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6 Steps to start your very own online travel agency

Money has become a concern for a lot of people especially since 2020. More and more people are searching for more ways to earn additional income and even an alternative lifestyle. Now is a great time to start an online business with more people online more than ever before. I will list 5 steps to starting your very own online travel agency.

Step 1: Choose your niche

Travellers today are looking for individualised customer service. And niche vacations are becoming more and more preferred. This is a great opportunity for independent mobile travel agents. It’s easy to specialise in these types of vacations or destinations than larger companies. Take some time to think about your unique selling proposition or USP. Some examples of niches include snorkelling or scuba vacations, all-inclusive Caribbean resorts, golf trips, adventure, bike tours, cruise, China tours, destination weddings and honeymoons, corporate travel and the list goes on.

The idea is to choose a niche and your USP and become an expert in that niche. Know everything and anything you can or need to know about your proposed sort of vacation. Customers want to know that they can have a worry free and relaxed vacation with no concern at all except for their vacation activities they had scheduled.

Research the trends and competition in your chosen niche. Ensure its viable and that the competition is low. A great place to start is a keyword search in Google Trends to see what people are actually searching for. You should also check out other agents in your niche to see what they are offering, their business structure, and if possible, the host agency they are connected with and their customer demographics.

Step 2: Choose a host agency

This is especially important when just starting your travel agency business. They provide valuable information, training programs, tools such as for customer management, bookings, SEO tools and others that will help grow your business.

Research some that caters to your niche or would be a good match for what you want to do. The best host travel agencies for 2021 will be provided at the end of this blog

Here are some of the best host travel agencies of 2021 to get you started on your research.

  • Kinship Vacations

  • Lotus Travel Network

  • Just Adventures

  • Gifted Travel Network

  • Magical Moments Vacations

  • Uniglobe Travel Center

  • The Travel Agent Next Door

  • Outside Agents

  • Travel Quest Network

  • Travel Planners International

For more host agencies, click here. If you would like more help in choosing a host travel agency, see our blog on 9 host agencies for 2021.

Step 3: Choose a business structure

This will depend on your niche and USP. Sole proprietor is usually the simplest and cheapest way to start. But you will need to consider how your business will evolve as you grow. Will you become a partnership or LLC? Options that offer more liability protective and some tax incentives.

Step 4: Create a business plan

This is very important and you shouldn’t skip this step. Think about the kind of service you would want to give yourself if you were a customer. Then consider who you think your target customers will be, what they will like or expect.

Customer service should be a priority. How will you ensure that you will be able to surpass your customer’s expectations and wow them with your service? You should also think about how you would like your business to grow and what will you need to be in place to ensure a smooth transition. If you plan without an end in mind, you will be setting yourself up as a victim of your own success, should you indeed become successful.

You should also consider challenges or roadblocks that may come later, such as financing, tools, or government red tape. Try to make contingency plans for any foreseeable challenges in the future. If you need some guidance on how to create a simple business plan to get you started I have included a link to this video in the description.

Finally, set up how customers will pay you. There are many online wallets to choose from that you can link to your website, such as Paypal, Payonner, and Google Wallet. You can also choose to take payments manually, with point of sale or cheque.

Step 5: Choose a name and register your travel agency

Choose a name that is catchy yet reflects your niche or USP. You may also think up a slogan. This is best thought up during the drafting of your business plan as you decide on your mission and vision statements. This should also reflect your USP in a very brief way.

When registering your agency, check with local government agencies that you should register with. This would include the company office and any other agencies you may be required to join. This will obviously depend on which country you wish to do business. In some countries, like Jamaica, you are required to have a license to operate in the tourism industry. Consider checking this out too if you are based in the US, for example, and offer international destination packages.

Step 6: Create a website

Design your website. I mean, what’s the point in having a travel agency when nobody can find you and book your services?

When creating your website you need to consider a domain name. Choose one that is catchy, easy to remember and say, and ideally it should have your business name or main keyword in it. Domain names are reasonably cheap, costing on average $5 to $25 per year.

Next you will want to find a website hosting service. These can be website builders like WIX or GoDaddy or specialists like Hostgator, which is commonly used with WordPress websites. Many website builders offer beautiful, user-friendly templates that makes it easy to create a great website on a budget. Hosting services will depend on what you want to do with your site. A simple website can be hosted for as little as $8 per month, while an ecommerce site will start at about $25 per month.

You may consider hiring a professional to design your website, or if you have some tech skills, you can try a website builder like WIX or SquareSpace to help you. A simple site can have a landing page, maybe an about page and/or blog, booking CRM and a contact form. Keep it simple, clean and professional looking. Remember, your website maybe the first point of contact with potential customers. You will want them to have a good first impression about you and your business.

Before you actually create your site though, you will want to set goals. What do you want to achieve from your site? What would you like it to do? Ensure that your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound). They should also align with your business goals and marketing strategy.

Finally, after you’ve completed the design of your website and have populated it with content, you will want to look at optimizing your site for Google, Bing or Yahoo search engines, as well as for Google Maps, if you have a physical office. Learn basic SEO strategies or hire a SEO expert to help you. Don’t forget to sign up for Search Console and Google Analytics, and connect it to your website. These will help your website to come up in the searches and help you keep track of your website's performance. You may also want to consider signing up for GoogleAds, so that you can run search ads and display ads to help people know that you are in business.

That’s it! I hope that you found the information here useful. Subscribe to our newsletter for more tips and trends.


About the Author Taneallea Feddis Founder/Managing Director, BlackWall Consultants She is an educator, website designer and content marketer.​ She helps entrepreneurs develop their business through coaching and developing their digital strategy. She is passionate about teaching new skills to others, and her goal is to encourage and assist Caribbean businesses with their digital transformation and sharing in their success stories. Click here to learn more about Taneallea Feddis.

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