I knew from the beginning I wanted to gather up friends and do unusual trips when I decided on travel as a new career path.
From the start, I also knew that I did not want to be your typical inside agent. I’m not one to be waiting by the phone. I wanted to create cool trips based on things I myself enjoy. I wanted to go on the trips I planned. My focus would be on plotting Foodie trips, hitting Wine and Beer trails, and combine them with Pop Culture and Iconic Destinations. I wanted to do Doctor Who tours in the UK, and visit the places I’ve seen in movies and TV. .
First things first, though. I had to figure out HOW to begin.
How does one become a travel agent?
Becoming a travel agent in this day and age is an interesting process. Yes, there are still physical schools out there…somewhere. For the most part, you have to want to learn on your own. Most travel suppliers like the Cruise Lines and Tour companies have their own training. Unfortunately, you need one of several known travel affiliations to enroll. Thankfully there are a number of “Host Agencies” to help you get your foot in the door. A host agency helps beginners learn the basics to set up a business, and offer agent development programs and mentorships. For both beginners and for seasoned agents, host agencies offer back office help, and a network of other agents to share knowledge, confer with, and bounce ideas off, as well as the ability to earn higher commissions with more of the top suppliers. Host agencies can use their sales leverage to get educational perks and marketing help. They give you insight into which suppliers best suit your needs, and help you access supplier training resources. Through these various programs you will learn geography, history, world culture, and good, solid sales practices.
Host agencies generally charge a monthly or yearly fee and then keep a percentage of the commission based on sales production. IMHO, working with a host agency is the best way to get into the business. Most host agencies charge a fee for their services, training, and web applications. The host agency I use, Outside Agents, does not charge a basic monthly fee or have any time commitment. Instead, they offer a menu of products and tools that to pick and choose from for your particular agency.
As an absolute beginner, I started with KHM Travel which has a really good new agent program. KHM is very much a family and offer great training opportunities. Finding a host who offers education and support is the best foundation for your success as an independent travel agent.
On the flipside, I spent a little time with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers, which appeared to have all the amazing bells and whistles. However, personally, I would not recommend them. Their fees are higher and they’re rather proprietary so you could lose your client base if you are not careful. Unless you are considering a franchise, I would steer clear.
Regardless which host you choose, as in any sales oriented career, the more you produce, the higher the percentage of commission you keep.
Branding and Business Tools.
…to be continued.