporting. Corporate travel agencies are essential for companies looking to streamline their travel processes, ensure the safety and comfort of their traveling employees, and control travel-related expenses. AMEX GBT and TravelBank are a few examples of the leading corporate travel agencies out there.

Pros of the Travel Agency Business Model

The travel agency business model, despite its challenges, offers several advantages that make it a viable and often preferred choice for many travelers. These benefits not only help travel agencies attract and retain customers but also provide them with unique opportunities to stand out in a competitive market.

Personalized Customer Service

One of the primary strengths of travel agencies is their ability to offer personalized customer service. However, this is true for brick-and-mortar agencies. OTAs have very few personalized services other than those recommendations offered by the site’s algorithms or targeting cookies.

Unlike online booking platforms, retail travel agents can provide a high level of personal attention. They understand that individuals have different preferences, needs, and budgets.

This personal touch allows them to craft travel experiences that are tailored specifically to each client. This can be particularly valuable for complex itineraries, special occasions, or for travelers with specific needs. The ability to offer bespoke travel planning and problem-solving during trips creates a customer experience that automated services simply cannot match.

 Diverse Revenue Streams

One of the major advantages of the travel agency business model is the potential for diverse revenue streams. Travel agencies can earn income through various channels such as commissions from travel providers (like airlines, hotels, and tour operators), service fees for specialized itinerary planning, and the sale of travel insurance. This diversification allows agencies to maintain a steady income even if one particular source declines.

High Client Retention Rate

Travel agencies often enjoy a high client retention rate. In the hospitality and travel sectors, the typical client retention percentage ranges around 55%. By providing personalized service, expert advice, and hassle-free travel planning, agencies can build a loyal client base. Satisfied customers are likely to return for future travel needs and recommend the agency to others, which is invaluable for long-term business growth.

Scalability in the Travel Agency Business

Scalability is a standout advantage in the travel agency business model. Initially, a travel agency can start small, focusing on a niche market or a specific type of travel service. As the business gains a foothold, it can incrementally expand what it has to offer. This could include adding new destinations, diverse travel packages such as luxury tours, budget trips, or adventure travel, and broadening the range of services including corporate or group travel management.

Importantly, the scalability of a travel agency does not necessarily require a proportional increase in overhead or resources. This aspect allows for sustainable growth. As a result, travel agencies can scale up (or down) in response to market trends or economic conditions. This also means that they can pivot because of consumer preferences. 

For example, in the 1990s Acapulco was a highly desired destination. However, in the 2020s travelers are flocking to Dubai for their getaways. Travel agencies can quickly pivot in order to give clients travel options while not needing to change their business operations.

Cons of the Travel Agency Business Model

Increased competition.

One of the most formidable challenges facing travel agencies today is the heightened level of competition. With the advent of online booking platforms, such as Expedia and Booking.com, and direct booking options offered by airlines and hotels, traditional travel agencies find themselves competing in an increasingly crowded market.

These online platforms often provide customers with a convenient way to compare prices and book travel services directly, bypassing the need for an intermediary. Additionally, they are typically available 24/7, offering a level of convenience that traditional agencies struggle to match.

This shift has not only squeezed the market share of traditional travel agencies but also put downward pressure on their pricing and service fees.

Dependence on External Factors

One notable disadvantage of this model is the high level of exposure to external factors. Their operations and profitability are closely tied to global and regional dynamics. As most know, these can be unpredictable and highly impactful. Geopolitical events, such as political unrest, terrorism, or diplomatic tensions, can abruptly make destinations less appealing or even inaccessible. When these things happen, it can lead to a significant drop in bookings and revenue. Similarly, economic downturns can quickly change travel patterns, with people cutting back on discretionary spending like vacations, directly affecting travel agency sales.

Natural disasters, health pandemics, and environmental concerns also play a major role in influencing travel decisions. For example, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global road travel and commercial flight activity decreased by 50 percent and 60 percent . 

Also, currency fluctuations and changing visa regulations can impact international travel trends. A strong currency in a key market can deter travelers. On top of that, stricter visa regulations can reduce the number of inbound tourists. These elements make planning and forecasting exceptionally challenging for travel agencies, requiring them to be adaptable and resilient in the face of constant change.

Low-Profit Margins

The travel agency business is characterized by relatively low profit margins, a significant con in its operational model. This challenge stems from several factors, including intense competition with online travel platforms and direct booking options offered by airlines and hotels, which often feature lower prices and more direct control over the customer experience. In order to remain competitive, traditional travel agencies are often compelled to offer compelling deals, which can further compress their profit margins.

Commission-based income, which is a primary revenue source for many travel agencies, presents its own set of challenges. These commissions, often a percentage of the total booking cost, can be modest, especially with suppliers increasingly reducing commission rates. Furthermore, the growing trend of suppliers offering the same or lower rates directly to consumers further exacerbates the pressure on profit margins.

Time-Intensive Operations

The operation of a travel agency is often a time-intensive endeavor, which can be a significant downside of this business model. Crafting personalized travel experiences, which is a key selling point for many agencies, requires meticulous planning, extensive research, and constant communication with clients and suppliers. This level of customization and attention to detail is labor-intensive and time-consuming, especially when catering to clients with specific or complex travel needs.

Furthermore, the nature of the travel industry demands that agencies remain responsive to client needs around the clock, especially for clients who are actively traveling. Dealing with last-minute changes, addressing travel disruptions, and providing support across different time zones can be demanding and reduce the time available for other business activities.

For small or independent travel agencies, where resources are limited, this time commitment can be particularly challenging. Balancing the need to provide high-quality, personalized service to existing clients while simultaneously engaging in marketing efforts, business development, and administrative tasks can stretch resources thin. This time pressure can limit the agency’s ability to scale up, as acquiring new clients and expanding services requires additional time and effort that may not be readily available.

As we mentioned before, it appears that this is a business model that is here to stay. The travel agency model has many traditional elements of a successful business model but has also integrated modern methods with the advancement of technology. Entrepreneurs and business owners considering this model should take the time to understand the benefits as well as the risks involved.

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travel agent business how it works

Starting a Travel Business: How to Become a Travel Agent

Author: Briana Morgaine

Briana Morgaine

17 min. read

Updated March 18, 2024

Free Download:  Sample Travel Agency Business Plan Templates

If you’re someone who loves travel, meticulous planning, and helping others have great experiences, consider starting a travel business and becoming a travel agent.

After a sharp drop in international and domestic travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, air travel demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Pent-up demand from families who put off trips is driving tourism activity even as fewer travelers cite the pandemic as a major concern. Those tourists are forecast to drive solid long-term growth in the worldwide travel and tourism industry – and plenty of business opportunities for those who can make vacation planning less stressful.

Becoming a travel agent can be fairly inexpensive, as business ventures go, and you can often get away with limited staff and little upfront cost.

That being said, success largely depends on finding the right niche in a fiercely competitive market, given the rise in online direct-to-consumer travel booking sites. So, if you want to be successful, you’ll want to focus a lot of your effort on your market research , branding, and marketing. You’ll need to know who needs your services—your target market—and what they’ll be willing to pay. 

If this sounds right up your alley, keep reading. I’ve interviewed several founders of successful travel agencies for their advice on everything you need to get started, and I’ve also included plenty of links and resources to help you work through the process of starting your own travel business.

  • 1. Create a plan for your travel business

Make no mistake: No matter what industry you’re in, a business plan is essential. You may not need a formal business plan if you’re not seeking a loan or investment funding for your business, but don’t skip it. Write a one-page business plan instead.

You can do it in less than an hour. Writing a business plan is scientifically proven to help you grow faster , so don’t skip this step. 

What kind of travel agent are you interested in becoming? If you’re planning to be a home-based travel agent, you’ll want to look into finding a host travel agency where you’ll essentially be an independent contractor. If this is the type of travel business you’d like to start, the business planning process should be fairly straightforward.

However, if you’re looking into starting your own travel business from the ground up, you’ll be looking at a much more lengthy planning process—but you’ll also have more flexibility to build a business that’s all your own.

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A case for starting early

“In starting ADDISON Yacht Charters , we began market analysis and business planning efforts a full year before we launched the company in November 2013,” says owner Scott Bessette.

“During that period, we attended industry events such as regional yacht shows in the Virgin Islands, Antigua, Florida, and Monaco to acquire as full an understanding as possible with regards to what products and services were being delivered to the market, who was delivering those products and services, and who was purchasing those products and services,” he explains.

Starting the planning process early helped Scott hone in on his vision for his business. “In this manner, we determined what our market niche could be, and established whether or not we could compete in the existing market, and what it would take to succeed,” he says.

Scott was able to get a clear sense of where he wanted to take it, and how to tailor his business to best suit the market needs.

What kind of travel agent business plan will you need?

The kind of travel agency business plan you’ll need will vary depending on what kind of funding you’re looking for.

Are you hoping to eventually run a large travel agency, and interested in seeking a loan, or maybe investment from angel investors? You’ll want a formal business plan for a travel agency that contains all the necessary information on your business. Are you more interested in becoming a travel agent using your own savings, without seeking outside investment or loans? A more lightweight one-page plan might be a perfect fit for your business.

Even if you do intend to pitch your business idea to lenders and investors, you can start with a Lean Plan, and flesh out the rest of the info later on.

Whatever your specific reason for writing a business plan for your travel business, the most important thing is that you write one, period. The travel industry is fragmented , and having a clearly defined niche and a plan will help you stand out. Writing a business plan for your travel agency will help you narrow in on what your goals are, and establish a clear, focused vision going forward.

We’ve covered nearly every aspect of writing a business plan here on Bplans, so be sure to check out the links below when you’re ready to get started. We also have several travel industry business sample plans, which will give you an idea of what your business plan should look like.

Resources to help you create a business plan for a travel agency:

  • How to Write a Business Plan
  • Travel Agency Sample Business Plan
  • 2. Conduct market research and find your niche

What kind of travel agency do you plan on starting? Moreover, what kind of travel business does the industry or your local community actually need?

“When you launch a travel business, the most important thing to do is to provide a valuable service,” says Jacquie Whitt, owner of Adios Adventure Travel .

This means doing some market research to find out what kind of travel agent or travel business the market really needs. Is there a niche you can fill? Maybe there’s an opening in the travel market to provide destination adventure honeymoons for young couples who would rather go backpacking than relax on the beach. Think about the people in your local community too—do they need something specific?

“In a saturated luxury travel market, Urbane Nomads had to distinguish itself from more seasoned players from the get-go,” says founder Hajar Ali. “The dual elements of adventure and luxury was an unexplored niche which we filled very well.”

Hajar says of Urbane Nomads: “It was conceived as the kind of travel company that would remain relevant in the age where most travel-related bookings are made online. We specialize in the sort of experiences that can’t be booked online—adventurous trips to non-mainstream destinations, lodges that can’t be booked online—or indeed, by non-travel professionals—and special experiences and access to personalities that would have been impossible without the personal connections.”

What niche are you filling? Start by researching the travel market in general. Find out who the major players are that you’ll be competing against, determine who your ideal customer is, and define what they want.

Resources to help you do market research and determine your niche:

  • Practical Market Research Resources for Entrepreneurs
  • How to Do Market Research
  • How to Create a Unique Value Proposition
  • How a Buyer (or User) Persona Can Improve Your Business
  • What Is Target Marketing?
  • 3. Develop a brand as a travel agent

Once you’ve determined what the market looks like and what specific niche you’ll be filling, it’s important to get down to the nitty-gritty of creating a strong brand image .

As the travel industry is so competitive, having a well-developed brand will help your business stand out. How do you want your customers to feel when they visit your website, view your advertising, or use your services?

Lorne Blyth, Founder and Director of Flavours Holidays, had a very specific vision for her brand. “[At Flavours Holidays], we have been specializing in cooking, Pilates, painting, photography, and language holidays in Italy since 1998,” she says. Lorne’s vision was to create a brand that “gave guests a true taste of Italy.”

“I use that as part of my branding, as we would like to perceive ourselves as being experts on all things Italy,” says Lorne. “That is why our tagline is ‘Passionate, Inspiring, Authentic.’”

Why should customers use your services, rather than just book a trip themselves? What experience can you provide that others can’t?

Do you offer unique services, such as partnerships with the locals of your travel destinations, that customers wouldn’t have access to otherwise? Is your selling point the ease of having someone else plan your trip for you, down to the last detail? Are you all about personal touches and a great customer service experience?

This is the first step to determining your travel business’s brand strategy— determining who you are. We’ve gone in-depth on how to build a memorable brand for your business, so check out the articles below for more information on branding.

Resources to help you brand your travel business:

  • The Definitive Guide to Building a Brand
  • Your Brand’s Tone of Voice: Why It Matters and How to Craft It
  • 4. Deal with the legal side

A travel business is, for the most part, a fairly simple one to set up. Unlike starting a brewery or starting a dispensary , there isn’t a lot of legal red tape when it comes to becoming a travel agent and starting a travel business. 

Determining if you’ll require licensing

In most locations, you won’t need any specific licenses or certifications, but licensing requirements will vary by state and country.

For the U.S. in general, there is no specific license needed to start a travel business; however, state laws vary . In California, Washington, Hawaii, Iowa, and Florida, you’ll need a Seller of Travel license. Canada also has licensing requirements that vary by location, and in the U.K., you’ll need an Air Travel Organiser’s License .

Choosing the structure of your travel business

Beyond specific licenses, there are general licenses that you’ll need before you start any type of business.

First off, choose your business structure . Scott Bessette, owner of ADDISON Yacht Charters, started his travel agency as an LLC , which he says suited his business needs. “Before we considered starting our agency, we determined that a Limited Liability Company was the appropriate structure for what we were trying to achieve.”

Why was an LLC the best choice? “We had no intention of going public, or having to secure formal investment,” he says. “Further, we had a very simple organization structure, so ease of governance and compliance drove our choice of corporate structure.”

However, the business structure you choose will depend largely on your plans for your business, and how you intend to fund it. If for example, you plan to seek outside investment, you may want to look into starting your business as a corporation .

Naming your business and applying for a Federal Tax ID number

You’ll also want to formally name your business (even if it’s just you, becoming a travel agent!), which involves filing a DBA , or a “doing business as.” You’ll also need to apply for a Federal Tax ID number , otherwise known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN or FEIN). We’ve covered these topics in plenty of detail, so be sure to check out the links.

Scott also adds that setting up the legal end of things was fairly simple.

“Establishing the legal and licensing requirements was one of the easiest aspects of starting the business,” he explains. “All said, conception and gestation of ADDISON Yacht Charters was long-term, but she was born after only two days of hard labor.”

Resources to help you determine the legal structure and name for your business, as well as other legal considerations:

  • The Complete Guide to Choosing Your Business Structure
  • The Complete Guide to Registering Your Business Name
  • Resources and Tools to Help You Name Your Business
  • How to Apply for a Federal Tax ID Number
  • How and Where to Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
  • Keep Your Startup Safe from Legal Trouble
  • 5. Determine your funding strategy

How do you plan to fund your new travel business?

