It’s a sad truth: the love of travel does not equate to success in the travel industry. Just being passionate about traveling does not mean that you are going to have a successful travel business. A hobby maybe, but not anything that will allow you to live the laptop lifestyle so many people want. Hobbyists in the travel industry are plentiful. And they do sell travel and make some money, but not enough to make it a full-time job that will support them.
So, whether you are a hobbyist now or just exploring jumping into the travel industry, you need to know the right way to get into the business. 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 in turn.
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 offer and who can benefit from that expertise. And these are also the people who are willing to pay you a professional fee.
They Have a Business Plan
You don’t need a business degree to create a business plan, but it is critically important to have a guiding document that helps you make business decisions. Successful travel entrepreneurs understand that and have some sort of written plan for their business. They put thought into what goals they want to achieve and how they are going to get there.
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. Keeping your head in the sand concerning your numbers is a sure sign of a hobbyist.
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, right?”) and then they find out that isn’t significant enough to support a business. They jump into social media posting every amazing vendor special they find and wonder why their business doesn’t grow. Successful agents know they should be marketing themselves, not vendors and destinations, and they learn how to do that.
They Surround Themselves with Successful People
Successful people surround themselves with people who 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. One of the biggest mistakes new people can make is to go out on their own. First of all, you are going to make less money. But most importantly, you aren’t going to have a network to help you be successful.
A lot of this comes back to trying to operate a business as an employee. If you are so busy working “in” the business, you often don’t have time to work “on” the business. And that’s your responsibility. If you are going to be an independent agent, you have to set the course and create the plan. Success doesn’t happen by accident.