The number of people travelling overseas has risen virtually every year since the early 1950's and, although that figure is now starting to round off, that's still many millions of people who travel overseas.
In fact, almost a hundred million Americans travel overseas each year, and that includes many who make several journeys per year, whether for business or pleasure.
Very few of these journeys are arranged direct with operators, they virtually go through travel agents. Hence tons of potential to start a travel agency business.
Yes, there are lots of travel agents in existence already, but it's generally a growth area and accepted that there is room for more.
A LUCRATIVE OPENING
Despite the fact that more and more people are travelling, it's very much a changing market. That is, very budget conscious! People are looking to travel overseas at ever lower cost. Cheaper and cheaper than the year before!
This has changed the market in that people expect cheap flights and holidays. They don't expect to pay full price. As a result, a whole market has been set up to handle cheap flights and holiday bargains. Often, these are last minute offers at 'silly', cheap prices.
If you know where to get these offers, you can promote them locally and sell them to local customers, then link them up with the suppliers. You don't buy anything yourself (so you don't need any cash), but you will get a good commission from the suppliers and satisfied customers who, hopefully, return year after year, time and time again.
HOW TO SET UP
This is a business that will thrive if you have a small office or kiosk in a town center where you can advertise the service and accept bookings. However, that can be in the future.
In the early days, this is a business that you can operate from home, but you will certainly need a telephone to take enquiries and make bookings on.
Some neat headed business notepaper will also be invaluable.
This is a business which you can operate full time during normal office hours, hence ideal for someone who has to stay at home. But it can be worked part time, in the evenings and at weekends, if you like. This is when most customers will be making their travel plans anyway.
No significant capital is required because you don't actually buy the tickets yourself. What capital is available will be spent on advertising. This should be as high as you can easily afford. It could be as little as $20, but a higher figure would produce more profitable results.
Arrange an efficient office filing system, as an efficient prompt service is a must in this business.
Before you can start selling the cheap tickets and holidays, etc, you must find where to get them from. In the trade, there are several cheap discount houses who get details of cheap tickets from airlines, holiday companies, etc, and resell them to the trade.
These companies will be pleased to deal with you, but make yourself look a reputable company. They will only deal with bona fide traders and not with private individuals.
The best way of getting in touch with one of these companies is to take a course. A couple are advertised on the internet and the national newspapers.
These courses will tell you exactly how to operate the business but, more importantly, they will reveal the special procedure to be followed to get the cheap tickets.
Make contact with a selection of suppliers so that you can get relevant information. Some send out regular bulletins, others have a telephone hotline for details of the latest cheap tickets.
ADVERTISING YOUR NEW SERVICE
With contacts made, you can set out to advertise your service. Initially, remember that you aren't setting out to compete with travel agents. There are various services that they can offer that you can't.
The accent of your service should be the cheapest possible prices. In most cases, your local travel agent can't compete with these because of his overheads, even though he can buy from the same place as you. That said, you are offering a no frills service for bargain hunters, whereas the agent serves those with more to spend.
It depends on what you want to offer. You might just offer cheap scheduled flight tickets to any country in the world. Or you might offer package tours. Or both. The commissions vary accordingly to circumstances. They can be up to 30% sometimes, whereas most tour brochures will give you a 10% commission.
In addition, you can sell hotel rooms, car hire and travel insurance etc. The commissions on these can be very high indeed.
The best way of selling is to take out advertisements in your local paper. Classified lineage advertisements will do, but just small blocks are best. The cost will be very low. Just note that you offer cheap tickets, or, perhaps give some examples, e.g. 'New York by scheduled flight, $299'.
The important thing to note is that you can't just place one advertisement and wait to be deluged with response. That won't work. You really need to place an advertisement in your local newspapers, if possible, every day, or every other day. You can work nationally, but it's better to stay local to begin with.
Remember that you will be building up regular custom. So, although advertising costs may be high in the beginning, they have to reduce in the future as people come back to you as regular customers.
OPERATING THE SERVICE
Give your advertisements a couple of weeks to start bringing in a good response. Then you should get people ringing you with enquiries for the full details of your service. When you get a customer, get details of where they want to go, when they would like to travel, and how many people a booking is required for.
The next step is to ring round your contacts and match things up to provide the service. With luck, you'll find something that fits their exact requirements. However, it should be noted that some cheap tickets are restricted to certain times - often the unpopular ones. So, if the exact date is not available, take some alternatives.
Then go back to your customer and make agreements. If they have to alter their plans, you can usually convince them that it's worth it, as the savings are large.
When you agree on a booking, collect payment from the customer, then order from the agent. The tickets will be sent on to you for passing on to the customer.
One good thing is that the agents probably won't expect to be paid by you for at least a month, so you can keep the client's money in your bank account until you have to pay the agent. This adds extra profit!
Basically, the service is as simple as that, but you do need a flair for organisation. If you make mistakes, it can be costly and you'll lose customers.
To expand, go back to your customers and get regular trade. Most travel agents don't do this. But if, for example, you had a family of four booking a package holiday once every year, that's a good regular income at a total cost of $3,000.
When you are established, you could probably set up as a travel agent, although there are a lot of small details in this work that don't produce large profits. So, it is best to handle only cheap flights using low overhead premises. This allows you to be the cheapest in town, no matter who else sets up in competition.
A good method of expansion is to set up premises. This allows you to be the cheapest in town no matter who else sets up in competition.
Another good method of expansion is to set up in other areas. Perhaps get agents to work for you from their home. They'll expect a cut in your commission, but good profits are still possible.
All in all, you should not expect a massive commission money-wise on a single booking, because travel prices are incredibly cheap these days. But you can make up for it in volume. With twenty million travellers each year, what if you just scooped 1,000 in your region, spending only $1000 each!