Luckily, your starting costs should be fairly low: You won’t have expensive equipment to buy, and you probably won’t need extensive space in the beginning. If you’re hoping to become a travel agent working out of your own home, you may not even need office space at all. 

However, be sure to have a plan in place for how you will obtain funding. You’ll need funds for marketing materials at the very least; both online, such as your business website , and offline, such as flyers, posters, business cards, and more . Your initial funding budget will also likely go toward any branding or advertising, and you may eventually also decide to rent office space and hire employees, which is a fairly large expense.

Unlike many businesses, there isn’t one tried-and-true path for funding a travel business. From personal funds to venture capital funding, it’s all a possibility.

Many travel agencies are self-funded since they have low initial overhead and can be started fairly easily (though face stiff competition to stand out). “I didn’t get any funding at all, apart from $2,000 borrowed from my dad for the website,” says Brady Hedlund, founder of Life Before Work.

Looking into loans and a line of credit is also a good first move. “We developed banking and relationships with firm lines of credit and support, to ensure that as we started to deliver, funds were available to spend before the client paid the bill,” says Scott of ADDISON Yacht Charters. “ Cash flow is critical to the appearance of a business’s success.”

However, when it comes to financing your travel business, angel investment, and even venture capital funding isn’t completely out of the question. “We formed an LLC to start Project Expedition and closed a $300k seed round in January 2015 to help drive the development of our MVP (minimum viable product),” explains founder Jeremy Clement.

Don Halbert, owner of Costa Rica Vacations , also funded his travel agency through venture capital. “Funding for this venture came from a venture capital company which would later become one of our primary partners,” he explains.

Resources to help you with the funding process:

  • How to Get Your Business Funded
  • 35 Great Ways to Fund A Small Business
  • What Do Venture Capital Firms Want?
  • 10 Tips for Finding Venture Funding
  • 6. Choose a location and hire employees

Next, you’ll want to make a plan for the logistics of opening your travel business to the public. If you’re starting a travel agency and require office space, this section will likely be more relevant than if you plan to work as a travel agent out of your home. 

How many employees will you need to hire? You may not need any to start, until you decide to expand your operations.

You might also want to look into remote employees , suggests Mike Liverton, CEO and founder of Leavetown Vacations . “While many company employees live and work as home-based ‘Destination Experts,’ our main headquarters are downtown Vancouver,” he says.

Additionally, you’ll want to determine your business location . While foot traffic will likely not be a primary motivator in choosing a business location, you’ll want to pick somewhere that accommodates your space needs as well as reflects your desired brand image.

However, as with employees, you’ll find that a physical location isn’t always an absolute necessity. “We have never booked a client from our hometown,” says Scott.

“We’re a 24/7 business, that cannot be limited to when I am in the office, or more importantly, marginalized when I am not,” he explains. “The ADDISON staff has families, conflicts, and important events in their lives. We constructed and positioned our business to be virtual in nature; to be operational anywhere, anytime. I’ve conducted business from Europe, the Caribbean, from multiple states, and during my children’s sporting events.”

“We didn’t choose our business location, we chose a virtual location,” he adds. Whether or not you choose to go this route will depend on your specific niche and brand; however, it’s certainly an option to consider.

Resources to help you set up your travel business and hire employees:

  • How to Choose a Business Location
  • 13 Out of the Ordinary Ways to Find the Perfect Business Location
  • How to Hire Your First Employee
  • A Comprehensive Guide to Creating a Business Website
  • 7. Market and launch your travel business

Marketing will likely be where the majority of your initial funding budget goes, as it’s an important area to focus on when becoming a travel agent and starting a travel business. In fact, it’s a good idea to come up with a marketing plan as soon as possible.

For Don, the idea that you must spend money to make money drove the marketing strategy behind Costa Rica Vacations.

“Our ‘lesson learned’ in starting up our agency was primarily the realization that your Google Adwords budget can single-handedly determine your success when starting out in this normally competitive market,” he says.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all your advertising efforts should revolve around paid advertising, however. Plenty of your focus should go into social media marketing and guerrilla marketing tactics.

“I started out eight years ago running backpacking trips to Thailand, advertising using only lean, guerrilla marketing tactics,” says Brady Hedlund of Life Before Work. “I created an itinerary and website and hit the streets of western Canada to promote my new company.” Since his target demographic was 18-30-year-olds looking for an ‘adventure party tour,’ he went to university campuses and handed out flyers and posted signs advertising his travel agency.

“I didn’t get a single call for over a year,” he explains. “I honestly had no idea what I was doing at the time, but eventually, the business picked up and began to grow at an exponential rate. Flash forward eight years, and we now have a team of 35 full-time staff operating in 18 countries.”

Your marketing strategy will, as with all aspects of starting a travel business, be largely dependent on your specific niche, the demographic you are after, your budget, and your bandwidth as a business. That being said, combining both paid advertising with other guerrilla tactics (both online and offline) will likely serve you well.

Resources to help you market and launch your travel business:

  • How to Write an Effective Marketing Plan
  • 20 Marketing Tools Every Small Business Owner Should Try
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords for Small Business
  • How to Have the Best Opening Day Ever
  • Words of advice: Final tips from entrepreneurs who have started successful travel businesses
  • “We searched for quite some time to find an underwriter that would provide us with general liability insurance, due to the amount of risks involved in adventure travel…This is a tricky product when it comes to insurance, but it’s obviously a very important piece of the pie.” – Brady Hedlund, Life Before Work
  • “From the beginning, I have built up relationships with various individuals in Italy to help recruit staff for the villas used during our vacations. This varies from local cooks to tour guides to drivers. The little touches along the way, from booking flights for guests to getting the transport back to the airport, all adds up as every little bit helps to create the perfect experience for my guests.” – Lorne Blyth, Flavours Holidays
  • “It’s important that your business partners share your values. I work with people in South America who are now my friends. We’re not in it for the money; we enjoy our jobs and if we can ‘eke’ out a living, all the better.” – Jacquie Whitt, Adios Adventure Travel

Business plan template and travel agency resources 

By now it should be clear that starting a travel agency requires a strategic approach and lots of planning. But don’t worry if it feels overwhelming. At Bplans, we have a full library of business planning resources to help you get started. You can browse through our free collection of over 500 real business plan examples , or download our free business plan template to help your travel business take flight. 

Content Author: Briana Morgaine

Bri Morgaine is a seasoned content marketing leader with a decade of experience in copy editing, social media operations, and content strategy— having honed her skills at industry giants like Palo Alto Software and Andreessen Horowitz.

Check out LivePlan

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How to Become a Travel Agent—Because, Believe It or Not, the Industry Is on the Rise

By Scott Bay

How to Become a Travel Agent—Because Believe It or Not the Industry Is on the Rise

There’s a reason “how to become a travel agent” has been a continuously trending search phrase on Google—it is a career path that offers a flexible work environment and schedule, ample travel opportunities, and an immersion into a supportive world-wide industry. It's a surprise to some in 2023: Once the internet became widely available, it was largely believed that needing a travel agent was obsolete. However, even though the brick-and-mortar agencies with punny names in strip malls have vanished, the career is on-the-rise .

New software options are making it easier than ever for people to make money planning trips, either as a side hustle or as a full-time business. That’s why Cherikonda, India-based stay-at-home mother, Maya Kapoor-Miller, decided to enter the professional world as a travel agent this year, at 31. “I knew nothing about the travel industry prior to signing up,” says Kapoor-Miller, who decided to use San Francisco-based booking platform Dreamport to establish her online travel advisor business. “It is my first business in life, and the only one that you can start with no investment.”

But there's also a rise in demand. When people ventured back into the world after the pandemic, travel agents saw an overwhelming amount of business . And that momentum hasn’t stopped—when travel is complicated, like it was in 2020 and 2021, travelers turned to professional trip planners to create a seamless vacation. For better or worse, traveling has remained complicated and chaotic, with new rules being implemented (like Americans needing to pay a fee to visit Europe in 2024 ) and airline strikes and staffing issues. Offloading all of the nitty-gritty details to someone else is more appealing than ever.

For those entering the field, there's also the age-old motivator: a love of travel. 

Shelton Ellis, who is based in North Carolina, recently saw these opportunities and left behind more than 20 years in public relations and global advertising to turn his passion into a career. “I was born with a wanderlust that would wear Rick Steves out,” Ellis says. “I decided to take the leap and follow that lifelong yearning. Transitioning into this role was really about learning how to monetize what I'm passionate about.”

Whether you are looking for a new career path or a lucrative side-hustle—or simply curious about those taking the plunge—here’s how to become a travel agent, from the qualifications and education required, to anticipated earnings, according to those who have made the shift in the past year. 

What exactly does a travel agent do?

Travel agents, or travel advisors (the term is mostly interchangeable), manage everything that goes into a trip for their clients: the flights, car transfers, accommodations, restaurant reservations, and more—they even inspire the itinerary. The reason people turn to travel agents, aside from having a helping hand during any travel chaos , is also to tap into the travel agent’s first-hand knowledge of destinations, and their industry partnerships, which often lead to perks such as hotel upgrades, ideal airplane seats, and experiences that can’t be found on a search engine.

“You have to remember that as a travel agent, you will be a guide for people during their happiest moments—family reunions, weddings , baptisms, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that people have dreamt of,” says Kapoor-Miller. “It has been one of the most rewarding aspects of being a travel agent. You navigate people, inform them, and help them choose.”

So, how do you become a travel agent?

There are many ways to become a travel agent, from joining an existing travel agency , to starting an independent business from the ground up. Others are opting for one of the buzziest start-ups in the travel industry, Fora . When it launched in 2021, the software company, which trains and provides search engine-optimized profile pages to advisors—at one point had a waitlist of over 30,000 people eager to begin a part-time gig. Travel photographer and Condé Nast Traveler contributor Amanda Villarosa is currently in the process of joining.

“I'm the person that friends and family come to for travel recommendations, tips and tricks, and general travel advice,” says Villarosa. “After discovering Fora and looking into it, I realized that it could be the perfect side-hustle, considering I'm already so involved in the industry.”

With additional flexibility, Villarosa was able to move from New York City to splitting her time between Denver and Los Angeles . She says that the sign-up was quite straightforward. “You're given a dedicated Fora email and have access to advising tools and fellow Fora advisors,” she says. “The training is in the form of Zoom meetings and videos, which you have the option to watch at your own pace. Once completed, you take a certification quiz and you're on your way to advising.”

The other ways in are slightly more involved. To begin an independent practice, you go about it like many other businesses. You will have to create an LLC, establish a business name, cultivate marketing materials, build a website, find clientele, and more.

Ellis found something in the middle, choosing to connect with an established travel agency. “Don't be afraid to reach out to an agency looking to take on new advisors and is willing to mentor," says Ellis. "I was fortunate to learn so much from Annie Chambers, the owner of Crafted Escapes , who has seven years in the business.” He now knows the ropes on everything from using itinerary-building software to destination-specific training, to the sales and marketing aspects of the trade.

Is there required education or qualifications?

Ellis says that there's no certification, per se, required to become a travel advisor, but there are countless training courses available like Departure Lounge ’s classes on navigating the industry through hotels and tour operators. He said it’s also important to stay on top of travel trends. Ellis recently completed travel agent training programs provided by premier cruise lines such as Virgin Voyages , Ritz-Carlton Yachts , and Cunard to help agents sell their products more accurately.

How much does a travel agent make?

What a travel agent earns depends on how many trips they successfully book for their clients. The entire model is commission-based, meaning agents earn a percentage of the total cost of the vacation they orchestrate. Many travel advisors choose to charge a flat-rate planning fee in addition to their commission, but balance is key—if you charge a high planning fee, it could lead to potential clients going elsewhere.

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Fora ’s website states that “some of our full-time, expert advisors earn well into the six figures (or beyond).” So a lucrative career may be on the horizon, for those who are able to build a robust client base and excellent industry connections.

How much you make can also depend on where you live around the world. “I am being paid in dollars,” says India-based Kapoor-Miller. “So the currency fluctuations of the local exchange rate are not something I am worried about.”

What are the key skills required to become a travel agent?

“Travel agents need a mix of customer service, communication, destination knowledge, organizational, and problem-solving skills,” says Kapoor-Miller. “But I would say that adaptability, flexibility, curiosity, and cultural sensitivity top them all—you have to put yourself in other's shoes, and understand the requirements, hopes, and expectations of your clients along with any worries and questions they may have.”

It’s vital to have a passion for traveling, even the aspects of the process that aren’t as exciting, such as learning about new airline routes, train schedule updates, and industry news. “It can be an information-heavy hustle, and I believe it's important to be excited about it as that energy definitely transfers to your clients and partners,” Villarosa says.

Should travel advisors choose a specialization?

Many travel advisors have found success through becoming an expert in a few types of travel and destinations. “It's important to become an authority and learn as much as you can through personal experiences and continuing education,” says Ellis. “As a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community , an avid snow skier, and scuba diver, I know not only the popular destinations but others that are off the beaten path, equally safe and adventurous for all travelers.” This helps travel agents establish a competitive edge, and hopefully convince potential clients to choose them for their expertise.

What are the benefits of being a travel agent?

“Flexibility tops them all,” says Kapoor-Miller. “And the ability to start without industry knowledge. If you worry that you are too old for this job, the good news is that this is a job you can enter and enjoy at any age.”

Another great perk is the "Familiarization trip,” says Ellis. “Tourism boards and hotels invite agents to visit and familiarize themselves with a particular country and its properties. After all, any accomplished salesperson should learn everything they can about their products first-hand...even if they're in Bora Bora.” It's hard work, but someone's got to do it. 

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How to Start a Profitable Travel Agency Business [11 Steps]

Nick

By Nick Cotter Updated Feb 02, 2024

image of a travel agency business

Business Steps:

1. perform market analysis., 2. draft a travel agency business plan., 3. develop a travel agency brand., 4. formalize your business registration., 5. acquire necessary licenses and permits for travel agency., 6. open a business bank account and secure funding as needed., 7. set pricing for travel agency services., 8. acquire travel agency equipment and supplies., 9. obtain business insurance for travel agency, if required., 10. begin marketing your travel agency services., 11. expand your travel agency business..

When starting a travel agency business, it's crucial to understand the market landscape to tailor your services effectively and identify your niche. A thorough market analysis will provide insights into customer preferences, competition, and emerging trends. Here are the key steps to guide you through the process:

  • Analyze the current travel industry trends to determine popular destinations, types of travel, and customer behavior.
  • Identify your target market by considering factors such as demographics, psychographics, and purchasing power.
  • Examine your competitors by looking at their service offerings, pricing strategies, marketing approaches, and customer reviews.
  • Assess the demand for specific travel services within your intended market to find potential gaps you can fill.
  • Investigate the economic factors that could affect the travel industry, including currency fluctuations, political stability, and seasonal changes.
  • Gather data on supplier options for flights, accommodations, tours, and other travel services to negotiate the best arrangements for your clients.

image of a travel agency business

Are travel agency businesses profitable?

Yes, travel agency businesses can be profitable. Depending on the size and scope of the business, profits can vary significantly. Profits are usually reliant on being able to attract clients and provide competitive prices for airline tickets, hotels and other services.

