Travel Agent Career Outlook – What it Takes to Run a Successful Travel Business in 2021
It is time to Recover from the COVID Pandemic as a Home Based Travel Agent
Here is a Career Outlook as Travel Rebounds
Emerging from the pandemic is under way and it is time for both new entrepreneurs and existing agency owners to rethink their travel business. So much has changed in the last 20-months that it is almost unimaginable. First of all, who would have ever thought that the entire cruise industry would shut down for well over a year? Or that airlines would have operated at 10% of their capacity and International flights would become almost non-existent? The pandemic certainly took a toll on the travel and tourism industry.
Millions upon millions of consumers found an entirely new lifestyle during the pandemic, as well. Divorcing themselves from the 9 to 5 office routine and remaining home to work remotely introduced consumers to using various types of technology to conduct their business, stay in contact with family and friends and generally manage their lives better. They also learned that working remotely leads to very desirable results from a lifestyle standpoint.
Consumers also learned the true value of using a travel professional over booking online with OTAs, big box stores and other online discount operations. Travel professionals worked hard for their clients dealing with refunds, rebooking and generally taking care of them for the most part without earning so much as a dime. Consumers learned that travel professionals are the preferred way to transact travel purchases.
What it Takes to Run a Successful Travel Business in 2021?
Given that demand for travel agents has grown dramatically and that a good number of agents left the travel industry because of the inability to make any money during the pandemic, travel professionals should make immediate changes to their businesses to accommodate this new reality.
High Yield Complex Travel Niche
Specializing in a high yield complex travel niche is certainly important for travel professionals in 2021 and beyond. Today’s travel professional has given up the “be everything to everyone” way of doing business and morphed into a specialist expert in a niche that requires complex transactions to handle client’s requests. The key to selecting your niche is passion and knowledge. It can be virtually anything you can imagine, but the critical element is the potential for generous yields.
Most people are attracted to the travel industry because of a passion for an element of travel such as a destination, activity, hobby, helping people and a myriad other reasons. The absence of passion signals that the niche may not be the right choice for your business. As an example, if you choose luxury cruising in Europe but are not an avid cruiser and really do not know too much about luxury European travel, it is quite likely to fail as a niche. On the other hand, if you love to fish and have fished all over the world and have some authority in the fishing world, this might be a great selection for a niche.
The benefits of selecting a niche is that you will undoubtedly become an expert on the niche and people will seek you out. By doing similar complex transactions over and over again, the challenge of managing the various components that make up the itineraries that you build becomes easier. Knowing a hotel or resort’s policies, expectations and the reality of dealing with them makes accomplishing a stellar experience for the client much easier than if you are dealing with a property you have little or no knowledge of. The relationships that you build with the property, destination management company that you work with, sights and other service providers also serves the client’s best interest.
establishing a fee structure is something every travel professional should do right now. You should charge a service fee for a number of reasons including creating a sustainable income during the ups and downs of the industry. Travel professionals that had a service fee structure in place during the pandemic were able to create an income handling all of the chaos caused by supplier cancellations, chasing refunds, rebooking clients and other non revenue producing chores. Use service fees to bolster low, or worse, non revenue producing bookings and activities.
One of the realities of operating a successful travel agency in 2021 is embracing digital marketing tools and techniques. Long gone are the days where a client would call a travel agent and then the travel agent would send several travel brochures out to the client to decide which vacation they would like to go with. In 2021 a successful travel business has embraced all forms of digital marketing to engage their clients and excels at it.
One of the many benefits of working with a host agency is the they already have robust digital marketing tools for you to use right out of the gate. So here are some of the more important elements of digital marketing.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
The very foundation of your digital marketing efforts should be your CRM. Tracking all of the details in your relationship with a client helps insure that you will be on top of their needs when contact is made. Tracking all aspects of the client’s details is especially important in the post pandemic reality of travel reopening. Capturing who has been fully immunized and who has not will greatly help when marketing to your CRM database. You should consider your CRM data as one of the most powerful assets that you have. There are both industry specific CRMs like Saber’s ClientBase and many others, and non-industry specific CRMs like ACT, ZOHO and others. If you are not using a CRM now, you should immediately integrate one into your agency.
Creating and sending personalized email is something every successful travel agency should be doing in 2021. By integrating your CRM with your email service provider, you can start really sending personalized email to a targeted market and get maximum opens and conversions. Your host agency will have integrated solutions for your email marketing. However, if you want to find a fully integrated CRM and email marketing service provider, there are literally dozens of them. Both MailChimp and Constant Contact work with CRMs as does Active Campaign. A simple Google search will show you many options available to you.
Travel professionals in 2021 are becoming expert at digital publishing and are creating digital social media posts, ebooks, flyers, brochures and all types of media using technology. They use digital publishing to create digital media for their specific travel niche and use it on their websites, social media and in email marketing. They are adept at using layout tools such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat Professional to create .pdf documents, Photoshop to enhance and optimize photographs and other technology to create engaging and compelling media.
Social Media Viral Marketing
Travel professionals are creating viral marketing tools used for social media such as InfoGraphic Marketing, Meme Marketing, Video Marketing, NewsJacking, cartoons and animated white board videos. When travel niche specific the various forms of viral marketing are liked and shared by potential clients because of their interest in the niche.
The opportunities to create a successful travel business in 2021 and beyond are unlimited. Using your passion for your niche and combining that by using the multitude or digital marketing tools available today will increase your profits dramatically. Take the time to learn some new tools and techniques to take your travel business to new heights.