Of all the home-based business possibilities, it’s hard to imagine one that’s more fun or potentially profitable than operating a home-based travel agency.
Not only do you get the enjoyment of sending people off on their dream vacation, but you earn a good commission for selling services that you do not have to actually provide yourself. What could be better than that?
If you’d like to become a home-based travel agent, and enjoy discounted or even free trips for yourself as well, then the following “Top Tips For Becoming A Home Based Travel Agent” will get you started in the right direction.
1. Affiliate with a legitimate host agency that has all of the required certifications.
The most successful home-based travel agents are independent contractors who work with a host agency. You use the host agency’s resources and established relationships to tap into their network of travel vendors and suppliers. It’s important that your host agency has the proper industry credentials and that they have a program in place that allows you to use those credentials in order to establish yourself as a legitimate travel agency.
As a home based travel agent you need certain credentials like the CLIA card. CLIA stands for the Cruise Line Industry Association. This industry-recognized credential allows you special agent rates on discounted cruises and offers a whole array of benefits to you and your customer.
To be recognized as a travel agency most host agencies are usually bonded and accredited through ARC/IATAN. ARC was established by the travel industry to provide prompt, efficient, and secure distribution and settlement of travel purchased in the U.S. IATAN-International Airlines Travel Agent Network endorses travel agents and provides the IATAN ID card, which identifies you as a U.S.- based travel sales professional.
If you are considering working with a host agency that doesn’t provide you with their IATAN/ARC number, and other required credentials, move on and select one that does.
2. Choose a host travel agency that provides comprehensive training
Even though you are an independent home-based travel agent, you still need professional quality training so you know how to operate in the travel industry as well as what you are and are not allowed to do.
Getting up-to-date on the best places to travel, tourism trends, and how to fulfill the needs of your customer is vital to your travel business. You want to choose a host travel agency that offers comprehensive training and courses on various travel services, products, marketing, etc.
For some host agencies, taking a course or training is necessary in order to be eligible for certain travel credentials. And, although it is not required to book travel, your job will go much easier and you’ll develop more repeat business, if you are well-trained and well-informed.
3. Choose a host travel agency that will help you promote your business.
Don’t choose a travel company that does not offer some assistance with marketing your travel business. The best ones will offer a turn-key website or online booking engine for your clients to use when booking their travel.
Even better are the travel companies that also provide you with automated marketing tools such as auto responders to handle email campaigns and promotions.
You’ll save money, and gain more customers, if you partner up with a host travel agency that provides ready-made templates to print business cards, postcards, flyers, etc. These are all the tools in your marketing arsenal that will help you get the word out about your home-based travel business.
4. Choose a host travel agency that handles ALL of the travel details for you.
Most host agencies handle all the booking and routine travel details for your clients, but what happens if a name is misspelled on a plane ticket or your customer wants a refund? Find out what type of customer support is available and read their policies carefully before you sign on as a home-based travel agent.
At a minimum, look for:
· How long your host agency has been in business and if they are reputable.
· 24/7 telephone support, not just e-mail or web-based.
· Clear and easy-to-understand refund and cancellation policies.
· A track record of speedy resolution to customer service issues.
5. Choose a host travel agency with a fair commission policy.
Notice that money is not mentioned as the #1 thing to look for when you’re choosing a host travel agency. Sure, the commission is important; it’s how you get paid. But the best commission policy in the world does you no good if the host travel company that you choose to partner with is not aboveboard and honest.
Once you have found a travel company that meet the requirements of items 1-4, it’s time to check their commission policy. Here’s what to look for:
· Make sure that you know exactly how much commission you earn on every travel product you offer through your host agency. Be sure to find out if you earn commissions for add-on sales like trip cancellation insurance or lost luggage insurance. The best host travel agency partners pay you a piece of everything you sell.
· Be sure you know what their commission chargeback policy is when a client cancels a trip or seeks a refund.
· Find out at which point your commission actually gets locked in. Is it when the sale is made; when the client debarks on their trip, or when they return?
· Find out how long it takes to get paid. Some agencies pay Net 30, some pay longer. Whatever the payment period is, make sure you can live with it.
6. Choose a host travel agency with the best perks for you
The opportunity to go on a FAM trip is the most appealing benefit to travel agents. FAM trips are short for ‘familiarization trips’. These are special trips specifically for the travel agent. These trips are offered by hotels, cruise lines, convention and visitor bureaus, and tour companies.
The intent of the trip is to familiarize the agent with the product or service so that they can then sell the service or product to their clients. By experiencing the product, agents can sell it more effectively.
These trips are either totally free or have a small cost involved to cover the expense of the trip. These FAM trips are offered at a huge discount compared to what it would cost to the average consumer. If your host agency doesn’t offer FAM trips, you should think about finding one that does.
Also, since you will be working out of home and on your own, medical insurance plans or group coverage plans are sometimes offered. Check to see if the agency you are considering has a group plan that you can buy into. Group plans are usually less expensive than buying medical insurance on your own.
Some final thoughts
Owning your own travel business means you can take advantage of many tax breaks. Deductions are allowed for you initial investment, home office expenses, cell phone and land lines, automobile, computer, fax machine, insurance, and other equipment. In addition, when you travel anywhere in the world, it’s a business expense!
Overall, becoming a home-based travel agent has some major perks and benefits. The important thing is to find a good host agency and become familiar with your product so that you can offer the best travel experience for your customers. Doing this will keeps a consistent flow of repeat and new business coming your way.
Good luck and Bon Voyage!