Creating a comprehensive business plan is crucial for the success of your travel agency. It will serve as a roadmap for your business, outlining your goals, strategies, and how you plan to achieve them. Below are the key components to include in your travel agency business plan.

  • Executive Summary: Provide an overview of your business, including your mission statement, offerings, and unique selling propositions.
  • Company Description: Detail the nature of your travel agency, the services you offer, and the markets you serve.
  • Market Analysis: Research the travel industry, identify your target market, and analyze your competition.
  • Organization and Management: Describe the structure of your business, your team, and the roles each member plays.
  • Services: List the travel services you plan to offer and any special packages or niche markets you intend to target.
  • Marketing Plan: Outline how you intend to attract and retain customers, including your sales strategy and promotional activities.
  • Financial Projections: Provide an estimate of starting costs, projected income, and long-term financial forecasts.
  • Funding Request: If you're seeking financing, specify the amount needed and how it will be used.

How does a travel agency business make money?

Travel agencies make money by charging a fee or commission for the services they provide when they arrange flights, hotels and car rentals for their clients. They also generate revenue through commission on package deals combining several travel services as well as income from advertisements by tourism boards or tour operators. A target audience for a 11 Steps To Starting a Successful Spice Business are aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to sell spice products online, in stores or at farmers markets. These individuals must possess knowledge of the spice industry and should be familiar with the necessary regulations before starting the business.

Creating a distinctive brand for your travel agency is crucial as it sets the tone for your services and establishes a memorable identity. Your brand should resonate with your target audience and reflect the unique experiences you offer. Below are key steps to help you develop a compelling travel agency brand:

  • Identify Your Niche: Determine the specific market or type of travel services you want to specialize in, such as luxury travel, eco-tourism, adventure travel, or cultural experiences.
  • Define Your Brand Personality: Choose a brand voice and personality that reflects your agency's values and appeals to your target demographic. Whether it's professional, friendly, adventurous, or sophisticated, ensure consistency across all communications.
  • Create a Memorable Name and Logo: Your agency's name and logo are often the first impressions potential clients will have. Make sure they are unique, easy to remember, and visually appealing.
  • Develop a Color Scheme and Visuals: Select colors and visuals that convey the emotions and experiences you want your brand to evoke. Consistent use of these elements will increase brand recognition.
  • Craft Your Unique Value Proposition: Clearly articulate what sets your agency apart from competitors. Highlight your expertise, exclusive deals, personalized services, or unique travel packages.
  • Integrate Your Brand Across All Platforms: Ensure your branding is consistent on your website, social media, marketing materials, and customer service to create a cohesive brand experience.

How to come up with a name for your travel agency business?

Coming up with a name for your travel agency business can be tricky. Brainstorming ideas, researching industry trends, and understanding the local culture can be helpful in giving you some inspiration. Consider what your business stands for and come up with a name that captures the core message. Ask friends, family, or even employees or customers their opinion on potential names to get fresh perspectives. Ultimately, pick the name that feels right and reflects the unique style of your business, as it should be something you can live with for years to come.

image of ZenBusiness logo

Formalizing your business registration is a crucial step in establishing your travel agency as a legal entity. This process involves completing the necessary paperwork and meeting the regulatory requirements of your jurisdiction. Follow the steps below to ensure your business is properly registered and ready for operation.

  • Choose a business structure: Decide whether you'll operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation. Each has its own legal and tax implications.
  • Register your business name: Check if your desired business name is available and register it with the appropriate state agency. You may also want to trademark your name.
  • Obtain an EIN: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes, especially if you have employees or operate as a corporation or partnership.
  • Register for state and local taxes: Depending on your location, register for state sales tax, use tax, and any other required local taxes.
  • Get necessary licenses and permits: Acquire all relevant travel industry licenses, such as the Seller of Travel license, and any local business permits.
  • File formation documents: If you're forming an LLC or corporation, submit your Articles of Organization or Incorporation with the state.
  • Open a business bank account: Use your EIN to open a dedicated bank account for your travel agency to keep finances separate from personal accounts.

Resources to help get you started:

Explore crucial resources designed for travel agency entrepreneurs offering insights on market trends, operational best practices, and strategies for business expansion:

  • Travel Weekly: A leading publication covering news, trends, and research for the travel industry. http://www.travelweekly.com/
  • Skift: Provides news, research, and marketing services for the travel industry, with insights on consumer trends and behaviors. https://skift.com/
  • Phocuswright: Offers travel market research with comprehensive reports on consumer technology trends and industry data. https://www.phocuswright.com/
  • The Travel Institute: A go-to resource for travel agent training, certification, and professional development. https://www.thetravelinstitute.com/
  • Tnooz: Publishes news and analysis on technology, digital marketing, and strategy for the travel and hospitality industry. http://www.tnooz.com/

Starting a travel agency requires meticulous attention to legal requirements to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. Acquiring the necessary licenses and permits is a critical step that legitimizes your business and allows you to operate within the law. Follow these guidelines to ensure you have all the necessary documentation in place:

  • Research Local Regulations: Check with your city or county government to determine if you need a local business license to operate a travel agency.
  • State Requirements: Some states require travel agents to register with a state travel seller or travel agency program. Make sure to obtain any state-specific licenses.
  • Seller of Travel License: If your state requires it, apply for a Seller of Travel license, which permits you to legally sell travel services.
  • Federal Requirements: For certain types of travel services, such as selling airline tickets, you might need to comply with federal regulations and obtain an Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) accreditation.
  • Professional Certifications: While not mandatory, obtaining professional certifications like those from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) can enhance credibility.
  • Additional Permits: Depending on your business model, you may need additional permits, such as an EIN for tax purposes or special permits for selling travel insurance.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a travel agency business?

Travel agencies need to acquire several licenses and permits in order to legally operate their business. This will vary depending on location, so it's important to contact the relevant state and local authorities to find out what is required. Generally speaking, travel agency businesses typically need a certificate of authority from the state, a business license from the city/county, an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), any necessary zoning permits for the office space being used, and any necessary travel agent accreditation or registration with external organizations.

Securing your financial foundation is a critical step in launching your travel agency business. A dedicated business bank account will help you manage your finances effectively, while securing funding will ensure that you have the necessary capital to cover startup costs and maintain operations. Follow these pointers to get started:

  • Choose the right bank: Research banks to find one that offers favorable terms for small businesses. Consider fees, minimum balance requirements, and additional services such as online banking and credit card processing.
  • Prepare documentation: When opening a business bank account, you'll need your business registration documents, EIN (Employer Identification Number), and personal identification.
  • Explore funding options: Evaluate different funding sources such as small business loans, lines of credit, venture capital, angel investors, or crowdfunding. Each has its own advantages and requirements.
  • Create a solid business plan: A well-thought-out business plan is essential when applying for funding. It should outline your business model, market analysis, financial projections, and growth strategy.
  • Understand the terms: Before accepting any funding, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions, including interest rates, repayment schedules, and any potential equity you might be giving up.

When setting up your travel agency, one of the most crucial steps is to determine the pricing strategy for your services. This involves balancing competitiveness with profitability while ensuring value to your customers. Here's a concise guide to assist you in setting your pricing:

  • Research Competitors: Look at what others are charging for similar services to ensure your prices are competitive within the market.
  • Understand Your Costs: Calculate all your costs to ensure that your pricing covers expenses and leaves room for profit.
  • Value-Based Pricing: Consider the value and unique experiences you offer, and price accordingly rather than solely on cost-plus basis.
  • Dynamic Pricing: Be flexible with your pricing, adjusting for seasons, demand, and special promotions.
  • Commission Structure: If working with commission-based products, ensure that your markups are reasonable for both clients and your agency.
  • Transparent Pricing: Clearly communicate what is included in your prices to build trust with your clients.
  • Multiple Price Points: Offer different pricing tiers for various budgets, enhancing accessibility to a wider range of clients.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Regularly review and adjust your pricing strategy based on feedback, sales data, and market changes.

What does it cost to start a travel agency business?

Initiating a travel agency business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $15000 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your travel agency business.

Starting a travel agency requires careful planning and acquisition of essential equipment and supplies. This step is crucial as it ensures that your business operations run smoothly and professionally. Here is a list of items you should consider obtaining to set up your travel agency effectively.

  • Computer Systems: Invest in reliable computers with high-speed internet connections to manage bookings, communications, and other tasks efficiently.
  • Travel Agency Software: Get specialized software for travel agents that can help with itinerary planning, reservations, billing, and customer relationship management.
  • Telephone System: A multi-line telephone system is necessary for handling customer inquiries and bookings, as well as for communicating with vendors.
  • Office Furniture: Comfortable and functional furniture, including desks, chairs, and filing cabinets, is important for a professional working environment.
  • Printers and Scanners: High-quality printers and scanners are needed for printing travel documents, itineraries, and marketing materials.
  • Office Supplies: Stock up on essential office supplies such as paper, pens, envelopes, and stationery.
  • Marketing Materials: Prepare promotional materials like brochures, business cards, and flyers to attract and inform potential clients.
  • Payment Processing System: Set up a secure payment system for processing credit card transactions and managing finances.

List of software, tools and supplies needed to start a travel agency business:

  • Computer hardware and software - $500+
  • Business grade internet connection - $50+ per month
  • Printer/scanner - $150+
  • Travel booking software - $50+ monthly
  • Travel research software - $120+ monthly
  • Accounting software - $200+ annually
  • Office furniture - $500+
  • Promotional materials (posters, flyers, banners) - starting at $200+
  • Bookkeeping services - $50+ hourly
  • Insurance coverage – starting at $500+ annually

Acquiring the appropriate business insurance is a crucial step in safeguarding your travel agency. It protects against potential liabilities and unforeseen events that could impact your operations. Here's a guide to help you understand what insurance you may need:

  • General Liability Insurance: Covers bodily injury, property damage, and advertising injury claims that could arise during your business activities.
  • Professional Liability Insurance (Errors & Omissions): Protects against claims of negligence or mistakes in the professional services provided.
  • Commercial Property Insurance: Ensures your physical assets, such as office equipment and furniture, are covered in case of damage or loss.
  • Workers' Compensation Insurance: Required if you have employees, it covers medical expenses and lost wages for work-related injuries or illnesses.
  • Data Breach Insurance: Protects against the costs associated with a data breach, which is crucial if you store sensitive customer information.
  • Business Owner's Policy (BOP): Often bundles general liability and property insurance at a more cost-effective rate.

Consult with an insurance broker who specializes in travel agencies to find the best coverage for your specific needs.

With your travel agency set up and ready to go, it's time to attract customers and make your mark in the travel industry. Effective marketing is crucial for getting your agency noticed and building a client base. Here are some strategies to kickstart your marketing efforts:

  • Develop a strong brand identity: Create a memorable logo, slogan, and brand colors that reflect your agency's values and appeal to your target audience.
  • Build a professional website: Your website should be user-friendly, offer valuable content, and showcase your travel packages and services. Ensure it's optimized for search engines to improve visibility.
  • Utilize social media: Create profiles on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share travel tips, special offers, and engage with potential customers.
  • Network locally: Attend local events, join chambers of commerce, and partner with local businesses to gain referrals and increase your agency's presence in the community.
  • Offer referral incentives: Encourage existing customers to refer friends and family by providing discounts or special offers for successful referrals.
  • Invest in online advertising: Use pay-per-click advertising and social media ads to target potential travelers who are searching for the services you offer.

Expanding your travel agency business requires strategic planning and a keen understanding of your market. As you capitalize on your agency's success, consider these steps to take your business to the next level and ensure continued growth.

  • Diversify Your Offerings: Add new destinations, packages, and services such as travel insurance, airport transfers, or guided tours to cater to a broader audience.
  • Invest in Marketing: Boost your online presence through social media, content marketing, and SEO. Consider partnerships with influencers or travel bloggers to reach new customers.
  • Improve Technology: Upgrade your booking systems for efficiency, and adopt customer relationship management (CRM) tools to enhance client interactions and retention.
  • Train Your Staff: Ensure your team is knowledgeable and up-to-date with the latest travel trends, destinations, and customer service practices to provide exceptional experiences.
  • Network with Industry Partners: Forge strong relationships with suppliers, local tour operators, and other travel agencies for mutual referrals and co-marketing opportunities.
  • Focus on Customer Loyalty: Create a rewards program or special offers for repeat customers to encourage loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Analyze and Adapt: Regularly review your business performance, gather customer feedback, and be willing to adapt to changing travel trends and market demands.

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Travel Agency

Back to All Business Ideas

How to Start a Travel Agency

Written by: Carolyn Young

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by: David Lepeska

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

Published on December 13, 2021 Updated on May 23, 2024

How to Start a Travel Agency

Investment range

$2,150 - $10,600

Revenue potential

$78,000 - $300,000 p.a.

Time to build

0 – 3 months

Profit potential

$62,000 - $90,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Who doesn’t love to travel? But most of us do not love the endless research, planning, and booking required, which sometimes feels like it takes more time than the vacation itself. This is precisely why the $35 billion US travel agency industry has been booming of late, and why it offers a real opportunity for the travel-minded entrepreneur.

By starting your own online travel agency, you can shoulder travelers’ burden and ease their anxiety, allowing them to enjoy their holiday while you make a healthy profit. And thanks to the post-pandemic boost, now is a great time to get in on travel.

Of course, starting a travel agency will not be a vacation – it will take diligence, patience, and strong guidance. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place, as this step-by-step provides all the information you need to develop and launch your new travel agency and give you a head-start on your entrepreneurial journey.

Step by Step Business values real-life experience above all. Through our  Entrepreneur Spotlight Series , we interview business leaders from diverse industries, providing readers with firsthand insights.

Uncover the secrets to building a thriving travel agency with our interview with Casey Halloran of Costa Rican Vacations .

Aspiring travel entrepreneurs will find valuable insights in our interview with Augustin Ndikuriyo on building a thriving African wildlife tour business .

Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.

Form your business immediately using ZenBusiness LLC formation service or hire one of the Best LLC Services .

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons.

Every business has its pros and cons, and a travel agency is no exception. You should weigh these carefully to decide if the business is right for you.

  • Flexibility – Work from anywhere, even while traveling!
  • Minimal Training – Get accredited for free online
  • Travel Discounts – Travel agents get top deals and reduced prices
  • Demanding Work – With clients around the world you’re on call 24/7
  • Fierce competition – Top sites like Expedia, travel networks, advisors, and more

Travel agency industry trends

The US travel agency industry expanded an impressive 75% in the decade leading up to 2020, which saw a massive pandemic-driven downturn. 

