I get it. For the budding travel entrepreneur, the turn-key website offered by many host agencies and franchises can seem very tempting. Within just a few moments and very little investment (like $50), you can have a website up and running that has lots of fancy bells and whistles. Show your friends and family, and they will be impressed with the legit-ness of it and might even take your business seriously.BUT, as a travel business coach and mentor, I can tell you that these turn-key websites are short term solutions and do NOT, I repeat, do NOT serve your business in the long run. So, yes, I recommend a custom designed website even for the brand new travel expert. Your custom designed website should articulate your core, compelling message and establish you as an expert at whatever you claim to be an expert. Why? Let’s back up a little. There has never been a better time to make great money selling travel. So, the entrepreneurial opportunity is there for sure. But one of the critical keys to your success in business selling travel is establishing yourself as an expert, NOT an agent. What’s the difference? An agent is an order taker. A booker. An expert has wisdom, an opinion and connections the typical traveler doesn’t have. If you fall into the trap of marketing yourself like an agent, you will be perceived as an agent (that is, travel agent). There is no demand for the old fashioned travel agent and you cannot compete with the ease and speed of the online booking engines. The online booking engines are what fill the demand for agent-type services. But have a look at TripAdvisor.com and you will see there is enormous demand for expertise and opinions in the travel realm. This is where you can make money such that you have an ongoing business. So if you want your prospects to perceive you as an expert, not an agent, and you want to respond to the demand for travel expertise, you must marketing like one.The turn-key websites offered by many host agencies and franchises make you look like an agent. There is not 1 iota of travel expert-ness found in these sites. So anyone who looks at your turn-key site is going to think you are a travel agent and will reach out when they want an order taker. That’s likely to be never. They have better options … like the online booking engines. Here are 3 tips to establishing yourself as an expert on your custom designed website:

  1. Lead with valuable information, NOT product information (i.e. tips and advice)
  2. “Sell the hole, not the drill” - a man walks into the hardware store because he wants to create a ¼ inch hole, not because he wants a ¼ inch drill.
  3. Share your story instead of your credentials. Most travelers don’t even know what CLIA or ASTA or Virtuoso are. They will do business with people they know, like and trust and when you share your story with everyone, know, like and trust develop.

The turn-key websites provided by host agencies and franchises do more harm than good when it comes to establishing yourself as an expert. Most of the dynamic content that gets automatically updated by your host or franchise is product based...not opinion or wisdom based. If it has a booking engine, this reinforces the perception that you are an order taker (which is the other end of the spectrum from expert). And there is no way to deliver a clear, compelling message about your expertise from the home page. A viewers first impression is that the business owner behind this website is a general travel agent. “When you try to speak to everyone, you speak to no one.”It doesn’t have to cost a fortune for you to get a custom designed, starter website. Think about it as your online brochure and don’t worry about attracting online traffic to your site until much further into your entrepreneurial journey.If you want to get more information on how to create a custom designed website that establishes you as a travel expert or on marketing yourself as an expert, then check out GTN's Travel MBA program here.