One good way to make money as someone who love to travel or travel related activities is to start your own online travel agency business.
Despite the fact that it is quite easy and takes just few clicks to book flights online many people still prefer to use agents. As one running an online travel agency business your services will not be restricted to just flight bookings. You will also be required to reserve hotels, arrange for business trips and picnics for clients going on vacations. If you are smart and online savvy running an online travel agency business might become a very profitable venture for you.
Let me also explain that online travel agency business does not require much capital to start. And you can even start it from home just with your mobile phone and internet service. So if you are considering starting an online travel agency business here is a good guide that shows you all you need to know.
KEY STATS WHY ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCY BUSINESS IS WORTH IT
1. The tourism industry is worth approximately $1.2 trillion
2. An estimated $817 billion worth of online bookings in 2020 (this represents 68% of the total market share of the tourism sector).
3. An estimate of 700 million people will make a hotel booking online by 2023
4. 83% of US adults want to make their travel booking online
5. 82% of all travel bookings around the world took place without human interaction in 2018
6. On the average over 148 million travel bookings take place each year annually
7. 70% of all customers do their research on a smartphone
8. The current growth rate of the online travel sales market is 15.4%, and online hotel bookings is 10.3%.
9. Online digital travel sales in 2019 are worth a massive $755 billion worldwide
10. Millennials prefer to book hotels via travel agencies even though 52% of them browse the hotel’s website for more information.
WHY DO TRAVELERS PREFER TO USE TRAVEL AGENCY?
You may ask: why do people prefer to use online travel agencies rather than book the flights themselves? Why will online travel agency business get enough customers when people can simply use search engines? Well, there are many benefits of using an online travel agency. Here are some of the benefits.
It saves time
It can be quite time consuming searching different sites and comparing rates and products offering. But these online travel agencies have it as their job. They know the rates for almost all the airlines,the hotels and recreation spots in various cities around the world. Some of them even know when there are changes in prices and product offering. So, instead of waste 6 precious hours of your time searching for the cheapest flight, you can easily hire an online travel agency company and be sure.
Access to free expert advice
Especially when you are travelling to a new destination for the first time I will advise you go for one of the best online travel agency. Some of them offer free expert advice on not just the choice of flight but also on the travel routes and even your destination. From them you can get to know what is obtainable and what is allowed or otherwise in the place you are travelling to. This is one benefit you can never quantify the value in dollars.
Freedom to pay in installments for your travels
Some travel agents can offer to plan your trip all through. And by establishing some sort of relationship or agreement you may be allowed to pay for your travel expense in installments. With this arrangement you can start planning your summer holidays some months ahead. And this will make the payment not so burdensome.
It is cheaper on the long run
Of course the online travel agency business is in business and they add their charges or processing fees. With that knowledge some persons will automatically see it as paying more. But that is not true. Insisting on making bookings by yourself can sometimes lead to ‘penny wise pounds foolish’. The mistakes you may make booking by yourself might just be too expensive.
They offer insurance
With an online travel agency you can have a guarantee that the hotel you are reserving is available. They will also know if the excursion company you want to use is legitimate. In fact it is almost impossible for an online travel agency business to be duped. Some of them go as far as providing insurance for medical emergencies and trip cancellations.
You get some extra
With an online travel agency you can sometimes get more than you expected for the same price. In fact this happens from time to time. advisors this happens all the time. The cruise industry is a perfect example of very large inventories that fluctuate in supply and demand each week, with a large audience of repeat customers who cruise again and again for years. The cruise lines do not want to lose the loyalty of those customers – or the agents who steer hundreds of them each year to particular brands. Yet it basically costs the line no more to have you stay in an executive suite than a basic room if that suite is available. But who gets to know of these benefits? The travel agents. So professional online travel agencies who specialize in cruises easily get their clients such upgrade at no extra cost.
It even happens with airlines. Sometimes you can get to pay for economy but fly with business class. It is nearly impossible to know or get this by yourself. But with a sincere and knowledgeable online travel agency it is a business you won’t regret.
STEP BY STEP APPROACH TO START ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCY BUSINESS?
The steps in starting a travel agency in US is not too different from doing so in Nigeria. It is perhaps just a difference of the authorities to register with. And I will explain all that below.
1. Get a laptop or smart phone and internet connection
This is obvious. You are building an online business. So you need a laptop or a smart phone. You certainly need a reliable internet service because everything about your business is done online.
2. Find a travel agency niche you wish to focus on
Do you prefer to focus on finding destinations for clients? Is it just booking flights? Will you arrange travel packages? Will your service cover visa applications? You need to be clear on this and also get all the knowledge you need for each niche you choose.
3. Choose your travel agency name
Whether you want to go for a travel host, a franchise or your own brand you still need to define the name you should be known with. The vendors and customers alike will need it. Though I always advise people not to overthink this, but the niche you want to focus on may be a good guide on this.
4. Create a business plan for your online travel agency business
Is it possible to start any sort of business that will go far without a business plan in this 21st century? In my opinion the chances of success will be slim. The competition out there is heavy. The challenges abound. If people that take their time to plan are failing in business, what about one that want to start with any form of planning? I don’t recommend you start without a plan no matter how simple it may be.
5. Register your online travel agency business with the required authority.
This is a very important step if you want people to take your business serious. Along with a website this gives your business the look of legitimacy. It is your choice to decide on the type of business structure you want to have. Basically a business name should surfice for sole proprietors. However as the business grows and you are getting more bookings you have to upgrade to LLC which gives you more personal liability protection.