In 2021, many travel agents saw a surge in business as travelers unsure of all the constantly changing Covid-19 rules and restrictions turn to them for help, rather than booking their own trips. Global travel advisor InteleTravel experienced a 35% increase in business, not from the disaster year of 2020, but from 2019, which had set records.(( https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/travel/summer-vacation-travel-agents.html ))

Consumers are also turning more and more to online travel agencies, with a study by Expedia showing a 25% increase in the use of online agencies in 2020 alone. Brick-and-mortar agencies seem to be a dying breed, with British travel icon Thomas Cook closing in 2019.(( https://advertising.expedia.com ))

Industry size and growth

travel agency industry size and growth

  • Industry size and past growth – Market research firm IBISWorld values the industry at nearly $48 billion in 2022.(( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/travel-agencies-united-states/ ))  
  • Growth forecast – The industry is expected to grow further as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 5% annual growth through 2030 in the employment of travel agents.(( https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/travel-agents.htm )) 
  • Number of businesses – More than 73,000 travel agencies are operating in the US.(( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/travel-agencies-united-states/ ))
  • Number of people employed – The industry employs more than 250,000 people.(( https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/employment/travel-agencies-united-states/ ))

Trends and challenges

travel agency industry Trends and Challenges

Trends in travel agency industry include:

  • Home-stay rentals like Airbnb(( https://stepbystepbusiness.com/business-ideas/start-an-airbnb-business/ )) outperformed hotels in 27 top markets during the pandemic
  • Book-now-pay-later options, such as those offered by Expedia and Booking.com, are gaining popularity
  • Travel agencies undergoing digital transformation in response to the growing demand for online services

Challenges in travel agency industry include:

  • Rising gas prices are impacting travel behavior
  • Compliance with global Covid-19 protocols
  • Keeping up with digital marketing opportunities

What kind of people work in a travel agency?

travel agency industry demographics

  • Gender – 76% of travel agency managers in the US are female, while 24% are male. (( https://www.zippia.com/travel-agency-manager-jobs/demographics/#gender-statistics ))
  • Average level of education – 64% of travel agency managers hold a bachelor’s degree.(( https://www.zippia.com/travel-agency-manager-jobs/demographics/#degree-level-types ))
  • Average age – The average age of a travel agency manager is 51 years old.(( https://www.zippia.com/travel-agency-manager-jobs/demographics/#age-statistics ))

How much does it cost to start a travel agency?

The startup costs for a travel agency range from about $2,000 to $10,000, with an average of around $6,000. The high-end includes the rental of office space and a larger marketing budget, but you could easily run your online travel agency from home to cut costs.

How much can you earn from a travel agency?

travel agency business earnings forecast

The commission paid to a travel agency by travel vendors such as airlines and hotels is generally about 10%. Some travel agents also charge a nominal consultation fee for each booking, typically between $30 and $50. Those will be your two revenue streams.

The average cost of a one-week domestic vacation is $1,500 per person. The profit margin for a home-based travel agency is usually about 80%. With an office and staff, your margin will likely drop to about 30%.

In your first year or two, you could work from home and sell five two-person vacations each week. At a 10% commission, this would mean $78,000 in annual revenue. You’d have about $62,000 in profit, assuming an 80% margin.

As your brand gains recognition, sales could climb to 1,000 two-person vacations a year. At this stage, you would rent an office and hire staff, reducing your profit margin to 30%. With expected annual revenue of $300,000, you would make about $90,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a travel agency. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Competition – Big and small online firms; self-booking travelers
  • Client Acquisition – Time and marketing will be required to build a reputation

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Step 2: hone your idea.

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a travel agency, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

As a travel agency, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Research online travel agents and booking platforms to see their offerings and prices, while keeping an eye out for something that might be missing.

Perhaps you could specialize in travel to an under-appreciated region, such as Southeast Asia, and build a network of relevant contacts and vendors. Or you could focus on finding travelers the most incredible home-stay rentals at the best prices.

travel agent business how it works

You could specialize in family vacations, corporate retreats, or honeymoons. The potential niche options in the travel industry are nearly endless.

What? Determine your services and travel offerings

Travel can involve many facets, and you can handle some or all of them, in addition to flights, lodgings, and car rentals. These might include:

  • Booking tours and excursions
  • Dining recommendations/reservation
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa and emergency services

How much should you charge for travel agency services?

Travel vendors, such as hotels, airlines, and car rental firms, pay a commission to travel agents that’s generally about 10% of the booking. For instance, if you book a $1,200 flight on Turkish Airlines for your client, Turkish Airlines will give you, the travel agent, a $120 commission.

As a result, booking flights with a travel agent sometimes costs the traveler slightly more than booking directly with the airlines or through a travel site like Expedia or Orbitz. Thus, to attract customers and boost sales travel agents rely on discounted travel packages.

For instance, a return flight from Chicago to Cancun and a 6-day stay at a four-star all-inclusive resort, plus ground transport, might cost a traveler $1,000 or more to book directly. But travel agents get significant discounts from vendors because they place volume orders, so you’d be able to offer this trip as a $599 package deal.

Even after paying your commission, the traveler still saves a chunk of money by using your services, rather than booking themselves. And keep in mind, the discounts offered by vendors are likely to increase as you become a more established agent. You may be able to negotiate commissions from tour operators and excursion companies as well.

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will depend on the concept you’ve chosen for your agency. If you’ve decided to specialize in family vacations, you’ll be targeting parents. You might find them on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, rather than Instagram or TikTok.

Where? Choose your business premises

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your travel agency grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers and may need to rent out an office. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on Craigslist , Crexi , and Commercial Cafe .

When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:

  • Central location accessible via public transport
  • Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
  • Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
  • Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed

travel agency business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Travel Agency Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
  • The name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “travel” or “bookings”, boosts SEO
  • Choose a name that allows for expansion: “Wanderlust Adventures” over “Beach Bum Vacations” or “Honeymoon Haven Agency”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Find a Domain

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Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that set your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Travel Agency Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan

  • Executive Summary: Present an overview of your travel agency, highlighting its focus on providing personalized travel planning and booking services for various types of travelers.
  • Business Overview: Describe the services of your travel agency, including custom travel itinerary planning, booking accommodations, flights, and special experiences.
  • Product and Services: Detail the range of travel packages offered, such as luxury vacations, adventure tours, and corporate travel services.
  • Market Analysis: Assess the current travel market, identifying target customer segments like families, honeymooners, or business travelers.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your agency to others, focusing on your unique offerings like specialized destinations, personalized service, or exclusive deals.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for attracting clients, using methods like online marketing, partnerships with travel providers, or attending travel expos.
  • Management Team: Highlight the experience and expertise of your team in travel planning, customer service, and business management.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the process of service delivery, from client consultation to trip execution and post-travel follow-up.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of financial aspects, including startup costs, pricing strategy, and anticipated income.
  • Appendix: Include supplementary documents such as travel industry certifications, partnership agreements, or detailed client testimonials to support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to travel agencies.

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your travel agency will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.

Here are the main options:

types of business structures

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC , which just needs to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization , and answer any questions you might have.

Form Your LLC

Choose Your State

We recommend ZenBusiness as the Best LLC Service for 2024

travel agent business how it works

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number , or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

travel agent business how it works

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist , and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business funding

  • Bank loans : This is the most common method, but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans : The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan .
  • Government grants : A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital : Offer potential investors an ownership stake in exchange for funds, keeping in mind that you would be sacrificing some control over your business.
  • Friends and Family : Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding : Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal : Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best options, other than friends and family, for funding a travel agency. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.

Step 8: Apply for Travel Agency Licenses and Permits

Starting a travel agency requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( OSHA ), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package . They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account .

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your travel agency business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

types of business insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of any of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.

You may want to use industry-specific software to manage bookings and scheduling, such as TravelPerk , TravelCEO , and TravelOperations .

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks , Freshbooks , and Xero .
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace . This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Your website should showcase your offerings, customer testimonials, and detailed information about destinations.

Your clients are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Leverage Social Media : Use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to share stunning travel imagery, customer stories, and travel tips. Engage with your audience through regular posts, stories, and responses to comments.
  • Content Marketing : Start a blog or a YouTube channel providing valuable content like travel guides, tips, destination reviews, and travel trends. This not only helps in SEO but also establishes you as an expert in the field.
  • Build Partnerships : Collaborate with local businesses in your chosen travel destinations, such as hotels, tour operators, and local attractions. This can lead to exclusive deals or packages that you can offer to your clients.
  • Email Marketing : Collect emails through your website and social media channels and send out regular newsletters with travel tips, special offers, and new package announcements.
  • Customer Reviews and Referrals : Encourage your clients to leave reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor or Google. Word-of-mouth referrals are powerful, so consider offering incentives for referrals.
  • Attend Travel Expos and Events : Participate in travel expos, seminars, and networking events to build contacts and stay updated on the latest industry trends.
  • Offer Personalized Services : Tailor your services to meet individual client needs. Personal touches can make a big difference in the travel industry.
  • Utilize Paid Advertising : Invest in targeted ads on social media and Google to reach potential clients. This can be particularly effective when you have special offers or new packages to promote.
  • Stay Informed and Flexible : The travel industry is dynamic, so it’s important to stay informed about global travel trends, destination updates, and customer preferences.
  • Sustainable and Responsible Travel : With growing awareness about environmental and cultural impacts, promoting sustainable and responsible travel practices can set your agency apart.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your travel agency meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your travel agency could be:

  • Travel to Asia’s best secret destinations
  • The best local insights and insider adventures
  • Vacations for the whole family, from grandma to the baby!

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a travel agency, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in travel agencies for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in travel. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. Online businesses might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a travel agency would include:

  • Travel Agents – sales and bookings
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting, staff management
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media, other marketing

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed , Glassdoor , or ZipRecruiter . Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.

Step 13: Run a Travel Agency – Start Making Money!

Owning a travel agency means sharing the joy of travel for a living. What could be more fun? It’s also a huge, high-growth industry that you could tap into and grow a profitable business. Startup costs are low, and all you need is a simple accreditation — there’s no real training required. You just need a good concept for your agency and a great marketing plan. Having a strong online presence in this digital age is also an absolute must.

You’ve started off on the right foot by reading this guide, and now you’re ready to begin your trip to entrepreneurial success!

  • Travel Agency Business FAQs

If you run your online travel agency from home, you could have profit margins of up to 80%. Costs to run your travel agency are very low, and you’re paid around a 10% commission on everything that you book. As a home-based, one-person show, you could make $60,000 per year to start, and much more once you’re established.

Consumers are turning to online travel agencies more and more, which you could easily run from home. If your business grows fast and you need to add staff, you may want to have an office.

Some consumers prefer the personal service of a smaller online agency that can offer more local, personal insights about travel destinations. The key is to differentiate yourself in some way. You could specialize in certain locations, a specific type of lodgings, such as cabins, or in a type of vacation such as corporate retreats.

Travel agencies engage in activities such as providing travel advice, booking travel arrangements, managing logistics, and offering specialized services tailored to clients’ needs.

Running a travel agency can have challenges due to intense competition, evolving industry dynamics, regulatory considerations, seasonal fluctuations, and the need for customer satisfaction and crisis management. 

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  • Decide if the Business Is Right for You
  • Hone Your Idea
  • Brainstorm a Travel Agency Name
  • Create a Travel Agency Business Plan
  • Register Your Business
  • Register for Taxes
  • Fund your Business
  • Apply for Travel Agency Licenses and Permits
  • Open a Business Bank Account
  • Get Business Insurance
  • Prepare to Launch
  • Build Your Team
  • Run a Travel Agency - Start Making Money!

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THE JOURNAL

Travel Advisor Resources

How to Start a Travel Agency (& Why It’s Not Your Best Option)

Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora Travel

https://www.foratravel.com/the-journal/how-to-start-a-travel-agency

Wondering how to start a travel agency? We’re breaking down all the steps below — and highlighting why joining a host agency like Fora may be the better (and more financially rewarding) path.

Ready to start selling travel? Sign up to become a Fora Advisor today. All it takes is a passion for travel. We’ll hook you up with everything you need — from expert-led travel agent training to a mountain of marketing resources — to be successful. 

First, what exactly is a travel agency?

Travel agencies are different from individual travel agents — or travel advisors (the Fora term has a better ring to it, doesn’t it?). Agencies are collections of advisors that plan and book trips for clients. (Asking yourself, " What does a travel agent do? We've got you.)

The advisors can either be independent contractors — as they are at Fora — or dedicated employees. The former are largely in control of their business while the latter typically adheres to rigid schedules, dedicated offices and so on. Independent travel agents have significantly more freedom. 

At Fora, our advisors can work as much or as little as they want. A large number of Fora Advisors plan trips as a travel side hustle , for instance. This typically isn’t allowed at non-independent agencies.

(Learn how to become an independent travel agent .)

Are there different types of travel agencies?

Yes. Some agencies offer specific travel agent jobs , with distinct travel agent niches. Examples include luxury travel agencies, cruise agencies, agencies that cater to select destinations and more. 

Learning how to start a travel agency with a niche doesn’t dramatically alter the process, but it can affect your bottom line (see below).

What benefits and perks do travel agencies offer?

Exact perks will vary by agency, and some agencies offer little more than brand name. If you’re learning how to start a travel agency, then it’s up to you to decide what types of benefits and perks programs to offer.

At Fora, we offer extensive support, a multitude of travel agent training covering every aspect of the travel industry, virtually all the marketing resources you could need and access to our community of travel advisors, which is built upon sharing insider wisdom, deals and travel tips that can be shared with clients. Oh, and Fora Advisors can also offer their clients VIP hotel and travel perks at thousands of properties around the world thanks to our travel partnerships .

Do you need an agency to become a travel advisor?

Technically, you can become a travel advisor without joining or starting a travel agency. However, this can be a difficult path because you’ll have to forge supplier relationships on your own.

While most hotel groups offer commissions — that’s how travel agents are paid — only a few offer client-facing perks, and many of these programs are by invitation only. To obtain an invite, you need to be successful as a travel agency. But to be successful, you need to be able to offer perks and deals to entice clients away from online travel agencies like Expedia, not to mention more established travel agencies.

If this sounds difficult, we get it; it's crucial to understand that starting a travel agency is more difficult in general. In addition to securing partnerships with major travel brands, you’ll have to worry about things like licensing, startup costs and the like (we’ll come back to this soon).

Alternatively, you can join Fora and take advantage of all the resources and partnerships we offer from day one.

Is it a good idea to start a travel agency?

So far, we’ve largely focused on why it’s difficult to start a travel agency. And we’ve touched on why joining a host agency like Fora is the better deal. But if you're still keen on this option, let’s cover the advantages of starting a travel agency from scratch.

There’s always a demand for travel

In fact, travel demand is at an all-time high. Between jobs where you travel , vacations and remote work, more people than ever are regularly seeing the world. 

Considering travel advisors and agencies are astronomically outnumbered by the amount of people seeking travel, there are opportunities to start your own agency from scratch. However, this gap is shrinking, and competing with the big agencies is only going to get tougher. 

Want to join a successful travel agency? Check out Fora's 2023 year in review : good things are happening here, and our travel advisors are reaping the benefits.

The value of a travel agent is better than it has ever been

As more people travel, suppliers (such a hotels and cruises) are more likely to offer perks that travel agencies and advisors can offer their clients. Plus, there’s less risk to a supplier’s bottom line because the advisors tend to bring in higher quality guests, and there's a greater chance for repeat business.

