Last updated on October 1st, 2019
A travel business is easier to start online, but there is a fierce competition to tackle. Many established companies and new entrants are your direct competitors in this field. So, to start an online travel business, you have to cover it’s all the vital aspects cleverly and strategically. A well-thought-out marketing plan can give your business a roaring start.
The tour and travel industry is growing fast and is, in fact, amongst the largest industries in the world. According to an estimate, the global contribution of the tour and travel industry is over US $ 7.6 trillion. This industry is vast and involves direct and indirect businesses such as transportation, accommodation, and entertainment.
There is a vast scope for growth of your startup online travel business due to the ever-increasing demand for the services from the tourists and travelers. This is one of those businesses that can be run successfully online, even from home. There is no need for setting up a brick and mortar office that needs huge funds and other expensive resources.
An online travel agency can be set up and run right from your home. You can start with little funds. You can start the business on your own in the beginning without help from experts or professionals. Later on, as the company grows, you will hire employees to cope up with the increasing demands from the customers.
Here Are Useful Tips To Help You In Establishing An Online Travel Business Successfully
01. Plan Everything In Advance
If you are interested in setting up an online travel business, plan its every little aspect in advance. Do not start anything in a hurry as it may prove to be costly at the end in many ways. Don’t forget that there is numerous tour and travel related businesses in the market, making a cut-throat competition.
So, the planning will depend a lot on the type of business you choose. For example, if you want to be a home-based travel agent, you will be looking for a host travel agency. The agency will take you as an independent contractor. For such a business, you need to adopt a straightforward planning approach.
On the other hand, if you want to go for a step-by-step approach to move up gradually from one stage to the other, then the planning will be a lengthy process. Your approach should be flexible to accommodate for any new development and unforeseen events.
A business plan made well ahead of starting an online business will be your guiding force. It will not let you divert much from the set path. This helps in managing your limited resources as well.
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02. Know Your Niche Well
There are already many travel agencies and related businesses operating in a given locality. They have grabbed a fair amount of market share due to their aggressive marketing. So, how are you going to lure the customers for your new travel business?
You should do everything to stand out from the competition. A perfect way to ensure this is to offer the services that very few of the agencies are providing to the tourists. But what are these unique services? You need to find it out. In other words, you should know your niche well to compete efficiently in a given market.
One of the best ideas to find out your niche is to get a firsthand experience of the market. You should interact with the travelers and tourists to know what new problems they are combating at present. If you can identify these problems or issues, you should try to come out with the right solutions. These robust solutions will be your tour and traveling niche. So, attend industry events and observe the products or services delivered to the tourists. Ask yourself as to what more products or services the customers are still missing and provide them to the tourists. You should think of delivering a valuable service.
Before starting a travel business, do some market research to know what kind of a travel agency will be serving the people usefully. For example, there may be a need for an agency that caters to the traveling needs of married couples who look for a destination adventure honeymoon. Think about such emerging travel needs of people in your area and provide them with exceptional services. Overall, you should do something unique to make a name for your travel agency in a saturated travel market.
03. Use A Host Agency
When you start an online travel business, primarily a travel agency, you should think of using a host agency. Most independent agents opt to go with a host agency. Others want to have their own accreditation when they plan to start their own travel agency.
If you are a new agent, it is advisable to use a host agency. A host agency is beneficial when you are looking for a low startup cost and high commissions. You will also get administrative support from the agency. But if you are an experienced agent who has already built relationships with the suppliers, then you can opt for own accreditation.
04. Decide On Your Funding Resources
Another critical thing to remember when planning your online travel business is funding. Where will you get funds to run your travel agency? The requirement of finance will depend mainly on what type of an agency or traveling business you want to run. A brick and mortar agency will require a more massive loan from banks. But an online agency can be run with a smaller fund requirement due to low overhead expenses.
However, in both the cases, know how you will obtain funding. You need financial help for creating and designing marketing materials like professional website design. You need websites for online and offline businesses. Then, funding will be essential to source for materials like flyers, business cards, and many more.
So what funding options you will explore? You can look for a variety of funding resources ranging from personal loans to angel investment, and venture capital funding. You can also borrow money from parents, relatives or friends to conduct the business during the early days of setting up the company. Remember that consistent cash flow is essential to meet some unexpected expenses.
But make sure that you take your well-thought-of business plan to the lenders. They will evaluate your business prospects before deciding on an amount of loan.
05. Make A Branding Strategy
After you know your niche well and have a funding strategy in place, it is now important that you think of creating a brand image. This is crucial as the travel industry is competitive. Your business must stand out. Branding is all about how you want to make your customers feel about your travel brand. How should they think when they come to your website to look for travel related services? Answer this question precisely. You should give them a specific vision for your brand.
You should be able to give your customers a substantial reason to use your services and not just book a trip from your website. For instance, for tourists attractions in the USA, you may provide tourists one day free touring service. It will attract a lot of travellers to your business.
Another great way to have an excellent brand image is a logo. Your travel agency’s logo design must be unique so that it stands out from many other logos of similar businesses. Your target audience will see your logo everywhere on your advertisements, brochures, website, etc. So, make sure that it is an impressive symbol of your agency.
