How to start an Online Travel Agency in 2017 (a step-by-step guide)

You are reading this because either you like to travel and wanted to become a travel agent or are already in the business of managing travel for your clients and wanted 36 hours in a day rather than 24 hours so that you could serve more clients. Most successful online travel agencies sell 100 times more than a travel agent can single-handedly. Their online travel agency (OTA) make more money even while they sleep.

Now, there are more than a million online travel agents and ”not all of them are successful”. I am going to tell you that it is easy to have a successful online travel agency if you follow some steps I have outlined in this article.

Step 1: Figure out what your passions are and build a specialty

There is a lot of data out there. One single search will result in millions of pages on google’s search engine. With such an information overload, it is very difficult to find what you are looking for. A few years ago, the trend was that an Online Travel Agent would sell everything, air, car and hotel around the world. The sites would take pride in saying, we sell everything on this planet, but with everybody selling everything, now you find that nobody sells anything.
The term I would now use is, not ‘become a travel agent’ but ‘become a travel consultant’. Just like you would advise your clients on the phone or by meeting them physically, figure our what your passions are. Don’t go for a specialization because you think that the specialty will make a lot of money. Go for a specialization that you are passionate about. This is called building a buyer persona.

Step 2: Figure out who needs you the most

If you are passionate about something, identify who needs you the most. This will help you identify who your target market is and get to know them intimately. Understanding this market will involve knowing where they travel, who do they travel with, how often do they travel and what would they want. This process will allow you to build your solutions around their needs and start talking their language.
A simple formula that I use to pitch to my clients is I help X to do Y so that Z. So for example ‘I help families take memorable vacations so that they can reconnect with each other and create memories for a lifetime’

Step 3: Join an affiliate marketing program

You need the negotiating power and giants like Expedia have got a good amount of negotiating leverage that you and me alone cannot bargain for. This way you are at par with the pricing. So, even if your clients go to Expedia to check, they will not find a better pricing. So assuming you have joined the Expedia Affiliate Network Program, and you have decided on a niche that you are going to build your business upon, you have won half the battle.

Step 4: Now build your Online Travel Agency around this niche

This is where it gets a little tricky. Should you build or buy? If you decide to buy there are hundreds of sellers selling travel templates and travel themes for prices starting $45 to $999. Which is the best one to buy? I’ll give you a small checklist that you can check before you invest any money in buying a travel theme.

  1. Buy a travel theme that does not need you to do any programming at your end. Needless to say that the travel template should work correctly on all devices.
  2. The inventory should auto update so that your site shows the best prices even when you are sleeping.
  3. Make sure the theme allows your visitor to complete the booking process on your website. The last thing a visitor wants is to be redirected to some other site that you don’t have any control over.
  4. Capture the visitors details so that you can remarket to the visitor and make him/her your client for life.
  5. I would recommend a WordPress travel template, as there are a lot of plugins that you can add on to the site with no programming knowledge required.
  6. Most content on the site will be auto-populated by Expedia, but it is important to build content on your site that will showcase the niche, your specialization.

Step 5: Market your brand – Marketing is not the same as Selling

Most online travel agency founders make the mistake of sending selling messages on their social media or newsletters. If you want to grow your business and sell a lot more, the question you should be asking yourself is ‘What value should I be providing to my clients?’ So, shift out from the place of getting to a place of giving. When you make this paradigm shift of giving rather than getting, you become far more magnetic. Your affiliate program is giving you all the selling content, your job is to figure out the marketing of this content. How will you convince the client that you are the only one who can deliver the value of the specialty that you have created?

Final words on ‘how to become a travel agent

Travel, an eight trillion dollar industry and the only industry that is growing at 23% every year. If you love to travel and have the passion to give, a world class experience to your clients, making money using your online travel agency is very very simple. With our platform, you have the opportunity to have a content rich booking engine complete with your logo, your URL, and Expedia’s global inventory of over 250,000 hotels at your disposal for one low price. All you need is $200 plus a great deal of enthusiasm and you will be on your way to create a legacy of your own. Do you want to build an Online Travel Agency business for less than $100?



Posted under category:
Online Travel Agency - Sep 20, 2016 07:10

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