Travel agencies can be very lucrative…once they get off the ground

Because so many people are traveling right now, the opportunity to earn income from commissions and planning is exceptional. However, it’s worth noting that established agencies have a clear advantage here. People are much more likely to plan their travel through familiar brands than untested agencies.

If you’re looking for brand recognition, you don’t have to look far. We have an ever-growing presence on social media, and perhaps more importantly, we’re constantly being acknowledged by the biggest names in travel, from The New York Times to Virtuoso.

How to start a travel agency: step-by-step

Ready for the exact steps? Here’s how to start a travel agency from scratch. 

A warning though: this guide isn’t meant to be taken as business or legal advice, nor is this an all-encompassing plan for all jurisdictions. Some locales, states and countries may require additional or alternative steps.

Or, skip the hassle of building your own travel agency and start selling travel as an independent advisor right away when you sign up to become a Fora Advisor .

1. Understand the travel industry, conduct market research & identify a niche

Before you ever touch a business plan, it is important that you learn the ins and outs of the travel industry. This means understanding the triangular relationship between suppliers — such as hotel brands and rental-car services — travel advisors and clients. It’s then critical to know the exact products and services you’ll be selling. This includes hotel reservations, tours, cruises… you get the idea. 

Next, it’s important that you know your competition, and this will rise and fall depending on the audience you’re seeking. For example, it’s generally easier to get your foot in the door at the local level than to start on an international field, where all the major players have already found their market share. 

On the flip side, while there may be less competition the smaller you scale, there may also be exponentially less demand for your agency’s services. Ultimately, it's all a balancing act.

To do all of this, you’ll need to enroll in travel supplier training courses, conduct market research and perhaps ideally, find a niche to exploit.

If you opt to join a travel agency instead, the amount of material you need to cover is but a fraction of what we’ve mentioned thus far.

2. Create a business plan, register your business, make a financial plan & secure startup costs

After you get a handle on the industry, you have to understand the more technical aspects of starting a travel agency. 

This includes creating a business plan, registering your business with all local, state and federal entities (requirements varies by country), pitching a financial plan to investors and securing your startup costs, which could be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars and beyond — the exact number relies on many more factors than can reasonably be listed here. But generally, the larger your target market, the larger the initial investment needs to be. 

This isn’t a one-time ordeal either, as you’ll need to secure investments to fund regular business operations until you start turning a profit.

Comparatively, our membership fee costs either $49 per month or $299 per year, a far better deal.

3. Understand your tax obligations

Another technical aspect of starting a travel agency, or any business, is understanding your tax obligations. Taxes for agencies, regardless of how they are organized (as a corporation, LLC, etc.), are going to be more complicated than taxes for travel advisors because there are a lot more factors to consider, such as employees, nuanced expenses and so on. 

4. Acquire all the necessary licenses & registrations for your travel agency (local, state, international…)

In addition to ordinary business licenses (i.e., the licenses you need to run any business), you may also need to register as a seller of travel. Exact license requirements change with your location — and the specifics get convoluted fast. Moreover, you may also need licenses in select areas before you can sell travel within their borders (e.g. California).

As such, this is a good time to mention that when you become a Fora Advisor , you’re operating under our already established licenses, saving you loads of time and money on fees.

5. Create a website & set up your office (online and / or brick-and-mortar)

Next up on how to start a travel agency: creating a website and choosing an office location. 

In today’s world, websites are essential, and it’s not enough to “set it and forget it.” You’ll either need to hire a dedicated web team or devote a portion of your time to maintenance, functionality and development. It’s also worth mentioning that a barebones website isn’t going to cut it — you’ll need something that explains what your business does and why clients should choose you over your competitors.

Additionally, you’ll need to set up an office and decide whether to operate as an in-person agency, an online agency or somewhere in between. The brick-and-mortar route can be helpful in terms of managing your agency from a centralized point, especially as you grow, but there are many perks to allowing your travel advisors to operate online (see more about how to become a travel agent online ). Your agency won’t be limited to in-person travel consultations, and can therefore work with clients anywhere in the world. 

6. Hire or contract travel advisors, plus support staff

Unless you’re an agency of one, you’ll need to either hire or contract travel advisors along with various support staff. Moreover, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll train advisors in-house or require some sort of prior travel agent school . 

The first part isn’t too difficult — plenty of people have a passion for travel — but the second part can make or break your agency. Quality training will go a long way in ensuring your agency's relevance and success.

7. Adopt travel software platforms used for bookings

The best travel agencies can book hotels and other reservations (learn about the types of bookings Fora Advisors can make ) through their in-house systems. This is a huge technical advantage that boosts efficiency and convenience, which in turn draws top talent. The best travel advisors want to work with agencies that offer great tools.

Unfortunately, developing these systems is no easy feat. You’ll either need to hire a software team or outsource projects to a third party, both of which require massive investments in time and capital.

Or you can become a Fora Advisor and make use of our proprietary booking platform that allows you to book 29,000 hotels worldwide (and counting).

8. Secure supplier relationships and establish perks to make your travel agency appealing to clients

Supplier partnerships are essential to start a travel agency. They are one of the main reasons clients choose an agency to book travel. 

Fora has dozens of global partnerships with hotel brands, experiences, cruise lines and more. And these relationships have played a massive role in our early success. Moreover, through these supplier partnerships, Fora Advisors can offer VIP perks to their clients. 

9. Establish your brand & begin marketing

The last major aspect of learning how to start a travel agency: marketing. What sets your agency apart? You’ll have to answer that question successfully if you want to last beyond the startup phase.

On the other hand, you can join Fora as an independent travel advisor and we’ll teach you how to market your travel business like a pro . Wondering how travel agents get clients ? We'll help you there, too. You’ll still be in charge of virtually every aspect of your business, plus you’ll have access to unwavering technical support, awesome supplier programs, an in-house booking platform… the benefits go on and on. Plus, you don’t have to worry about obtaining travel licenses, office overhead, hiring staff and other tasks that are critical to running an agency.

How to start a travel agency: FAQs

Before we wrap up, here are a few answers to commonly asked questions about how to start a travel agency.

How much does it cost to start a travel agency?

There’s no straightforward answer to this question because it depends on your target market, location (especially if you’re starting up in a big city, where office space is costly) and numerous other factors. 

Ballpark estimates suggest that you’re going to have to spend, at a minimum, several thousand dollars to start your own agency. On the other hand, you can spend a fraction of that, enjoy the perks of an established host agency and start making money right away as a Fora Advisor. 

What are the legal requirements for starting a travel agency?

The legal requirements for starting a travel agency vary by jurisdiction. 

Generally speaking, you’ll need to register your business as you would any business, then check to see if there are additional licenses or certifications both where you’re based and anywhere you hope to book travel to for your clients.

What skills & traits are necessary to run a travel agency?

To start and run a successful travel agency, you’ll need to be very business savvy. There’s no way around it. In today’s economy, it’s also prudent to either possess or have access to a team with excellent technical skills.

Conversely, what does it take to become a travel agent ? To become a Fora Advisor, all you need is a passion for travel.

Starting a travel agency can be risky

Simply put, there’s no guarantee that starting your own travel agency will be successful. The endeavor requires colossal effort and capital. 

On the other hand, becoming an independent travel advisor is a ticket to one of the best jobs in the travel industry . You still get to live out your passion for travel. You still get to be your own boss. And the risks involved are, frankly, negligible compared to the risks involved in starting a travel agency.

Overall, is starting a travel agency from scratch worth it?

This is a question only you can answer. But we will say that becoming an independent travel agent has much less ambiguity around it (and is far more fun, especially at Fora). 

P.S. Check out the myths about becoming a travel advisor .

Does it make more sense to sign with a host agency like Fora?

Absolutely. (What can we say?) There are a lot of reasons to become a Fora travel advisor . But it’s monumentally easier to become an independent travel advisor with Fora than to start your own agency, and this factor is a big one.

Startup costs are minimal

Starting an agency is going to, at a minimum, cost thousands of dollars. Startup costs to become a Fora Advisor are limited to our membership fee, which currently costs $49 monthly or $299 annually.

How much does it cost to become a travel agent ? Our guide spells it out.

You don’t have to worry about as many licenses and fees

Blanket statements about government licenses and fees are dangerous to make, but it’s true that as a Fora Advisor, you’ll have to worry much less about this sort of thing than if you start a travel agency from scratch.

Fora’s licenses allow independent agents to operate as extensions of Fora, thus circumventing most or all (depending on where you live and sell travel) licensing requirements.

You can start making money right away

Seriously. And considering it could be months or years before a new company can turn a profit, this is a massive advantage. 

Our guide to how much travel agents make has specifics, but the average Fora travel advisor salary is nothing to balk at, especially for top performers.

Fora provides all the training & certification you need to be successful

When you learn how to start a travel agency, you’re largely going about it alone. But when you join Fora, we've got your back, providing you with an inclusive, experienced community, travel agent training , travel agent certification and more. 

This training teaches you everything you need to know to become successful as a travel advisor, from simple concepts such as booking commissionable hotels to more advanced subjects like multi-destination itinerary planning.

You’re still in complete control of your business as a travel advisor with Fora

We mean no bookings quotas (unless you join our elite Fora X program), and no set schedules. And you can work from anywhere, so long as you have an internet connection. 

Want a travel side hustle ? No problem. Want to make a full-time career out of selling vacations? Consider it done. 

At Fora, you’re still very much in charge of how and when you sell travel — just as if you started your own travel agency.

Skip learning how to start a travel agency — become a Fora Advisor today

Want to be a successful travel advisor? Don’t worry about learning how to start a travel agency — join one of the best and start selling travel right away. All you have to do is apply to become a Fora Advisor today.

Need more convincing? Check out these additional travel advisor resources :

How to Become a Luxury Travel Agent: the 2023 Guide  

How to Become a Disney Travel Agent  

Why Group Bookings Are Great: Tips from an Expert  

Room Blocks 101: Mastering the Art of Group Bookings  

How Do Travel Agents Get Paid (& Why Fora Does It Differently)  

Book a Cruise With a Virgin Voyages Travel Agent  

How to Be a Successful Travel Advisor: Insider Tips from the Pros

Are you the go-to person for travel tips?

Transform your passion for travel into your dream job. We'll set you up with everything you need to succeed as a travel advisor. From training to top-notch tech, marketing assets, community, commission tracking & payments (and more), we've got you.

The Travel Agent’s Toolbox: 10 Things Every Travel Agent Needs to Start a Travel Business

  • March 21, 2023
  • Pickles Travel Network

Working in the travel industry is exciting and rewarding in so many ways, but there’s more to it than simply booking a vacation and getting paid . Travel agents need training, software to keep them organized, platforms to streamline business systems, and a list of other things.  It can be overwhelming, but we’re here to give you the basics of the tools travel agents need to start their businesses.

Have you been thinking about becoming a travel agent?  Want to know what it takes just to get up and running?  Here are 10 travel essentials you’ll need to begin the business journey of a lifetime.

Itinerary management tools, 1. every travel agent needs a reliable itinerary management tool to keep track of clients’ travels and streamline their travel business operations..

Itinerary management software is essential for keeping travel agents organized and informed. Our preferred itinerary management tool is Travefy , which is $39 per month or included with membership to your host agency.

Travefy streamlines your travel planning and makes your client experience smoother with simple itinerary management, automated quotes and proposals, and more. With this industry-leading software, you can easily process credit cards for clients, create custom forms tailored to your business, and even create your own profile in their database to attract new leads.

CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM)

2. a quality customer relationship management system to manage commissions is something every aspiring agent should have..

Investing in a customer relationship management system will save you time, and headaches.  All of your clients’ information (bookings, commissions, etc.) will be in one spot and easier to keep track of.  You’ll be able to stay on top of payments, view current and upcoming trips at a glance, have automated reminders, and quickly access summary reports of your earnings to be paid.

Our preferred CRM tool is travel industry-specific software VacationCRM , because it’s easy to use and is made for modern travel agents. Too many CRM platforms can’t keep up with the times – they don’t integrate with your other tools, grow with your business, or allow you flexibility, so choosing the right tool is essential.

Relationships with suppliers

3. new travel agents will need to establish networking relationships with suppliers and vendors..

As a new agent, you will work with suppliers and vendors in order to book your clients’ trips.  You need to make sure the ones you work with are trusted around the industry and also cater to your specific niche.   Taking time to properly find and qualify your suppliers and vendors is worth having the peace of mind that your clients’ trips are in good hands.  If you can find a listed network of suppliers and vendors instead of searching for them one by one, even better.

Supplier and software training and support

4. after finding suitable suppliers and vendors, you will also need training (both initial and ongoing) to use their products and services..

Learning where to find your suppliers and vendors is the “easy” part.  Learning how to use their systems and take advantage of their benefits can be a whole different ball game.  You’ll have a lot of questions, and having answers to those questions will be vital in moving forward quickly.  Be sure you choose to work with entities that offer exceptional customer care and tech support – as well as training for any new services or updates that come out.  This will keep you ahead of the game.

Insurance for travel agents

5. all new travel business owners will want to secure errors & omissions insurance before making any sales..

As an agent, you do not want to be responsible for freak accidents or any kind of incident that is beyond your control.  Unfortunately, vacations can go awry, and if a client gets attacked during a trip, for instance, E&O insurance can help ensure you don’t get sued for booking in an area that is deemed unsafe.  Having legal protection in place can serve you well.

A professional website

6.  potential clients want to know how legit you are and want to be able to find you easily.   .

A good website can mean the difference between an “okay” client and an “ideal” client.  Clients want to know more about you, what kind of travel packages you offer, how to acquire your services, and ultimately, what your “why” is.  You need a professional, informative website that will entice your clients to book with you again and again.

Travel industry training

7.  it can be a bit frightening to put yourself out there, especially if you’re unsure of what exactly you should be doing.   .

With all of the different hats travel agents wear, it can be intimidating to offer your services.  To feel confident in your abilities, you need actual education on how to be an agent.  Knowing how to book cruises, negotiate prices, and even make different accommodations for large groups can make those first sales a lot less stressful, so be sure to do your homework.

Industry credentials

8. travel clients are looking for travel agents with the credentials to back up their claims..

On top of basic education, clients want a professional with some standing.  An International Air Transport Association ( IATA/IATAN ) card means you are affiliated with some of the world’s top airlines and understand the ins and outs of tourism and travel. The IATA card is the industry-standard credential that sets bona fide travel professionals apart from amateurs – and can mean savings for those who choose to use you as their travel advisor.  Make sure you have this qualification attached to your name and business if you’re not registered with a host agency . If you’re researching host agencies, look into what credentials they have to choose the best travel host agency for you.

Marketing systems

9. without the proper marketing techniques and tools, agents are not set up for success..

Before you can officially start booking your clients, you’ll have to know how to reach them.  Once you know where to get leads, you will need to know how to use social media to build an audience (and keep their attention) and figure out the “sweet spot” for giving them just the right amount of information at the right, regular time.  Consistent marketing will give your clients something to not only expect but look forward to, so be prepared.

A community of travel professionals

10. every new business owner, especially a beginner travel agent, needs a good support system.  .

