how to become an travel agent from home

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how to become an travel agent from home

How to Become a Travel Agent from Home in 3 Steps

If you have experience in the travel industry, then you’re at a great advantage, however even if you’re just starting, becoming your own agency breaks down to five crucial steps:

1. Find Your Grove

Customers look to independent travel agents for individualized customer service and niche expertise they can’t get from a corporate agency. Although you may have experience with cruise lines, scuba trips, honeymoons, and adventure trips, you need to choose the types of travel experiences you’re most familiar with and focus on them.

Once you know what your preferred niche is, you need to learn everything there is to know about it. This could mean being an expert in a specific destination—in its local customs, cultures, languages, and tourist attractions—or being an expert in a particular type of vacation.

In today’s travel environment, we usually see the best results when independent agents combine different travel specialties to create a niche. For instance, combining scuba and cruise ship trips, or adventures and honeymoons.

Whatever your combined niche is, your clients will expect you to have answers for all of their questions, so be prepared to deliver.

The key to thriving as a home-based travel agent is knowing what your clients want and being able to deliver before they have to ask for it. Focusing on your niche allows you to deeply understand your clients and create a personal brand that speaks to their needs.

Young, adventure-minded travelers, for instance, will respond to edgy, exciting brand messaging. Retired veterans, on the other hand, demand different treatment—you must know your client.

As a home-based travel agent, you are directly responsible for your income. If you haven’t brushed up on your sales skills, you may want to. Travel Quest World, EDGE, and regional travel conferences can help you create a solid foundation for your future.

Not only must you make sales without the large corporate team backing you up, but you also have to tend to the needs of a more demanding customer base—people willing to pay extra for premium service.

2. Consider a Host Agency

Independent travel agents still need to use state-of-the-art technology to manage their customer relationships, make timely bookings, and track commissions accurately.

You still need a top-shelf insurance policy to handle potential liabilities. Partnering with a host agency gives you access to these important tools and benefits.

This is a secret that large corporate travel agencies don’t want you to know. The truth is that becoming an independent travel agent doesn’t mean you’re completely on your own. The key to starting a successful travel agency while working from home is choosing the right host agency to collaborate with.

The travel industry has evolved. Home-based independent travel agents are becoming the new norm because much of the time-consuming legwork that goes into making travel plans for clients can be streamlined and scaled using new technology.

The same Internet that enables travelers to book their own flights and make their own travel arrangements also makes travel agents’ jobs easier. And although it may seem counterintuitive, the hyper-connected Millennial generation actually relies on travel agencies more than previous generations do.

This means that independent agents will spend less time typing code into a Global Distribution System (GDS) and more time talking to clients about exciting opportunities off-the-beaten-path. In fact, one in three leisure travel agents and one in five corporate travel agents prefer using the Internet to using a GDS.

But there are still certain things you need to assure your new career as an independent travel agent is a successful one. Host agencies lay the groundwork for you to showcase your expertise and deliver value to travelers while retaining 100% ownership of your travel brand.

3. What to Look For in a Host Agency

Not many people will tell you that when you learn how to become an independent travel agent, what you’re really learning is how to become your own sales team, your own customer support service, your own commission manager, and your own marketing expert.

That’s where having access to the powerful, intuitive tools host agencies make available becomes useful.

Some of these tools include:

  • Web Development and Design. Having a state-of-the-art website is an absolute necessity for today’s independent travel agents. Potential clients will be browsing your website to determine how professional and trustworthy you are. Host agencies can provide you with destination-specific content, booking engines, and special trip information that boosts your online presence significantly.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software. You can’t run your own home-based travel agency on Microsoft Excel. A professional host agency will provide you with a customized CRM solution that enables powerful, intuitive management of client profiles according to a variety of unique, indexed factors.
  • Commission Management and Accounting Tools. Independent travel agents need 24/7 access to an accounting platform that shows open invoices, close invoices, unpaid commissions, and more. Customized reporting lets you be your own accountant and stay on top of your financial situation with ease and accuracy.
  • Travel Agent Networking. When you work in a niche, your competition isn’t so competitive anymore. Through your host agency, you can connect with other independent travel agents to cooperate, share contacts, and forge new relationships.

travel agent salary

How much do travel agents make? Corporate employees & travel managers only.

When it comes to corporate travel agent employees, it’s difficult to find concrete data. ZipRecruiter (which operates outside the travel industry) reported as of Aug. 2020 the average virtual corporate travel agent (employee) salary ranges from $13,000 to $398,000, with an average salary of $77,242.2 I’ll tell you right now that you will definitely NOT make $398,000 as a corporate travel advisor. 🙂

Take the ZipRecruiter reports with a strong grain of salt. We’ve seen the ZipRecruiter’s numbers swing wildly. In August 2018, ZipRecruiter stated that the average virtual corporate travel agent (employee) salary ranges from $12,500-$100,500 registering an average of $47,877 annually. Pretty big difference from what was stated in 2020.3 ZipRecruiter does not specify between different pay tiers for corporate travel agents based on title or experience.

Do you have interest in becoming a Corporate Travel Agent? You can sink your teeth into a few juicy tidbits of info here: 

  1. Breaking in to corporate travel
  2. Our podcast interview with corporate agent Karen Hurlbut:

Looking ahead on the corporate travel agent career trajectory, Travel Manager/Supervisory positions start with a much higher baseline for corporate employees. Business Travel News (BTN) issued a detailed 2020 study among Travel Managers/Supervisors working for corporate entities (not travel agents/agencies)4The overall average salary for corporate travel manager/supervisor positions registered at $114,955.

BTN’s Salary Survey also gives a good feel for the salary you could expect as an in-house travel coordinator/analyst/buyer at an organization. The average salary for a corporate travel advisor in BTN’s 2019 report was $69,799.

How much do travel agents make? Home based.

The previous sections focused on employee travel agents. But what about the hosted travel agents (use another agency’s accreditation) and independent travel agents (have their own accreditation), who are by and large home based?

The Travel Institute study indicates a sea change when it comes to independent contractor travel agents (ICs). In their earlier 2008 study, ICs made up 29% of the respondents while employees made up 71%. But these numbers flip flopped in their 2018 study, where 62% were ICs and only 38% employees. 

Considering the growth of hosted agents and their impact of the industry at large, there cannot be a complete picture of travel agent income without mentioning this demographic.

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