How to Start a Travel Agency [Infographic]
Launching your own travel business is an exciting endeavor, which entails a thorough preparation. You have to undergo a number of steps to meet legal requirements for the operation of travel agencies.
You will also need to set up your business entity and take care of a number of other administrative formalities. Finding the most suitable location for your office, as well as devising a solid business plan are also steps that you shouldn’t overlook.
Below you can find the basics steps on how to start a travel agency and create the foundations for a winning business. Don’t miss out our infographic as well, which will guide you through the process in easy visual steps.
#1. Pick a niche and create a business plan
The success of most businesses today is tightly linked with good initial research and planning. This holds true for travel agencies as well. The best approach to launching a new company in the field is to find a niche that is either not overpopulated with competitors, or that holds solid potential for development. It’s also helpful to be specialized since this will make your branding and partnership building easier.
The next step once you’ve settled which niche you’re going for is the Holy Grail of every startup: your business plan. This is a founding document that you should take the time to create in-depth, as it will help you determine your strategy and goals. You can check out some examples here. If you need help with the first steps in setting up your travel business, you can get training and certification at professional associations such as the American Society of Travel Agents, the International Airline Transport Association and The Travel Institute.
#2. Create your business entity
The first step to this administrative step requires creativity and ingenuity: coming up with your travel agency’s name. It’s important for your brand positioning and public visibility.
Once you’ve decided it, it’s time to make it official. You have to select the most appropriate business structure for your travel business, choosing among sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability corporation, and corporation. Your choice should depend on factors such as pricing, personal liability involved, tax scrutiny, and startup effort.
It’s also a good idea to get a federal Employee Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS right away. Even if it’s not required of you, you may find it useful in a number of business situations.
#3. Choose a good office location
Most travel agencies opt in to have a physical location, although in many places you can launch also a business from home that you can conduct online and via phone. Having an office can and often does bring more customers simply because they can stop by on the street and notice your brand. If you’re also considering expansion and hiring employees, it is also necessary to have the space for them. As with most similar businesses, the best approach is to choose a spot that is central and visible.
#4. Get acquainted with the licensing requirements
A number of states require travel agents to undergo a licensing process that ensures their suitability for the job. These include California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. Licensing authorities impose specific criteria that applicants have to fulfill and also collect relevant data about the owners and company.
#5. Obtain a travel agency bond
Among the licensing criteria that you may have to comply with is obtaining a seller of travel surety bond. In some of the states that require licensing you will need to provide a seller of travel bond as a part of the process. Such is the case in California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Virginia and Washington, among others. The surety bond serves as an additional layer of protection for the authorities issuing the license, as well as for your customers. Bonded travel agents are also considered safer to work with, both by partners and clients.
The typical bond amounts for travel agencies are between $5,000 and $30,000. Getting bonded entails covering a small percentage of the required sum, often between 1% and 5%, set on the basis of your personal and business financials’ strength. Among the licensing criteria that you may have to comply with is obtaining a seller of travel surety bond.
#6. Devise a partnership plan
While ensuring you comply with all federal and state legal requirements, you also need to think about the first business steps. Typically, for new travel agencies, this means joining an established host agency. This would provide you with the support and resources necessary for growth. The arrangements usually include a percentage or a transaction fee that you forward to the host agency in return for being under its umbrella. You also will need to establish various other partnerships with transportation providers and other travel companies.
#7. Launch a marketing strategy
Being a travel agent requires handling a ton of priorities, and marketing should definitely be one of them. Depending on your business plan, location and niche, your marketing strategy will likely include outreach in local newspapers and magazines, distributing leaflets, and promoting your brand on social media.
Do you have further questions about the licensing and bonding requirements for travel agents in the U.S.? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts who can help you out. Just call us at 877.514.5146.
How to Start a Travel Agency Infographic