When you’re first getting started, the upward climb can be daunting.  With so much to do and learn at once, you may question whether or not you’re doing it correctly (and honestly, if you even made the right decision).  Having a group of like-minded individuals, both who are just now getting started as well as those who remember what it was like to be in your shoes, for advice and encouragement can help you settle in for the long haul.

Our agents connect in a members-only Facebook group to share ideas, collaborate, and refer clients to agents whose specialties are a good fit. Remember, just because you’re in business alone doesn’t mean you need to be in business alone! Learn about starting your travel business with a host agency to see how to get a support system from the start.

If you don’t want to chance it alone, Pickles Travel Network is here to help you every step of the way.

As an up-and-coming agent in the travel industry, you will have many loose ends to tie.  Having the resources needed to make sure you stay the course for years to come is what every agent needs.  A great network of suppliers, a solid support system, and access to education, marketing, and training, are necessary to make sure your business journey starts out on the right foot. Learn more about the tools we offer to our agents and recommend here .

Meet Pickles Travel Network: The Host Agency That Makes It Easy to Start and Scale Your Travel Business

Whether you’ve just started your travel agent journey, or you’ve been on it… Pickles Travel Network has the tools and resources to help grow your business. Unlike other host agencies, we believe in letting our members choose what works best for their business. Pickles Travel Network allows you to choose your commission rate, along with whether or not you want to charge planning fees. As a member, you’ll receive instant access to our list of suppliers, several marketing platforms and monthly coaching/trainings. 

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Equip yourself with the essential insights to confidently advise solo female travelers on safety measures and ideal destinations.

Choosing the right host agency has a huge impact on your travel agency business.

8 Reasons Choosing the Right Host Agency is Important for Travel Agents

Choosing the right host agency is the cornerstone of success for travel agents, providing access to exclusive suppliers, comprehensive training, and invaluable support services.

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How to answer the question “Do I really need a travel agent?”

When someone questions the need for a travel agent, it’s crucial to emphasize these key benefits to pave the way for your success.

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8 Ways to Stay Up to Date with Travel Trends as a Travel Agent

Staying updated on travel trends and destination information is essential for travel agents to thrive in the competitive travel industry.

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Family Travel Planning: Everything You Need to Know as a Travel Agent

Plan unforgettable family vacations for your clients with these essential strategies and insights in family travel planning.

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Are Solo Travelers the New Norm? 5 Insights for Travel Agents

As solo travel continues to soar in popularity, travel agents have a prime opportunity to cater to solo travelers by offering personalized services.

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IATA | CLIA Membership

Ptn iatan code: 45769253, ptn clia number: 00032299.

When you enroll with suppliers, you must use PTN’s codes to receive a commission from us. Want to sign up for your own CLIA or IATA numbers for exclusive travel benefits? See below.

Get your own IATA/IATAN ID Card:

The IATA/IATAN ID Card is the industry-standard credential to identify bona fide travel professionals. Key benefits include access to concessionary incentives from industry suppliers. Just added, the IATA MemberPerks program provides cardholders with daily savings at over 300,000 merchants across North America.

To be eligible, you must be registered with IATAN under PTN’s IATA number 45769253, working a minimum of 20 hours per week and earning a minimum of $5,000 per annum in commissions. You’ll need to send PTN a support ticket asking for approval. Once approved, we will send you a PRIN # to allow you to register with IATAN and ask for an ID card.

Get your own CLIA EMBARK ID:

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Obtain a CLIA EMBARC ID for travel discounts and FAM (Familiarization) trips. Join CLIA as an Individual Agent Member, under Pickles Travel Network CLIA #00032299.

Once you’ve registered, submit a support ticket to let us know, and we will approve your registration.

Please select the option that best describes you for more information.

Hey there, future Rockstar! Give us a call now to get started: 1-800-730-6392

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How To Become A Travel Agent and Achieve Rockstar Status

Got What It Takes?

Just the fact that you’re looking into how to become a travel agent is an excellent indication that you’re our cup of tea. Becoming an independent travel agent is an entrepreneurial goldmine if you’ve got the drive and ambition. If the following checklist describes you, you’re ready to rock.

  • You Have a Desire to Be Your Own Boss
  • You’re a Hard-Charging, Passionate Individual
  • You’re Ready to Do What it Takes to Make Your Customers Happy
  • You’re Obsessed with Travel

With Travel Planners International, you can be your own boss.

Sound Like You? Then Let’s GO!

You might think becoming an independent travel agent involves an insane amount of training and lots of lonely nights in your home office slaving away to curate incredible experiences for your clients. Nope. Not with us as your Host Agency. As a TPI Family Member, you automatically become a Rockstar. Once you complete your industry training,  you get 24/7 support, the latest and greatest in travel agency technology, an incredible number of supplier connections, a community like no other, and lots of commission in your pocket.

Give Tammy a Call

She’s our agent relations specialist and she’s got all the deets on where to start.

Get Your Training On

It’s not a lot of training, but you do need to complete industry training. Tammy will help.

Sign Up on Our Website

With that training under your belt, you’ll be ready to rock your business with us.

Let’s Have a Chat

We're just on the other end of the phone line, ready to make you a Rockstar. You won't talk to a computer, you'll talk to our awesome Agent Relations Specialist, Tammy.

Choose Your Level

Not into commitment? No biggie. Each of our three levels of membership are month-to-month. You decided. It's your business, we just help you build it.

As your Host Travel Agency, we give you access to incredible supplier opportunities, more commissions, tons of support and a community of fellow hard-charging entrepreneurs. Go get it done.

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Rockstar Success Stories

I started my career like many others, with big dreams and a passion for travel. I opened my business in 2010 as an independent agent — working on my own trying to take on the world. After finding a mentor in the industry, I was introduced to the idea of host agencies. I worked with several host agencies over the years, but joining TPI in 2012 was the best move for my business.

Steven Gould Goulds Travel

Frequently Asked Questions

How do i become a successful travel agent from home.

When you work as a travel agent from home, you are your own boss! It is important to have an entrepreneurial spirit. While becoming a successful travel agent from home may feel slow, a host agency like TPI can support you on your journey to make you successful.

What perks do travel agents get?

As a home-based travel agent , you are your own boss. You get to grow your own small business and create a flourishing side hustle. Yes, you have access to special travel and experience discounts, but these help you research and learn more to book the best experiences for your clients.

How do travel agents get clients?

Referrals and word-of-mouth are bread and butter for a travel agent. Social media, especially groups, are often a source for leads. As your host agency, we help you with email marketing and social media marketing.

Is it hard to be a travel agent?

Being a travel agent can be hard but rewarding work. With the right training and support system , you will learn the ropes with TPI to success in no time! The memories you help your clients create make the hard work worth it all.

What schooling is required to become a travel agent?

Industry training is required to be a travel agent. We helps you understand the necessary training and guides you with the steps following your training. For example, we train you on everything from how to book a cruise to how to build an entire European vacation!

5,000+ Rockstars Have Partnered With Us

Determine which path is right for you

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How Do Travel Agents Make Money?

When people find out I work with travel advisors, one of the first questions they ask me is how do travel agents make money? Do they charge fees or do they earn a living from commission?

Usually, the people asking are either those who are interested in becoming a travel agent or they're thinking about trying one out and want to better understand the income model a travel advisors operates under.

I'll go more in-depth in just a second, here's a list of steps that show how travel agents make money:

  • Depending on the booking type and the agency, the travel agent may also charge the traveler a consultation fee. (Our travel agent research shows about 50-60% of advisors charge some sort of a fee.)
  • A traveler works with a travel advisor to plan and finalize their travel itinerary .
  • The travel advisor books the trip , often within the agency's preferred supplier list .
  • Advisors are recognized by suppliers because they give an accreditation number specific to their agency. The number signals to the vendor/supplier who the agency is and if the supplier pays the commissions, the travel agency's commission level .
  • The commission is paid to the travel agent. For most trips, the vendor pays a commission to the travel agent after the client has traveled . For most cruises, the travel agent is paid their commission after final payment (typically about 60-90 days before the sailing).

Now, if you're looking for how travel agents make money that are employees of an agency, that falls more into the territory of travel agent salaries. You're at the right site, just the wrong article. :) Here's our article that deep dives into travel agent salaries .

A Short History

pan am

To give you an answer on how travel agents make money, it's important to know a little history. I promise to keep it short—it's actually pretty fascinating how the industry has changed over the years.

In the good 'ol days, a large portion of travel agency income came from airline commissions. Since tickets were expensive, in demand, and could only be ticketed by agents or the airlines, they were the bread and butter of every agency.

What about commissions from tours, hotels, and cruise lines? Those were just icing on the cake.   

They were travel agents in every sense of the word because they were agents of travel vendors.  Their revenue came from the commissions earned from selling travel products. However, when airline commissions were cut and capped in the 1990s — sad face! — the main revenue base for travel agents disappeared. It hurt. A lot.

Airlines cut their commission because they could now reach travelers via the web and online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Booking.com. Travel agents, who were once wined and dined by airlines, were left out in the cold. Ouch.

With this rapidly changing travel landscape, travel agents needed to find a new way to make money . . . and fast. And that's where our modern-day story of 'How Do Travel Agents Make Money?' begins.

A Shift in Business Models

With commission cuts and clients' ability to book online, agencies needed to adapt to the new landscape of planning and booking travel. The travel agency community was, quite honestly, fumbled for about a decade. Many agencies that didn't adapt quickly enough had to close their doors.

From Storefront to Home-Based

But kiddos, I got news for you! While the storefront travel agencies that once peppered towns across the US aren't as numerous, there is a BUSTLING group of agencies that are less visible, working remotely.

There's been a HUGE influx of new advisors, especially after the pandemic. Call them solopreneurs/home-based/location-independent — whatever hip term you want to use. They may be harder to see without a storefront, but this new segment of the industry is now a force to be reckoned with!

By and large, the most popular agency model has switched from the storefront agencies of the past to the remote agencies of today.

Starting around 2013, travel agents started to see their numbers increase. When there was once a worry that there wouldn't be any travel agents to fill the shoes of those retiring, there was an influx of new blood, eager to take advantage of the flexibility and travel opportunities a travel agent career provides.

Check out these industry stats:

  • In 2013, according to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) , nearly 70% of the agency workforce was older than 55. Not only that, but the percentage of agents over age 65 had nearly doubled, from 17% to 32%, over the prior decade. 
  • Year after year, stats from our HAR's surveys indicate that the median of an agent lands in the early to mid-50s, with the majority working from home. (In 2022, the median age was 55).

Did you catch that?!? We went from 70% of the workforce being over 55 in 2013, to 50% of the workforce being younger than 55 in 2022!

While ASTA and HAR do tend to attract different demographics — ASTA was traditionally larger, retail storefronts and HAR is typically smaller, non-storefront agencies — but even so, the trend is clear. Travel agents are no longer in danger of going extinct. (HUZZAH!!!)

A big reason for this new influx? The rise of the agent that works remotely.

Call them solopreneurs/home-based/location-independent — whatever hip term you want to use. They may be harder to see without a storefront, but this new segment of the industry is now a force to be reckoned with!

Moving to Diversify Income

Along with the loss of airline commissions, travel agents face the challenge of many major cruise lines' non-commissionable fees (NCFs) .

Yup, it's self-explanatory: They're miscellaneous fees that are not commissionable. While a cruise sale may be $2,000, it's possible only $1,400 of it will be commissionable. (That deserves a boo from you as the audience.)

Travel agency business models (both corporate and leisure) are moving to become less dependent on commissions alone . Why the change? Not only did commissions from airlines and other vendors lower than in the past, but the industry has experienced huge industry and economic ups and downs including 9/11, recessions, and pandemics. (Am I missing any? PHEW, travel agents sure are resilient!)

Commission income went on rollercoaster rides during these times. During the coronavirus pandemic, for example, advisors were working overtime canceling trips, bending over backward to get their clients home safe, spending oodles of time to keep up to date with constantly-changing travel regulations, and rebooking trips despite the fact that commissions came to a halt.

That's right, they were working overtime for essentially no pay.

These major pitfalls helped advisors realize the importance of diversifying revenue streams to help stabilize income.

One solution for advisors to counteract diminishing commissions was to diversify their income by charging fees.

So how do travel agents make money in a world where their commissions are lower (and even unpredictable at times)? One solution for advisors to counteract diminishing commissions was to diversify their income by charging fees. This helped agencies steer away from complete reliance on vendor commissions, helping them pad a bottom line that was once cushioned by generous airline and vendor commissions.

The Breakdown of How Travel Agents Make Money

Okay, before we really dig into things, it's important to understand that different kinds of travel agencies make money in different ways.

To make it easier, we've broken down the question of how travel agents make money into 4 main types of travel agencies:

  • corporate travel agencies,
  • leisure travel agencies,
  • travel agencies planning custom itineraries,
  • and 'the big players'

How Do Corporate Travel Agents Make Money?

Corporate travel agencies make money mainly from service fees, net/private fares, and from airline commissions.

flight

Airline tickets are the lifeblood of corporate agencies (also known as TMCs or travel management companies). Were TMCs going to stop selling airline tickets just because airlines stopped commission? No way. They had to get creative to offset lower commissions. What did these corporate agencies do? They implemented a service fee when they booked a ticket.

In 2023, HAR research reports show the median service fee charge for international air was ~$60 and ~$40 for domestic air.

In addition to air, corporate travel agencies earn commissions from booking cars and hotels for business travelers (typically 8-10% commissions). Corporate travel agencies make money mainly from service fees, overrides from the GDS and airlines, net/private fares , and from airline commissions.

The average service fee for air ticketing in 2022 was $39 for domestic air and $63 for international air for agents who booked corporate travel.

Travel agencies, depending on the airline contracts they have access to, are able to earn commissions on both domestic air (typically 0-5%) and international air (roughly 10-22%).

How Do Leisure Travel Agents Make Money?

After the commission cuts, many travel agencies shifted their focus to leisure products that still paid travel agent commissions. These products were essentially vacation packages and cruises. Nowadays, these are your leisure travel agencies (the ones you probably think of when you think of a travel agent.)

Charging a fee helps agents boost a travel agency's bottom line and compensates them for their expertise.

As a general rule, leisure travel agents make money from commissions from vendors pay on vacation packages, cruises, air, and other add-ons. However, consultation fees and service fees are becoming more common as agencies try to diversify income sources to become less dependent on supplier commissions.

If you're wondering how many travel agents make money by charging a fee, what are the most common fee structures and ranges, you'll want to take a peek at HAR's research reports .

In 2023, 49% of hosted advisors and 67% of independent advisors reported charging fees. Just to compare to the days of yore, only 33% of advisors charged a fee in 2017. Holy smokes, that's a big increase!

Charging a fee helps agents boost an agency's bottom line and compensates them for their expertise. Some agencies have what's called a 'look-to-book' fee or a "plan to go fee." This is an up-front fee for research, which an agency may apply some or all of it to your booking once you book, and keep it if you decide to go elsewhere. Other agencies charge a straight-up non-refundable fee for consultations.

