Maybe it was when you saw the beautiful cherry blossoms while walking, one sunny morning, in Japan. Or it could have been the time that you visited the famous pyramids of Egypt. It could have even been that stack of magazines piled up in the corner of your room, taunting you every time you saw it.
Whatever it was, the very reason that you are reading this is because, you probably have decided to finally pursue your plan (if not your dream) and start your own travel business – and to tell you what, you have made the right choice!
The travel industry is an excellent place to launch service businesses in. Aside from the advantage that it continues to enjoy robust activities regardless of the challenges (i.e., downturns in the economy, catastrophic events, etc.) that are enough to send other industries into tailspins, the industry is quite huge. According to a research done by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), $1.3 trillion-worth of U.S. economic activity is generated by the travel and tourism agency annually. This equals to whooping “$3.4 billion a day, $148 million an hour, $2.4 million a minute, and $40,000 a second.”
Okay, this sounds very interesting. Now what?
Well, you could either dive into the industry head first or you could give yourself a leg up and spend some time to take a look at the following tips for starting your adventure in the travel industry:
- Understand the nature of the business
Before starting your business, the most important step to make is to have a clear understanding of the kind of dealings you are setting up in order to define your business expectations.
What are we talking about? Chances are, you are a traveler. And being a traveler who decided to run your own travel business, it is quite difficult to transition from being a traveler to a travel operator.
“Many people want to start travel companies because they love to be outdoors and/or they love to travel. There is a difference between loving those and wanting to be the guide responsible for other people loving those”, says Adventures in Good Company.
To ease your transition, it is therefore necessary to find your niche in the industry to allow you to focus on creating programs that could bridge the empathy between you (the operator) and the clients.
- Conduct market research and find your niche
Speaking of finding your niche…
Jacquie Whitt, owner of Adios Adventure Travel, says that “when you launch a travel business, the most important thing to do is to provide a valuable service.”
But how do you provide a valuable service? The simple answer is by doing some market research. Ask yourself, what kind of travel business do you plan on starting? Moreover, what kind of travel business does the industry actually need?
Luckily, the travel industry (like any market), has divided itself into the following different sectors which could help you choose the path that you wish to pursue – that is, when choosing your niche:
Home Based. Bring all the same tools that used to be available only in a traditional office, at your command. Thanks to the internet, customers today choose to buy all kinds of services online, so you can keep your overhead down and profits high.
Independent contractor. Enjoy the freedom of being your own boss while working in a traditional business set-up – that is, the benefit of having your own physical office. And especially that you are just starting up, being independent gives you the sense of credibility.
Specialty business. Specialize in different travel services. For example, offer charter airline services to top-level business travelers or arrange travelers’ stay in hotels.
Franchise. Purchase the right to use a tried and true concept and enjoy the idea of “plug and play” business that is ready to go right out of the box. Only, you have to conform to the franchisor’s established methods of running the business.
Is there a niche you can fill? Decide by starting to research each of the sector, find out who the major players are that you’ll be competing against, and determine your ideal customers. But no matter what you choose, make sure that it suits your interest and capabilities best.
- Deal with the legalities
Unlike other businesses, like brewery and dispensary, a travel business is fairly simple to set up and doesn’t require a lot of legal red tape. However, it is still best to abide by the rules to cut off all the hassle and to ensure that your business will run smoothly.
Among the legalities that you have to deal with are:
License. Most locations do not require licenses or certifications to start a travel business. However, depending on the state and country, specific licensing requirements will vary. Business structure. Whether LLC or corporation, your business structure will depend on your business plans and need and how you intend to fund it. DBA (“doing business as”) and Federal Tax ID Number. When naming your business, a DBA has to be applied for. Moreover, the Federal Tax ID Number (otherwise known as Employer Identification Number) should, as well, be filed.
- Develop an effective web presence
Marketing, in business, is a major player in terms of increasing the clientele base. Although it is very time-consuming and requires a lot of money, it is vital that you pay extra and careful attention to it as it is crucial to your business’ success. There are a number of ways that you can spread awareness of your brand: Social Media. The social media is obviously the go-to hub for business marketers. Aside from the different platforms that are fee to use, they are effective ways to target potential customers. However, it is important to note that countries vary in using such platforms.
For example, if you are to start your travel business in Japan, you must be aware that Instagram is the most dominant player and tool for Japanese businesses to deepen their relationships with customers – your advantage, as China (Japan’s rival over economically-related issues like Nanking massacre and territorial disputes, but that is a different story) has banned Instagram and like the U.S., uses Facebook mostly.
Like what was mentioned above, find your target clientele and know your competitors.
Website. Another strategy is to build your own website that will optimize sales-focused principles (i.e., reach your target audience). You might want to start one using free website builders or have it customized. However, custom-designed websites can cost you over $10,000.
- Plan for the unplanned
And finally, you have to plan for the exorbitant amount of variables that will surely come your way (i.e., weather, government regulations of destinations, etc.) to prevent disappointed customers who had spent time and money for the trip. To do so, explore the variables that might affect the trips ahead of time and prepare the necessary contingency plans just in case Lady Luck deal out the bad card. Keep a record of the plan and continuously adjust it to make sure that your guests will leave with a smile on their faces.