Was 2016 your year to take the bold step of setting up your own travel business? Congratulations, that takes guts. Now you’re an official #travelpreneur!
So what’s next?
Building up a client base is key to your venture’s success. But you can’t do that until you know how to work the system and package the product so that your customer gets the best deal and you earn an income. And what an income it can be! As flights are typically the bulk of agents’ bookings, the sky is really the limit; with each ticket, you earn on average between R100 and R300 – depending if it’s a local or international route. Even if you are only charging R100 per booking, you could be earning R50 000 if you make 500 bookings. Now imagine if you add holiday packages and other additional travel products to that!
To get there – or beyond – we’ve rounded up our top tips to get your travel business off the ground, and then make a success of it.
- Don’t quit your day job just yet
We are all for entrepreneurship and want our agents to build sustainable businesses that can support them and their families financially. And, by using the online FlightSiteAgent system that requires no GDS training, the opportunity is really there for your taking. But you have to walk before you can run.
While it’s key to be confident in your ability to run a business before you start it, instead of quitting your 9-5 and taking the plunge to fly solo, ease into it and set it up part-time. This way you’ll have the security of a regular salary to fall back on which will lessen any unnecessary stress when starting out.
Once you’re earning a steady income, by all means hand in that resignation! But do the responsible thing; save up enough cash to cover your costs for a few months in case you fall on quiet times. And be realistic with your salary; as a new entrepreneur your overheads come first for a while so plan for that, reduce your personal costs and learn to live on less while you find your feet.
- Get comfy with the platform
You should also learn the ropes before jumping head first into your new venture with no safety net in sight. After hours and on weekends, play around on www.flightsiteagent and get to know how it works. While the system has been designed for users without any travel experience, it may take a bit of time to get the hang of it. As a newbie, it’s also wise to consult our handy video and product training guides so that you know how to book a flight, bus or hotel before signing up your first client. Our workshops are also great places to learn. Held every quarter they teach you how to use the system, and hosts answer any questions you may have. Also do call our account managers if you get stuck; they are there to help.
- Build a client base
Initially you’ll likely sell products to friends and family. But, as your confidence grows, and you know more about how to use the system, you’ll be ready to branch out and attract clients from outside of your network. As a travel agent, you are in the service industry so it’s in your best interest to build relationships with your clients so that they become ambassadors for your brand and recommend you to their friends and family. Word of mouth remains one of, if not the, most powerful forms of marketing so if you do a good job for a client, they may pass on their endorsement to others.
If you’ve worked in the travel industry before, you may already have an established network of contacts to tap into. While this may help generate leads quicker, you’ll still need to prove you can deliver on your service. Make sure you offer excellent value, that your turnaround time is top-notch and that you are warm and personable. They say people do business with people they like. So make an effort to get to know your clients and anticipate their needs before they ask.
- Aggressively market yourself
No business operates in a vacuum and you’ll need to promote yourself and your service to new and existing clients all the time. Besides building relationships with your clients, make use of the abundance of cost-effective marketing tools available. At the very least have an active Facebook page, a dynamic website and a newsletter. You can then add Google AdWords, Twitter, SEO, online PR and so on as your turnover increases. But, if you’re not comfortable as a writer or designer, make sure to use the services of those who are. Nothing stunts a new business faster than bad grammar and poor website design.
- Package it up!
Armed with an expanding client base and an understanding of how to use FlightSiteAgent, you’re ready to add more products to your offering – and earn bigger commissions! A holiday package including return flights for two to Paris with seven days accommodation typically yields more income compared to a domestic flight for instance. And, as you become more familiar with when clients book their holidays, you’ll be able to promote packages to them in advance. October, as a case in point, is the busiest month for agents as most travellers start making plans for the summer holidays. Similarly, March and April are peak times to book holidays over the June/July school break. Once you get to know your clients more personally, you’ll come to know when they travel too; some may enjoy their vacations out of season in August while others may visit family in London once a year in May. Regardless of the combo, once you build relationships, and are more skilful at packaging up the FlightSiteAgent products, you’ll be in a better position to offer a great service and to sell.
As we head into the high season for summer, when business is ripe for the picking, we hope these top tips give you guidance on where to next as a new #travelpreneur.