If a love of travel was the only requirement to be successful in as a travel agent, the industry would look a lot differently. The reality is that this is a business just like any other. The product is cooler and a lot more fun, but it is still a business and you have to operate it like one.
Over the past 18 years I have seen people enter the industry and be wildly successful and others struggle. I wondered why some very quickly find success and others seem to hit every roadblock imaginable. After evaluating dozens of travel professionals I’ve identified 6 traits of successful travel entrepreneurs:
- They understand their own value
- They have a business plan
- They focus on the numbers
- They get business education, not just travel industry training
- They have a great marketing system
- They surround themselves with successful people
Let’s look at each of these one at a time.
They Understand Their Own Value
The reality is that you cannot compete with large online travel agencies (OTAs) on price and you shouldn’t. But many agents do. Why? Because they don’t understand what value they offer clients. They think getting a client the best price is the best way they can be of service. Successful travel agents know that not only is price not the most important consideration, it shouldn’t be the foundation for their business. Instead, they are very clear about what value they can offer clients and who those clients are.
They Have a Business Plan
Every business needs a plan on how to move forward. What is the goal for your business? How are you going to get there? You need a guiding document that helps you make business decisions. It helps guide your decisions so you don’t go off on (too many) tangents.
They Focus on the Numbers
Just because you are booking travel doesn’t mean you are making money. You have to look at the vendor’s commission rate and yield (different things), your commission split with your host agency, and your fixed costs in order to get to the actual numbers. You don’t have to become numbers-obsessed to be successful, but if it makes the difference between making enough money to do this full-time and continue as a side hustle, then you owe it to yourself to dig into the financials on a regular basis.
They Get Business Education, not Just Travel Industry Training
Perhaps it is the abundance of training about travel products and destinations, but many travel agents take lots of vendor courses and destination training and feel like they are learning what they need to know to run a successful travel business. But you can know everything about everywhere and if you have no prospective clients to send there, it does you no good! You need business education too! Marketing, social media training, and even financial training are all important. This is a business and not a hobby, and you need to run it like one.
They Have a Great Marketing System
Marketing is at the heart of launching and growing a successful travel business. Many people jump into travel thinking it will grow organically (“all my friends and family will book their travel with me”) and then they realize that isn’t significant enough to support a business. So they jump into social media by posting every amazing vendor special they find and wonder why their business does grow. Successful agents know that they should be marketing themselves, not vendors and destinations, and they learn how to do that.
They Surround Themselves with Successful People
Successful people know they should be surrounded by people who help nurture their success. For travel professionals that means they need a host agency that supports their vision of their business and colleagues they can learn from. It’s so important to have a community to learn from and be inspired by.
The great news is that every single item on this list is can be learned and improved upon. You can course correct at any point on your journey. Just don’t attempt to do it all at one time!