The more technology becomes interwoven into our daily lives, the more types of work shift to home. One of those options is travel planning. The internet has made it a lot easier for people to book their own flights and hotels. However, all the different options can become overwhelming, so a lot of people prefer to have someone do it for them. Here’s what you need to know to work from home as a travel agent.
Regulations for travel agents vary by locale. Some places require certification and registration, some require one but not the other, and some require neither. Regardless of the requirements where you live, you’ll be taken more seriously by vendors if you get certified.
Learn the business
You have several options for learning the ropes and gaining certification. Many community colleges and continuing education programs offer training for people interested in the travel industry. Professional agencies offer another option. The American Society of Travel Agents, for example, offers its members an online library, webinars, and other resources. Many travel agencies offer their own training for new agents. In addition, there are quite a few independent online learning centers dedicated to developing the next generation of travel agents.
Find a host agency
While you can certainly set yourself up as an independent business, most beginning travel agents work through a host agency. One of the benefits of signing up with a host agency is gaining access to their reservation systems, which can drastically reduce your start-up costs. You can also use the host agency’s booking number/identification, so that vendors will see you as the umbrella agency rather than one of several thousand individual agents. And that offers one benefit right off the bat: higher commissions. Most vendors offer higher commissions as you send more business their way, so there is definitely strength in numbers! You may also be covered by your host agency’s insurance, or, at least, have the opportunity to purchase insurance through the agency.
There are hundreds of agencies out there, and only you will be able to tell which one is the best fit. However, be sure you look at the fee structure. With most host agencies, it’s free to join, but you split every commission. Others demand an up-front fee, but you get to keep all of your commissions. And it’s not just the structure that varies; so do the actual dollar amounts. Start with a site like Host Agency Reviews, which gives you the scoop and a rating on dozens of agencies.
Find your niche
The most successful home-based travel agents specialize in a certain niche, like cruises, ecotourism, luxury, resorts, etc. For one thing, you can earn higher commissions when you specialize. Instead of earning a 10% commission from a dozen vendors, you could earn 20% from three or four vendors, as most increase commissions on a sliding scale. Why spread your sales around when you can earn more by working with just a few vendors?
Specializing also has the benefit of experience and authority. As you build a reputation for expertise in a certain niche, you’ll naturally have more clients clamoring for your help.
Have you considered working as a home-based travel agent? If so, are you pursuing it? Why or why not? Comment below to share your experience.