Passion Only Goes so Far
Written By: Summer Corbit, Director, Sales & Marketing – UNIGLOBE Travel Center
You love travel.
We get it.
Naturally, that is the most logical reason you are drawn to becoming a travel advisor. Most people who pursue this line of work do so because they want a career that they are passionate about.
You book all your friends and family’s travel and you love researching trips.
The spark that lead you to becoming a travel advisor probably came from someone saying, “Wow, you are really good at planning travel! This should be your job.”
Travel is fun! Planning travel is fun! Seriously, we totally understand.
But, what many people forget in the throes of excitement, is that being a travel advisor is not just about planning travel. You must have clients to book those trips for or you won’t have a job at all. That requires a lot of talking to people, cultivating relationships, and making sales. Yes, that’s right, this is ultimately a sales job, so please be prepared for that. Contrary to popular belief, travel doesn’t just sell itself. Especially when travel is often a big-ticket item. All those friends and family you just know will book through you (and likely ask you for discounts, by the way) won’t sustain your business. You have to work to build your client list beyond your immediate circle if you want to be successful.
THIS ISN’T A HOBBY, THIS IS A BUSINESS
In a similar vein, it’s not just about travel, even if you already love the sales part. You are now a business owner and you have the responsibility to run that business. That means making financial investments to launch and grow your agency. Have you thought about everything that goes into starting your own business? Where will you get a logo? How much do business cards cost? Do you need to get your own insurance? Are you required to register your business with your state? Will you want to set up an LLC?
All of these things cost money. And to be honest, these are the basics. The beauty of opening a home-based travel agency is that the initial investment to get up and running is very low compared to most new businesses. But “low” doesn’t mean “nothing”. To hit you with some tough love… if you can’t afford the basics of starting a travel business, then maybe now is not the right time. If you aren’t properly prepared financially, and realistic about what it takes, then you will end up wasting the money you do put into it, and no one wants that for you.
YOUR CLIENTS ARE YOUR CLIENTS
Your clients are your responsibility. Period.
Yes, if you choose a good host agency, they will be there to support you and offer guidance in any way that they can, but they are not there to do your job for you. Your client is hiring you and your agency.
Being a travel advisor will often take a lot of time to find the right vacation, and let me prepare you now… some clients can be difficult! It’s not always going to be “fun.” Oh, and don’t forget, once the trip has been booked, it’s not over. You must manage that booking right up until they arrive back safe and sound. There are final payments to pay, additional requests, last-minute emergencies. And yes, they may call you at 2 am in the middle of their vacation with an emergency. Many people ask if there is backup for this type of middle-of-the-night-crisis. Yeah, there is… it’s called YOU!
Luckily, this is not a common occurrence, and there are ways to mitigate this, like making sure all your clients get travel insurance and know in what situations they can call the insurance provider directly. However, if you aren’t willing to take 2 am client calls, then maybe look at a different career. EMT’s don’t get to choose when an accident happens. Firefighters don’t get to sleep through a house fire because it happens to be in the middle of the night. Client emergencies come with the territory of the career you chose, so be prepared.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
A common comment we hear is “Well I love to cruise so I’ll focus on that.” Or, “I’m really into adventure travel so that will be my niche!” That’s great, I like adventure travel too! But what about your potential clients? Just because you like to travel a certain way, with a certain budget, doesn’t mean that all your clients will. And just because you think you know “tons of people” who will book those types of trips through you, expectations rarely match reality when people actually have to commit time and money.
The moral here is to remember that you are not planning travel for yourself, you are planning it for other people. People who will have plenty of different ideas about what they want for their money. This isn’t to say that you can’t have a niche, it’s to help you understand that you are new to this industry and you don’t know what you don’t know yet. Our best advice, after coaching hundreds of new travel advisors, is to get some experience under your belt first and foremost, the rest will happen organically. The best piece of advice we’ve heard comes from one of our most successful new advisors. He told us that he and his partner didn’t choose their niche, their niche chose them.
Of course, we want you to be able to plan and research what interests you, but don’t forget that this is a business, and if you only want to focus on what you like, then it may not be the right business for you.
IT’S ALSO NOT ABOUT GETTING RICH QUICK AND RACKING UP FREE PERKS
If you are just in this to get discounts on your own travel, I’ll just say it now, this is not the career for you! I hope that I’ve made it clear by now that this is a job, it’s work. Yes, there are perks, but they are results of your hard work and come when you’ve earned the right to those discounts and perks.
Another part of the industry that advisors don’t quite understand fully when they get into this line of work is the lack of cash flow in the beginning. It’s one of the downsides of the travel advisor industry, but it’s the hard reality.
Travel advisors make money by getting a commission from the travel supplier they book through. In most cases, those commissions are not received until the trip has departed or final payment has been made. However, you could book 10 cruises tomorrow, and if those trips are not departing for 6 months, then you won’t be seeing those commissions into your bank account for 6-7 months.
Although it’s not ideal for the travel agent, it does make sense. Clients could cancel, and up until a certain time, they can get all or some of their money refunded, meaning the supplier doesn’t get the full amount. Suppliers don’t want to pay you for something they aren’t yet guaranteed to get. Not all travel is booked that far out, so it’s not to say you will get no commissions early on, just prepare yourself that the first year of business takes time to build up steady cash flow.
PARTNER WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE
If you are new to being a travel advisor, you need help. If you are looking to start your own business and not work underneath a local travel agency, then a host agency is really your best and most practical option. Finding the right host agency to align yourself with is key to the successful launch of your agency.
First and foremost, you need a host with a comprehensive program to show you the ropes of the travel industry and help you build a plan for sustainable growth. At Uniglobe Travel Center, we offer 6 months of virtual coaching that covers both the booking and business side of being a travel advisor. The first 3 months includes two weekly calls with experienced coaches to ensure you are getting personalized one-on-one support. It’s vitally important to us that you are given the best chance to succeed, and that means going above and beyond to prepare you to be a quality
Beyond the initial learning process, a host should also provide easily accessible support from an experienced team; help you cultivate close relationships directly with supplier partners; and provide platforms and events that enable you to connect with other travel advisors who can offer a wealth of knowledge, advice, and recommendations.
The key to finding the right host agency is to do your due diligence. Look over every page of their website, watch their videos, read their reviews, and make sure you call them! It’s important to find the right fit for you, and talking to someone on the phone can go a long way in making sure that a host makes you feel comfortable and supported.
JUST SOME REGULAR LOVE FROM UTC
Uniglobe Travel Center has been hosting travel advisors for over 20 years. We have seen just about everything there is to see. Our goal is not to discourage you, but to share the results of our experience and give you realistic expectations for your new career in travel. If this has only strengthened your desire to launch your own travel agency, then we will do everything in our power to set you up for success, encourage your passion for travel, and support you at every step.
If you would like to discuss being a travel advisor and discovering if Uniglobe Travel Center is the right host for you, please use this link to set up a time to chat with us.
Director, Sales & Marketing
Uniglobe Travel Center