Working in the travel industry is exciting and rewarding in so many ways, but there’s more to it than simply booking a vacation and getting paid. Travel agents need training, software to keep them organized, platforms to streamline business systems, and a list of other things. It can be overwhelming, but we’re here to give you the basics of the tools travel agents need to start their businesses.
Have you been thinking about becoming a travel agent? Want to know what it takes just to get up and running? Here are 10 travel essentials you’ll need to begin the business journey of a lifetime.
Itinerary management tools
1. Every travel agent needs a reliable itinerary management tool to keep track of clients’ travels and streamline their travel business operations.
Itinerary management software is essential for keeping travel agents organized and informed. Our preferred itinerary management tool is Travefy, which is $39 per month or included with membership to your host agency.
Travefy streamlines your travel planning and makes your client experience smoother with simple itinerary management, automated quotes and proposals, and more. With this industry-leading software, you can easily process credit cards for clients, create custom forms tailored to your business, and even create your own profile in their database to attract new leads.
CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM)
2. A quality customer relationship management system to manage commissions is something every aspiring agent should have.
Investing in a customer relationship management system will save you time, and headaches. All of your clients’ information (bookings, commissions, etc.) will be in one spot and easier to keep track of. You’ll be able to stay on top of payments, view current and upcoming trips at a glance, have automated reminders, and quickly access summary reports of your earnings to be paid.
Our preferred CRM tool is travel industry-specific software VacationCRM, because it’s easy to use and is made for modern travel agents. Too many CRM platforms can’t keep up with the times – they don’t integrate with your other tools, grow with your business, or allow you flexibility, so choosing the right tool is essential.
Relationships with suppliers
3. New travel agents will need to establish networking relationships with suppliers and vendors.
As a new agent, you will work with suppliers and vendors in order to book your clients’ trips. You need to make sure the ones you work with are trusted around the industry and also cater to your specific niche. Taking time to properly find and qualify your suppliers and vendors is worth having the peace of mind that your clients’ trips are in good hands. If you can find a listed network of suppliers and vendors instead of searching for them one by one, even better.
Supplier and software training and support
4. After finding suitable suppliers and vendors, you will also need training (both initial and ongoing) to use their products and services.
Learning where to find your suppliers and vendors is the “easy” part. Learning how to use their systems and take advantage of their benefits can be a whole different ball game. You’ll have a lot of questions, and having answers to those questions will be vital in moving forward quickly. Be sure you choose to work with entities that offer exceptional customer care and tech support – as well as training for any new services or updates that come out. This will keep you ahead of the game.
Insurance for travel agents
5. All new travel business owners will want to secure Errors & Omissions insurance before making any sales.
As an agent, you do not want to be responsible for freak accidents or any kind of incident that is beyond your control. Unfortunately, vacations can go awry, and if a client gets attacked during a trip, for instance, E&O insurance can help ensure you don’t get sued for booking in an area that is deemed unsafe. Having legal protection in place can serve you well.
A professional website
6. Potential clients want to know how legit you are and want to be able to find you easily.
A good website can mean the difference between an “okay” client and an “ideal” client. Clients want to know more about you, what kind of travel packages you offer, how to acquire your services, and ultimately, what your “why” is. You need a professional, informative website that will entice your clients to book with you again and again.
Travel industry training
7. It can be a bit frightening to put yourself out there, especially if you’re unsure of what exactly you should be doing.
With all of the different hats travel agents wear, it can be intimidating to offer your services. To feel confident in your abilities, you need actual education on how to be an agent. Knowing how to book cruises, negotiate prices, and even make different accommodations for large groups can make those first sales a lot less stressful, so be sure to do your homework.
8. Travel clients are looking for travel agents with the credentials to back up their claims.
On top of basic education, clients want a professional with some standing. An International Air Transport Association (IATA/IATAN) card means you are affiliated with some of the world’s top airlines and understand the ins and outs of tourism and travel. The IATA card is the industry-standard credential that sets bona fide travel professionals apart from amateurs – and can mean savings for those who choose to use you as their travel advisor. Make sure you have this qualification attached to your name and business if you’re not registered with a host agency. If you’re researching host agencies, look into what credentials they have to choose the best travel host agency for you.
9. Without the proper marketing techniques and tools, agents are not set up for success.
Before you can officially start booking your clients, you’ll have to know how to reach them. Once you know where to get leads, you will need to know how to use social media to build an audience (and keep their attention) and figure out the “sweet spot” for giving them just the right amount of information at the right, regular time. Consistent marketing will give your clients something to not only expect but look forward to, so be prepared.
Our favorite marketing tool is Wanderlust Social, a platform that sells ready-made content for travel agents grouped by destination and specialty. They also offer marketing calenders, hashtag support, trainings, and more.
A community of travel professionals
10. Every new business owner, especially a beginner travel agent, needs a good support system.
When you’re first getting started, the upward climb can be daunting. With so much to do and learn at once, you may question whether or not you’re doing it correctly (and honestly, if you even made the right decision). Having a group of like-minded individuals, both who are just now getting started as well as those who remember what it was like to be in your shoes, for advice and encouragement can help you settle in for the long haul.
Our agents connect in a members-only Facebook group to share ideas, collaborate, and refer clients to agents whose specialties are a good fit. Remember, just because you’re in business alone doesn’t mean you need to be in business alone! Learn about starting your travel business with a host agency to see how to get a support system from the start.
If you don’t want to chance it alone, Pickles Travel Network is here to help you every step of the way.
As an up-and-coming agent in the travel industry, you will have many loose ends to tie. Having the resources needed to make sure you stay the course for years to come is what every agent needs. A great network of suppliers, a solid support system, and access to education, marketing, and training, are necessary to make sure your business journey starts out on the right foot. Learn more about the tools we offer to our agents and recommend here.