6. Set up your business website and official email and phone number
This is an online travel agency business – keyword ‘online’. So you definitely need a website that is easily accessible and user friendly.
But you can also build the website yourself. And if you choose that you do not need to worry if you don’t have extensive knowledge of web development. Simply go to Bluehost, Rhemahost, Whogohost or Namecheap and get an easy to rank domain name. Rhemahost and Bluehost also offers fantastic hosting. You can even use a sub domain if you already have another website.
Then use WordPress to build a smart website and get an official email address for the business.WordPress also have some very responsive themes that are free. I have a very resourceful material that can help you learn how to design a professional website from scratch to finish even if you are a novice. You can access it here for free.
Once you are done integrating them, you can install the necessary plugins and begin tweaking it to meet your need. Some of the basic features your choice of travel booking plugin must have are:
- Booking email notification
- Activity page
- Translation Ready
- Smart Travel Booking Process
- Booking Details
- Inquiry Form
- Itinerary Builder
- Travel Packages
- Multiple Payment Integration
Don’t forget to have a dedicated phone number through which customers can reach you for questions or when they have issues.
6. Apply and get FEIN
FEIN means Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) sometimes referred to as Federal Tax Identification Number is like a social security number for your company if you are operating in US . It’s a number to identify your business. This is NOT compulsory if you’re a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC with no employees. This is because you can use your social security number to file for taxes.
However, I recommend you have it so that you don’t have to give out your social security number if I don’t have to. Moreover if you get FEIN now you can upgrade to LLC tomorrow and not have to bother about that again. What more? Getting FEIN is free of charge, and takes just a few minutes so why will you not want to do it and be ready from the word go?
If you are registering your business in Nigeria similar to FEIN is Tax Identification Number (TIN). Once again, it is not compulsory, but I recommend you apply and get it. You will know how important it is when you want to open a corporate account. And you don’t want to use your personal bank account to carry out business transactions. Of course even in US you still have to get TIN.
7. Set up your online travel agency business financials
Just as I explained above, it is not a good idea to use your personal bank account for business transactions. It is always advisable to separate your personal money from your business money. So having a separate bank account for all financial transactions in the business will be a good idea. Also ensure that you have a good records or all income and expenditure as it affects the business. This will help you enable you easily determine the performance of the business per time.
8. Start designing and selling travel packages
Get the rates for air tickets, hotel bookings, airport pickups and start serving your clients. Of course you need to on board as many vendors as possible to ensure that whatever the need of your clients maybe, you are likely to have it.
HOW DOES THE US ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCY BUSINESS WORK?
As explained in the previous section an Online Travel Agency Business is all about helping customers make easy bookings. Whether it is flights, hotel accommodation or cab services the agency knows the best way to go about it. The agency provides expert advice that can save the customer three key things: time. money and stress.
To run a successful online travel agency business in the United States, you need to be ready to comply with the applicable rules as outlined above. America has zero tolerance for breach of rule and regulations even if it involves small businesses. But the good news is that once the business complies with the applicable rules it will receive a lot of government support.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO START ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCY BUSINESS?
I know this is one burning question you are probably asking in your mind. Except of course you are an Elon Musk and just looking for another industry to disrupt in which case money is the last thing you consider. But I guess you may not be since you are here reading this. For that reason I am not going to end this piece without addressing it.
So the cost of starting a travel agency depends on a lot of factors. These factors include your level of experience, your location and whether you are setting up a home-based travel agency or leasing an office space.
If you already have a workable device and the required skills, you can easily launch your online travel agency business with as little as for only $200. This will be spent basically on your registration, purchase of domain name and hosting. But if you are starting from scratch where you will have to hire software developers and pay for almost every other thing then get ready to spend as much as$ 20,000 to $50,000. To get affordable software developers it is best to check developers from Eastern Europe, Latin America or Asia. On the alternative, any of the freelance platforms like UPwork or Freelancer.com can be a bargain.
The best place to hire developers of travel agency software is from Eastern Europe, Latin America or South Asia. This is because software developers in these regions are more affordable.
HOW DO ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCY BUSINESS MAKE MONEY?
Another question you are probably asking is how an online travel agency business can make money? Well, there are a couple of ways they make money. Some of them are obvious while others are not. Here is a non-exhaustive list on how an online travel agency business can make money:
1. Service fees for booking flights, hotels etc
2. Consultation fee for travel advisory
3. Cruise incentives
4. Commissions on flight bookings or hotel reservations – not quite any longer though
5. Commission on travel insurance
6. By organising tours for travellers and fun seekers
So if you are planning of starting your own online travel agency business you can consider any of the above as your options for revenue generation.
HOW MUCH CAN YOU MAKE RUNNING ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCY BUSINESS?
Running an online travel agency business in America is one very profitable venture one can engage in. However, the amount you make will depend on your service offering, quality of clients, marketing budget and geographical location.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average annual income for independent travel agents as at 2021 is nearly $49,000. It is however possible to make more than this depending on how big your client base becomes. And on the other hand if you don’t put in the work, you may struggle to make anything near that amount.
COMMON CHALLENGES WITH ONLINE TRAVEL AGENCY BUSINESS
1. Building and Maintaining the Credibility of Online Presence
2. Setting and maintaining a very high standard
3. Maintaining a fast response time to queries
4. Maintaining ease of booking procedure
5. Accurate financial management
6. Avoiding duplicate data entries
7. Maintaining cash flow and keeping it positive