06. Take Care Of Legal Issues Also
Starting an online travel business is one of the easiest jobs when it comes to completing legal formalities. In the U.S, while some states have relaxed their rules regarding licensing for the travel industry, others have the laws in place. It may be that your state has specific licensing requirements. For example, in Washington, Iowa, Florida, and California, you need a Seller of Travel license. Similarly, in the U.K, you have to get an Air Travel Organizer’s License.
Besides specific licenses, you may also need general licenses such as Limited Liability Company [LLC]. You will also be applying for a Federal Tax ID number. These legal formalities are as crucial for your business as is to create a logo, which is your trademark.
07. Hire Employees
An online business needs the services of some professionals. These professionals are essentials to do a lot of fundamental work to run your agency smoothly and successfully. For example, you will need a website designer who can design your travel agency’s website as per your requirements. You will also need the best graphic design services of the experienced professionals who can create logos, brochures, etc. material for business promotion.
But make sure that you have a robust online workforce which is essential to run a tourism business. You will also hire hi-tech software experts for a glitch-free experience for your customers when they visit your online business. These professionals will also resolve any technical breakdowns that you may experience.
08. Opt For An Aggressive Advertising
Since not many people know your online travel business, you need to make them aware of who you are and what services you offer. The only way to ensure it is to launch an aggressive advertisement campaign. Its advantage for your business is that a massive number of people will come to know about your travel agency’s services immediately.
Make sure that you have a brochure ready for your online visitors. Put the brochure on your online site so that your visitors can download it to know more about the services of your travel agencies. To create a unique brochure, get some brochure design inspiration by having a look at great brochures of established businesses. Also, use email marketing, newspaper ads, and other advertisement means to promote your company.
09. Build Relationships
Businesses are not built just by some marketing campaigns. They are created by building a strong bond with the customers. A solid foundation of relationships with your satisfied customers and potential customers is the key to run your travel company successfully.
So, even if you have created some great marketing materials such as flyers with some flyer design ideas to advertise your agency. It’s not enough. People want to have some trust in a travel agency first as the agency will be sending them to a place for vacation. If they have faith in your travel services, they will become your loyal customers.
It is, therefore, vital that you be in touch with your customers. To do so, send them emails of your special offers and request their feedback. Tell them how important they are to your business. Remind them to use your services next year as well.
10. Encourage People To Share Content
You should also engage customers with your business. A way to ensure it is to ask the satisfied customers to share their travel experiences with your audience using your travel website. Ask them to leave their photographs from their journey. People can see these photos to get inspiration.
You can also run a competition for the best travel picture and give an award such as a small discount for the next trip to the winner. Such tactics help in building a sense of community and inspire new potential customers to seek your services.
11. Use The Power Of Blogging
Blogging is a powerful means of reaching out to people. You can also start a blog that contains useful information regarding travel and tourism. One of the advantages of blogging is that it can establish you as an expert on issues faced by the travel industry and business.
But write on the issues that your potential customers usually confront with when traveling. This is the way to build a good brand image for your travel agency. You should help your customers in understanding the issues and give them the right solutions.
Also, make sure that your blogging site is attractive as well as useful to the visitors. So, it should be a professional graphic design that stands out. The images and content you use in the blog will make an impact on your target audience.
12. Invite Reviews
One of the ways to engage potential customers with your online travel business is to invite them to review your services. There are plenty of review sites. People visit these sites to know the inside story of a business. But if you can provide space on your own website for reviewing your site, your prospective buyers will appreciate it.
You should encourage your satisfied customers to write something about their trip. The potential customers will visit your site, and if they find positive reviews about your agency from old customers, they are likely to buy your services.
13. Attend Trade Shows And Events
Another surefire way to have an insight of your travel niche and also to promote the business is to be a regular visitor to the trade shows and events organized in your town. These shows and functions have not only the crowd but also the influential experts from the industry. A little chat with them can give a boost to your online travel business.
Most importantly, you have a crowd of potential customers present in the trade shows and events. Take advantage of this to promote your business. For example, you can use stickers to market and promote your brand. You can hand out stickers free at the events and shows to give people something to talk about your new business. However, make it sure that your sticker design is unique and makes an excellent impression on the potential customers of your services.
14. Optimize Your Online Travel Site
There are millions of websites in any industry and business field on the web. Your new online travel business also has competition from tons of sites from the similar agencies. People use search engines like Google to find out travel services. They are likely to click on the agency site links that they see in the first few search results or the first page. So, if your website does not appear on the top search rankings, you will lose track of them.
Therefore, it is essential that you optimize your travel agency’s website for every keyword that potential customers may use to search for your services on the web. You can hire a professional SEO service to help you to take care of this, or go the do-it-yourself route. If you do the later, start by reading this guide to onpage SEO.
15. Use Social Media
Social media is not just a medium to connect with friends and family, but a powerful medium to start and operate your online travel business. You can make good use of Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms as a communication tool. Use this tool as your marketing platform.
Tell your customers about the new services, reduction in prices, new packages, etc. You should also add videos, photos, and other content on your social media page. Also, invite people to share their tour experiences on your pages.
So, these are the key points to consider when you are planning to start your online travel business. There are many other tips, but these are the necessary things to keep in mind.
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When planning your online travel business, make sure that you know your niche. Research the travel industry, business, and market thoroughly to find out which niche will attract customers. Use your website, social media, and other tools for business promotion. Engage your potential customers and interact with them wherever you possibly can.