Brits are a hard-working bunch, and maybe that's the reason they love their holidays so much. The annual getaway is a national ritual, meaning a travel agency will always represent a good business opportunity regardless of economic conditions.
In fact, there is more scope for starting a travel agency than ever, thanks to changing consumer habits. Although the market is still dominated by the big household names, people these days are much more willing to look for offerings more specifically tailored to their needs.
So if you are going to survive in a very competitive market, you need to offer something special and be prepared to work hard. Consumers expect a high standard of service from travel agencies so you should look to cater for their individual requirements as much as possible.
Also, bear in mind that a travel agency isn’t just in the business of selling holidays. Your customers will be coming to you for advice and will expect you to help them with other services they need for their trip, such as car hire, transfers, insurance, special flight requirements, etc. So you need to know the business inside and out and be prepared to go the extra mile in order to make sales and build a loyal customer base.
Although you won’t need specific training to start a travel agency, knowledge of the industry would obviously give you a head start. Good customer service skills will also stand you in good stead, as will business management experience.
There are various financial guarantees you need to consider as a travel agent. For example, you should provide a bond – essentially, a financial guarantee to refund customers money they’ve paid should your company or suppliers go into administration. If a customer is already on holiday when the firm goes into administration, the bond can be used to get them back home again. You can arrange a bond with a bank of an insurance company.
Anyone who sells flights or offers them for sale (other than an airline) must either hold an Air Travel Organisers’ License (ATOL) or be the authorised agent of an ATOL holder. To get an ATOL you also need to provide a bond for the same reasons as above. To find out more, visit: http://www.caa.co.uk.
There are various trade associations you can join and this is highly recommended in order to gain the trust of potential clients. The best-known is the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Many consumers look for ABTA membership before booking with a travel agent – it claims to have the highest level of brand awareness and trust amongst the travelling public of any UK travel association.
To find out more, visit: http://abta.com/join-abta
However, if you join, make sure you budget for the cost of membership. Also look into the association’s requirements of membership and check to see if you comply and, if not, what you’ll need to do.
As with any business, you’ll need the right insurance. Among the options you might need to consider are: public liability insurance, especially if you intend to have business premises that customers will be visiting; employer’s liability insurance, which is a legal requirement if you’re employing anyone outside of your family; and professional indemnity insurance, which can cover you against claims from dissatisfied customers.