If you're coming to an agency with an air-only booking, you can pretty much bet there will be a service fee (median international air was ~$60 and ~$40 for domestic air in 2023). But travel agents also make money by charging fees for things like FITs (custom trips), air-inclusive packages, tours, accommodations only, and cruises.

Top 5 Service Fees 2022

How Do Travel Agents Make Money with Custom Itineraries?

Mass market trips like cruises, all-inclusive resorts, or group bus tours around Europe aren't for everyone. When you want an itinerary built just for you, travel agents call that an F-I-T trip — in plain-speak, you'd call that a custom itinerary. But why be simple like that when you could come up with an acronym, right?! ;)

Custom itineraries are more time intensive and may involve booking with multiple companies, some that may not pay travel agent commissions. Agents that build FITs typically charge higher consultation, trip planning, and/or service fees to compensate.

FIT travel agents make money not only through the fees mentioned above but also through net pricing mark-ups and commissions from the different vendors they're booking.

There's no one-size-fits-all fee when it comes to custom itineraries. But if you're curious about learning more about what kind of fee structures an agency might have, check this out:

How Do the Big Travel Agencies Make Money?

Let's first define what a big travel agency is before we talk about how they make money. When we're talking about a 'big player', we're talking about an agency that has tens of millions of sales revenue. There isn't really a cut-off on when you hit this threshold. The reality is that if you're in this circle, you'll know it. They're the 1% of the travel agency world. :)

While most agencies earn commission based on their sales tiers, these 'big players' travel agencies earn overrides based on their revenue, as well as earn commissions.

What's an override? It's best to think of it as a bonus.

When a travel agency meets a pre-determined sales goal or move market share, the vendor compensates them. These overrides can come from any number of vendors including airlines, GDSs , cruise lines, tour operators, car rental companies, and more.

Now that you're aware of how travel agents make money, maybe it's time to consider it as a career? Join the free trial for our 7 Day Set Up Accelerator course .

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So, next time someone asks you 'How do Travel Agents Make Money?' you can now give a thorough answer, full of information that will blow their mind.

If that's where you're at right now, great. That was my goal.

Feel free to ask any other questions about how the land of travel agencies work in the comments below. I grew up in the travel industry and have worked with many agents to start and grow their travel agencies. If you still have questions, drop us a line , join the conversation in the comments below, or connect with me on   Facebook ,  Twitter , LinkedIn , or Instagram .

Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2012 and has been updated annually to keep up with current data.

About the Author

Steph Lee - Host Agency Reviews

Steph grew up in the travel industry, helping on and off with her mom's homebased travel agency. She has worked with thousands of agents in her role as a former host agency director before leaving in 2012 to start HAR. She's insatiably curious, loves her pups Fennec and Orion, and -- in case you haven't noticed -- is pretty quirky and free-spirited.

If you’re looking for Steph, she leaves a trace where ever she goes! You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn (her fav) and Pinterest as 'iamstephly'. 🙂 You can also catch her on her Substack, Bumblin' Around, where she writes on things outside the world of HAR.

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The 2024 guide to corporate travel management

What is corporate travel management, what does a corporate travel manager do.

  • Booking trips for travelers (not only c-suite executives, but employees in any role).
  • Helping individual departments track their travel spend so they can stay under budget.
  • Providing travel support to travelers before, during, or after their trip.
  • Selecting and managing any travel vendors or travel tools used.
  • Working to negotiate corporate rates on hotels that the company uses often.
  • Booking group travel.
  • Organizing ground transportation like rental cars or rail
  • Analyzing company travel spend, or delivering travel spend reports to the CFO for analysis.

What does a travel buyer do?

Stakeholders in the travel management process.

  • In-house corporate travel manager
  • Office manager or office team
  • Head of operations / COO
  • CFO and finance managers
  • Panel of frequent employee travelers
  • Current corporate travel agency or company

What solutions are companies using to book their business trips?

Consumer booking sites, traditional travel agencies, travel management software.

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Save your company time and money on business travel

What are the drawbacks of each solution.

  • Need to compare various websites and pay out of pocket in order to secure the best price
  • Many hidden costs, with fees for cancellations and changes
  • Many back-and-forth emails when booking for companies
  • Need to pay upfront
  • No support for issues on the road
  • Time-consuming manual reimbursing and expense tracking
  • Impossible to ensure compliance with company travel policy
  • Online booking tools are typically buggy, with bad UX
  • Employees end up calling support or book, when they’d rather save time by booking for themselves, with the options they want
  • Costly service
  • Above-market transport/accommodation prices
  • Company policy compliance is difficult to guarantee
  • Lack of travel inventory and options
  • Clunky user experience that travelers don’t enjoy
  • Offshore customer service, typically ranked as the top frustration in customer reviews
  • Often overly complicated and feature-laden
  • Impossible to control travel when travelers can’t or won’t use the tool
  • Lacks low-price flights and hotels available online
  • Impossible to guarantee company policy compliance

The pillars of modern travel management:

  • Trust – Trust travelers to book using the approved process and policy, and make it easy for them
  • Transparency – Let travelers see what they’re allowed to spend and choose accordingly, and let finance and administrative teams see what is being booked and why.
  • Simplicity – Create a process that works and meets everyone’s needs.
  • Impact – Measure the impact of business travel on the company and reduce unnecessary trips that leave travelers exhausted and businesses with needless expenses.
  • Duty of care – Ensure a thorough duty of care strategy is in place to mitigate risks for employees when traveling
  • Sustainability – Being aware of the impact of travel on the environment and adopting good practices to reduce the effect

How can a good corporate travel program help companies to save money?

Ensuring compliance with company travel policy, access to more affordable flight options, stay on top of travel spending trends, six steps to managing corporate travel effectively.

  • Choose a smart booking tool
  • Assure 24/7 travel support
  • Create policies and approval workflows
  • Organize and utilize travel spend data in real-time
  • Improve collaboration between admin and finance
  • Reduce your company’s carbon footprint

1. Choose a smart booking tool

  • Self-booking within policy – Trust your travelers to book what they need, and set up policies and parameters
  • Consolidated invoicing – The ability to get one monthly invoice for all travel from one vendor, instead of having it spread across the web
  • Travel spend reporting – Easy access for all finance and administrative team members who need to track travel itinerary details and spend by cost centers, tags or labels
  • Easy booking process that travelers love – Invoice consolidation and accurate reporting are impossible if employees want to cheat on the approved tool, so choose a tool that’s easy to use with consumer-grade UX. Make their entire travel experience, from booking to coming home, as easy and smooth as possible. Introducing a mobile app is just an added bonus!
  • Great inventory – Inventory is not a side note. Make sure the platform you use has every available option you can find online and that the company is committed to adding more inventory
  • Travel support – You need travel assistance that’s available 24/7 in your native language so that employees can get help even when the internal admin team is unavailable

2. Assure 24/7 travel support

Here are the requirements to look for in travel support:.

  • Available 24/7
  • Easy to reach a real human
  • Guaranteed follow-up and follow-through
  • Native language support
  • Fast escalation for big issues

3. Create policies and approval workflows

  • Maximum cost of airfare
  • Maximum cost per hotel per night
  • Minimum amount of days booked in advance
  • Hotel star rating
  • Flight class allowed

" "

Travel Management: The Ultimate Guide

Approval workflows.

  • No approval required for any trip
  • Approval required for some trips
  • Approval required for every trip

4. Organize and utilize travel spend data

  • Cost centers – Does your company use different payment accounts for different geographical regions? How many cost centers does the company have? Make sure that travel spend is getting charged to the right accounts and that you're making accurate expense reports.
  • Tags and labels – Beyond cost centers, are there any important filters that the finance team would have to have when viewing travel spending reports? For example, would they like each trip tagged by team or by project? Decide upfront so that the tagging system can be implemented clearly from the get-go.
  • Keep all travel in one place – to get accurate travel data, you need to keep all travel in one place—whenever possible. Work with a travel management solution that integrates with providers that matter to your company, such as budget airlines, AirBnb or European train lines. If your company has negotiated hotel rates, you want your corporate solution to be able to book those rates for you, so you don’t lose the travel data by booking directly.

5. Improve collaboration between admin and finance

  • Streamlined approvals process – If your approval process requires action from the admin and the finance team, try to make this as seamless as possible.
  • Easy access invoices – The finance team needs to grab all invoices quickly so they can reconcile expenses and set clear reimbursement processes. The best way to do this is to use a platform that consolidates travel spend into one monthly invoice.
  • Ability to track spend instantly – Consolidate all travel spend into one platform so that they can generate reports on what is being spent, by who, and why (when using tags and labels). Same as with the invoices, determine whether you need to send them a monthly report, or if they want to download it themselves.
  • Cost savings on trips – Fixing travel isn’t just about saving time. Many businesses are still using travel booking platforms that were built in the 80s and 90s. This means that they markup the inventory so that the company is paying more than a consumer would! Impress the finance team by reducing travel costs and introducing consumer-grade prices for trips.

6. Reduce your company’s carbon footprint

  • Work out your starting point by calculating your company’s travel carbon footprint
  • Design a green business travel program, which creates data-driven strategies to increase employee commitment
  • Choose economy class
  • Reduce your fuel consumption where possible
  • Pick low-emission airlines and avoid layovers
  • Vet your accommodation for sustainability practices
  • Utilize green travel tax breaks

The bottom line: it's time to upgrade your travel management

Let’s bring it all together.

  • Choose a smart booking tool – Meet everyone’s needs
  • Share the burden of travel support – Don’t try to do this alone
  • Set up cost centers and labels – Let the tool reflect the business
  • Create policies and approval workflows – Put the policy inside the booking process
  • Improve collaboration between admin and finance – Grab invoices and reports

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What does a travel agent do?

Would you make a good travel agent? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

What is a Travel Agent?

A travel agent assists individuals or groups in planning, organizing, and booking various aspects of their travel arrangements. They act as intermediaries between travelers and travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and tour operators. Travel agents have in-depth knowledge of different destinations, travel options, and industry trends, which they leverage to provide personalized recommendations and advice to their clients.

One of the primary roles of a travel agent is to help clients navigate the complex world of travel. They listen to their clients' preferences, budget constraints, and desired experiences, and then work towards creating a tailored itinerary that meets their needs. Travel agents handle tasks such as booking flights, accommodations, ground transportation, and excursions, ensuring that all the necessary arrangements are made smoothly. They can also provide valuable insights on visa requirements, travel insurance, and local customs, helping travelers make informed decisions and avoid potential pitfalls.

What does a Travel Agent do?

A travel agent with two clients.

Travel agents possess extensive knowledge and expertise in the travel industry, including destinations, transportation options, accommodations, and activities. This expertise allows them to provide valuable advice and guidance to travelers, helping them make informed decisions and create well-planned itineraries that meet their specific needs and preferences. They also have access to a wide range of resources and tools that enable them to efficiently search for the best deals, discounts, and promotions available. They can often secure exclusive rates and packages, saving their clients both time and money.

Duties and Responsibilities Here are some common tasks and responsibilities associated with being a travel agent:

  • Client Consultation: Travel agents engage in thorough consultations with clients to understand their travel preferences, requirements, and budget. They ask relevant questions to gather necessary information and provide personalized recommendations based on the client's needs.
  • Itinerary Planning: Based on client preferences, travel agents create detailed travel itineraries that include destinations, transportation options, accommodations, and activities. They consider factors like travel dates, budget constraints, and any specific requests from clients.
  • Reservation and Booking: Travel agents handle the booking process for flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel-related services. They ensure that all bookings are made accurately and efficiently, securing the best available rates and deals for their clients.
  • Travel Documentation and Logistics: Travel agents assist clients in obtaining necessary travel documents such as passports, visas, and travel insurance. They provide guidance on the documentation process and ensure that clients have all the required paperwork in order. Agents also handle logistical aspects like seat assignments, baggage allowances, and transportation arrangements.
  • Knowledge of Destinations: Travel agents possess extensive knowledge about various destinations, including popular attractions, local customs, weather conditions, and safety considerations. They provide valuable information and recommendations to clients, enabling them to make well-informed decisions about their travel plans.
  • Customer Service: Travel agents offer exceptional customer service throughout the entire travel process. They address client inquiries, resolve any issues or concerns that may arise, and provide support during the trip. Agents act as a point of contact for emergencies and assist clients in making alternative arrangements if necessary.
  • Stay Up-to-Date with Industry Trends: To provide the best service to clients, travel agents stay updated with the latest industry trends, travel regulations, and changes in travel technology. They attend industry conferences, participate in training programs, and conduct research to ensure their knowledge is current.
  • Sales and Marketing: Some travel agents engage in sales and marketing activities to attract new clients and promote travel packages and services. They may participate in trade shows, develop promotional materials, and utilize online platforms to reach a wider audience.
  • Financial Management: Travel agents handle financial transactions related to travel bookings, including processing payments, issuing refunds, and managing invoices. They maintain accurate records of financial transactions and ensure compliance with accounting procedures.
  • Continuous Learning: Travel agents continuously enhance their skills and knowledge by staying updated on travel industry trends, new destinations, and emerging technologies. They actively seek opportunities for professional development to provide the best possible service to their clients.

Types of Travel Agents There are various types of travel agents, each specializing in different aspects of travel and catering to specific clientele. Here are some common types of travel agents and what they do:

  • Leisure Travel Agents: Leisure travel agents focus on organizing vacations and leisure trips for individuals, families, or groups. They assist clients in planning and booking all aspects of their leisure travel, including flights, accommodations, tours, and activities. Leisure travel agents may specialize in specific types of travel, such as beach vacations, cruises, adventure travel, or luxury travel.
  • Corporate Travel Agents: Corporate travel agents primarily cater to business travelers and companies. They handle the complex travel needs of corporate clients, including booking flights, arranging accommodations, managing itineraries, and coordinating travel logistics. Corporate travel agents are familiar with business travel policies, negotiated rates, and preferred vendors to ensure cost-effective and efficient travel arrangements for their clients.
  • Group Travel Agents: Group travel agents specialize in organizing travel for large groups, such as family reunions, weddings, school trips, or corporate retreats. They handle group bookings for flights, accommodations, transportation, and activities, negotiating group rates and coordinating logistics to accommodate the specific needs and preferences of the group.
  • Tour Operators: Tour operators design and operate pre-packaged tours and travel itineraries. They create comprehensive tour packages that include transportation, accommodations, guided tours, and activities. Tour operators often work with travel agents to sell their tour packages, providing them with a ready-made product to offer their clients.
  • Destination Specialists: Destination specialists focus on specific regions, countries, or cities. They have in-depth knowledge of the destination's culture, attractions, local experiences, and logistical considerations. Destination specialists provide expert advice and create customized itineraries for travelers seeking in-depth exploration of a particular destination.
  • Online Travel Agents (OTAs): Online travel agents operate through internet platforms and websites, offering a wide range of travel services. They allow customers to search, compare, and book flights, hotels, rental cars, and other travel services online. Online travel agents may also provide customer support and assistance through online chat or call centers.
  • Niche Travel Agents: Niche travel agents specialize in specific types of travel, catering to niche markets or specialized interests. Examples include adventure travel agents, luxury travel agents, honeymoon specialists, culinary travel agents, or eco-tourism experts. These agents have extensive knowledge and expertise in their niche area, curating unique experiences and tailored itineraries for clients with specific interests.

Are you suited to be a travel agent?

Travel agents have distinct personalities . They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if travel agent is one of your top career matches.

What is the workplace of a Travel Agent like?

The workplace of a travel agent can vary depending on their specific employment arrangement. Some travel agents work in traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies, which may be part of a larger travel company or operate independently. In these settings, travel agents typically have a physical office space with workstations, computers, and travel industry resources such as brochures, destination guides, and reservation systems. They may have a reception area to welcome clients and conduct in-person consultations.

With the increasing prevalence of remote work and online booking platforms, many travel agents now have the flexibility to work from home or in virtual offices. They utilize technology, such as laptops, smartphones, and high-speed internet, to communicate with clients, access travel resources, and make online bookings. Virtual travel agents often communicate with clients via phone, email, or video conferencing, offering the convenience of remote consultations.

Travel agents also frequently visit destinations, attend industry conferences, and participate in familiarization trips organized by travel suppliers. These opportunities allow them to gain firsthand experience, build relationships with suppliers, and stay updated on the latest travel trends. While travel agents spend a significant amount of time working at their desks, they also have the chance to explore and experience the destinations they recommend to their clients.

In terms of work hours, travel agents may have a standard office schedule, working weekdays during regular business hours. However, they may also need to be flexible, accommodating clients in different time zones or assisting with emergency situations outside of regular office hours. The workload of travel agents can vary throughout the year, with peak periods during holiday seasons or when there are significant events or festivals happening in popular destinations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pros and cons of being a travel agent.

Being a travel agent can be an exciting and rewarding career for individuals who are passionate about travel and enjoy helping others create memorable experiences. However, like any profession, there are pros and cons to consider.

  • Travel Opportunities: One of the major advantages of being a travel agent is the exposure to diverse travel opportunities. Travel agents often have the chance to visit destinations, experience different cultures, and explore new places as part of their job. This firsthand experience not only enhances their knowledge but also allows them to provide valuable insights and recommendations to clients.
  • Personal Satisfaction: For individuals who are passionate about travel and helping others, being a travel agent can be personally fulfilling. The ability to create personalized itineraries and witness the joy and excitement of clients as they embark on their dream trips can be highly rewarding.
  • Knowledge and Expertise: Travel agents develop a deep understanding of destinations, travel products, and industry trends. They stay up-to-date with the latest information, including visa requirements, safety advisories, and emerging travel destinations. This expertise allows them to provide valuable advice and recommendations to clients, ensuring they have well-planned and memorable travel experiences.
  • Building Relationships: Travel agents have the opportunity to build strong relationships with clients, travel suppliers, and industry professionals. They can establish a network of contacts that can enhance their business and open doors for collaboration and future opportunities.
  • Industry Changes and Competition: The travel industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies, online booking platforms, and dynamic pricing models. Travel agents must stay updated with these changes and adapt their business practices accordingly. The rise of online travel agencies and self-booking options has increased competition, requiring travel agents to differentiate themselves and provide added value to their clients.
  • Workload and Time Management: The travel industry can be demanding, especially during peak travel seasons. Travel agents may need to work long hours, including evenings and weekends, to accommodate client needs and handle emergencies. Proper time management skills are essential to balance the workload and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • Pressure for Exceptional Customer Service: Travel agents are expected to deliver outstanding customer service consistently. They must handle client inquiries, resolve issues, and manage expectations throughout the travel process. This level of customer service can be challenging, particularly when dealing with unforeseen circumstances or dissatisfied clients.
  • Commission-Based Income: While some travel agents receive a salary or hourly wage, others rely on commission-based income. This means their earnings are directly tied to the bookings they secure for clients. It can take time to build a client base and establish a steady income stream, especially in the early stages of a travel agent's career.

Travel Agents are also known as: Travel Consultant

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What is a corporate travel agent? Business travel management

  • What is a corporate travel agent?

Woman smiling while talking on headset

When it comes to business travel, most companies quickly learn that planning, booking and making sure that business trips go smoothly can involve a large amount of administrative work. This often falls on the individual employee to deal with, raising a number of issues, from making sure that travel is booked correctly to monitoring travel cost effectiveness.

Having a centralized travel booking platform aligned with a corporate travel agent not only meets these challenges head-on, but also improves any inefficiencies in your business’s corporate travel program. Throughout this post, we’ll address:

  • The challenges of decentralized business travel management programs
  • The role of a corporate travel agent

Combining corporate travel agents and travel management

The challenges of having a decentralized travel management program  , some key problems of decentralized travel management strategy include:.

  • Solution: A corporate travel agent’s job includes helping to book travel compliant travel and education on a TMC’s online booking tool.
  • Solution : Booking through a centralized platform, with a reliable agent for escalation or support can avoid the headache of reimbursement forms, as well as unlock significant cost savings for businesses.
  • Solution : A one-stop shop prevents your travelers from acting as part-time accountants and lets them focus on their travel and main duties while traveling. With a corporate travel agent’s support, traveler bookings are compliant, easy to approve and more cost-effective than other booking methods.

These are just some of the reasons why organizations often turn to a business travel agent to help with the travel booking process.  

So, what is a corporate travel agent?

Corporate travel agents, or business travel consultants can be described as business travel curators; working full-time to create customized and bespoke itineraries that fit the bill for travel needs and the specific trip while aligning with the company’s travel policy and restrictions. Like traditional travel advisors, corporate travel agents have the travel experience and knowledge to make sure that travel is seamless, regardless of travel services used.

When placed at a corporate travel management company (or TMC) , like Egencia, the job of a corporate travel agent is to support individual and group travel itineraries, and answer questions about travel management tools. With years of experience in travel, a good corporate travel agent is an indispensable component of business travel.

What does a corporate travel agent do?

Corporate travel agents connect organizations with resources and providers in the travel industry. They hire corporate travel consultants who are experts in their field and who are trained in arranging business travel on behalf of their customers. An arranged travel plan provides traveler safety as well as risk management and duty of care adherence.

Some of the benefits you can expect from using a corporate travel agent are:

Reduction in travel spend.

You can get better rates for your business travel when you use a corporate travel agent. Over time, these travel savings can have a big impact on your travel spend and make hiring a professional company quite cost effective. 

 Dedicated corporate travel agencies have access to a network of travel providers they can use. This means you can save money, since you avoid the higher or premium rates charged when going directly.

Professional travel itineraries

Another great benefit is professional travel itineraries. If you need travel visas for international travel, a business travel agent will provide the essential documentation and take care of all the administrative work and complex details. Or, if you have a complex journey and need to book connecting flights, a business travel consultant will have the expertise to complete these travel bookings easily and effectively – simple! 

Provide recommendations and business travel advice

It can be difficult to know what a hotel is going to be like until you’ve stayed there yourself. Online reviews aren’t always accurate, and personal preferences can vary while still searching for the best rates, so booking accommodation can be stressful. Corporate travel agents understand which hotels are recommended and which are best avoided. This expertise comes from experience in booking, arranging and speaking directly to travelers and customers about their stay and overall experience. If a hotel room wasn’t up to scratch, you can be sure a customer will provide that feedback to their corporate travel agency to make sure that future travel arrangements are up to par while within the corporate travel policy.

Corporate travel agents are becoming less popular since companies want more management over their travel management and have gained important benefits through centralizing their travel booking process internally.

However, modern travel management companies such as Egencia offer the best of both worlds. With Egencia, you can get all the latest technology, automation, and modern travel and travel expense integration, while enjoying all the benefits of speaking to a business travel consultant if you need additional help.

Graphic: The TMC Difference

Combining the benefits of a traditional corporate travel agency with a modern travel management company provides a comprehensive travel solution. A business will be able to get travel consultancy and advice when needed, as well as automation, efficiency and cost savings on their business travel.

Request a Demo Today to learn how you can implement an effective corporate travel solution into your business.

Learn more about the benefits of a corporate booking platform by downloading the toolkit here .

Looking for better business travel solutions? Get in touch with us.

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IMAGES

  1. Travel Agent Job Description: Salary, Skills, & More

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  2. Why Using a Travel Agent Is Always Worth It

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  3. Benefits of Working with a Travel Agent

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  4. What does a Travel Agent do and How to Become a Travel Agent

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  5. Travel Agent Job Description

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  6. What is a corporate travel agent?

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  6. Business Travel Agent in the UK

COMMENTS

  1. How To Start A Travel Agency From Scratch In 6 Steps

    For example, picture a travel agent who shares insider tips about the best local cuisine and off-the-beaten-path attractions. This will enhance clients' travel experiences. Business management skills. Strong business management skills in travel agency business include financial management, marketing strategies, and operational efficiency.

  2. How To Start a Travel Agency in 8 Steps

    6. Obtain all necessary licenses and registrations. There are at least two main sets of paperwork you need to complete when formally starting your own travel business—standard business licenses and registrations and occupational travel agent licenses. Independent travel agents may need their own licenses.

  3. Travel Agency Business Model: What It Is and How it Works

    The travel agency business model is a framework that travel agencies use to provide travel-related services to customers. At its core, this model involves acting as an intermediary between clients and various travel service providers, such as airlines, hotels, and tour operators. Travel agencies understand customer needs, preferences, and ...

  4. Starting a Travel Business: How to Become a Travel Agent

    1. Create a plan for your travel business. Make no mistake: No matter what industry you're in, a business plan is essential. You may not need a formal business plan if you're not seeking a loan or investment funding for your business, but don't skip it. Write a one-page business plan instead.

  5. How to Become a Travel Agent—Because, Believe It or Not, the Industry

    There are many ways to become a travel agent, from joining an existing travel agency, to starting an independent business from the ground up. Others are opting for one of the buzziest start-ups in ...

  6. How to Start a Profitable Travel Agency Business [11 Steps]

    Start now. 1. Perform market analysis. When starting a travel agency business, it's crucial to understand the market landscape to tailor your services effectively and identify your niche. A thorough market analysis will provide insights into customer preferences, competition, and emerging trends.

  7. How to Start a Travel Agency

    Step 2: Hone Your Idea. Now that you know what's involved in starting a travel agency, it's a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you're already positive that you have a perfect product or service.

  8. How to Start a Travel Agency (& Why There's a Better Option)

    Quality training will go a long way in ensuring your agency's relevance and success. 7. Adopt travel software platforms used for bookings. The best travel agencies can book hotels and other reservations (learn about the types of bookings Fora Advisors can make) through their in-house systems.

  9. How to Launch a Successful Travel Agents Business

    Starting a Travel Agents business is an exhilarating journey filled with opportunities for those passionate about exploring and sharing the beauty of the world. The initial step requires a deep understanding of the travel industry, including current trends and customer preferences. Crafting a unique value proposition is crucial; it sets you ...

  10. The Travel Agent's Toolbox: 10 Things Every Travel Agent Needs to Start

    Working in the travel industry is exciting and rewarding in so many ways, but there's more to it than simply booking a vacation and getting paid.Travel agents need training, software to keep them organized, platforms to streamline business systems, and a list of other things.

  11. How To Become a Travel Agent in 4 Steps (With Helpful Tips)

    Here are some steps on how to become a travel agent: 1. Get formal training. Most travel agents require at least a high school diploma, but some college education can help you gain essential knowledge in areas such as tourism, best business practices, international affairs, travel insurance, strategy, finances and marketing.

  12. How to Become a Travel Agent

    Becoming an independent travel agent is an entrepreneurial goldmine if you've got the drive and ambition. If the following checklist describes you, you're ready to rock. You Have a Desire to Be Your Own Boss. You're a Hard-Charging, Passionate Individual. You're Ready to Do What it Takes to Make Your Customers Happy. You're Obsessed ...

  13. 10 Steps to Starting a Travel Agency from Home

    Here are the steps to take to start your travel agency from home: 1. Find a Travel Agency Niche. A niche is your friend. When you start your home-based travel agency, a niche will help you establish your brand, create your travel agency name, and allow you to focus your energies.

  14. How does the travel industry actually work?

    Travel Agents: Travel agents liaise with tour operators to book packages and tours for their clients. As such, tour operators will often focus on a certain destination or market area, whereas travel agents can focus on selling the whole world - with a comprehensive list of suppliers in their books.

  15. How Do Travel Agents Make Money?

    Depending on the booking type and the agency, the travel agent may also charge the traveler a consultation fee. (Our travel agent research shows about 50-60% of advisors charge some sort of a fee.) A traveler works with a travel advisor to plan and finalize their travel itinerary.

  16. How to Work With a Travel Agent: A Guide for First-Timers

    Productive relationships are built on honesty and your relationship with your agent is no different. Before your consultation, you should have a general idea of the maximum outlay you're expecting to pay for your trip, or at the very least, a range. Otherwise, your agent is stabbing in the dark. I had a young man come into my office once with a ...

  17. The 2024 Guide to Corporate Travel Management

    A corporate travel manager is typically an internal employee who manages the travel program and all business trips for the entire organization (an external resource who isn't on staff is called a. corporate travel agent. ).They. set the corporate travel policy. , handle duty of care and risk management, and help the company navigate global ...

  18. What Does a Travel Agent Do?

    A travel agent assesses each customer's unique needs, preferences, and budget to ensure their trip goes as smoothly as possible. Here are the core day-to-day responsibilities you'll typically find yourself performing as a travel agent: Meeting with clients to discuss upcoming travel plans and gather information regarding travel dates ...

  19. What does a travel agent do?

    A travel agent assists individuals or groups in planning, organizing, and booking various aspects of their travel arrangements. They act as intermediaries between travelers and travel suppliers, such as airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and tour operators. Travel agents have in-depth knowledge of different destinations, travel options, and industry trends, which they leverage to provide ...

  20. What is a corporate travel agent? Business travel management

    Corporate travel agents, or business travel consultants can be described as business travel curators; working full-time to create customized and bespoke itineraries that fit the bill for travel needs and the specific trip while aligning with the company's travel policy and restrictions. Like traditional travel advisors, corporate travel ...

  21. A Travel Agent's Guide to Booking Group Travel

    The group travel experts interviewed for this story highlighted two main models of group travel: a "come-along-with-me" approach, where the travel advisor accompanies travelers on the trip, and a "follow-the-leader" model, where the travel planner designates one client as the group leader and works with them before, during and after the ...

  22. Travel Agent Job Description [+2024 TEMPLATE]

    Travel Agent responsibilities include: Planning and selling transportations, accommodations, insurance and other travel services. Cooperating with clients to determine their needs and advising them appropriate destination, modes of transportations, travel dates, costs and accommodations. Providing relevant information, brochures and ...

  23. 16 Travel Agent Companies With High-Paying Remote Jobs

    Here are travel agency companies that offer high-paying remote agent opportunities: 1. ADTRAV Travel Management. Company size: 51-200 employeesDescription: Founded in 1977, ADTRAV Travel Management is a travel agency that specializes in providing services for corporate and government agencies. The company features dedicated account managers ...