Starting your travel agency or business is easier said than done. There are all kinds of different travel businesses you can try, so you first have to figure out exactly where you see yourself. Do you want to run a travel agency that makes arrangements for people, or are you looking for something more challenging, like working as a travel guide?
If you want to enter the big leagues, the best option is to become a travel wholesaler. Doing so will keep your everyday activities interesting and challenging, and you’ll also be able to make some serious money while you’re at it. Keep reading and learn more about what it takes to become a travel wholesaler.
What Is a Travel Wholesaler?
Many people mistake travel agents for travel wholesalers, but the two are not the same. Travel agents work in travel companies directly with travelers. Their job is to help travelers find a destination they like, help them organize the best hotel, and point them to the area’s best activities while they are there.
On the other hand, travel wholesalers don’t work directly with travelers. They are the people that offer travel-related products and services to travel agencies that sell those services to customers. In other words, travel wholesalers provide all details that go into organizing a trip.
That includes a place to stay, a list of activities and tours, and find the best offers on the market. In return, they earn commissions directly from the agency that they helped sell an arrangement. Think of them as travel agent freelancers whose job is to find the best offer from all available travel agencies.
The good news is that the travel market keeps growing steadily every year. According to this website, the global travel accommodation market was valued at $632.8 billion in 2018. That number is expected to reach $893 billion by 2026. There is plenty of room on the market for new travel wholesalers, so now might be the perfect time for a career change.
Start By Looking At The Offers
Let’s assume that you want to open and run a small local travel agency. As a travel wholesaler, your job is to browse through thousands of travel arrangements, offers, activities, and everything else that has anything to do with traveling.
Facebook and Instagram are a good starting point as that’s where 58% of new clients come from. Once you find the best offers, you have to plan an entire trip. That includes booking hotels, making sure that the travelers you work with get the best prices, organizing their activities while they are on the trip, and pretty much making sure that all of their wishes are fulfilled.
With that said, you don’t work directly with travelers. You have to find the best options and negotiate prices with all hotels, cruises, tour guides, and other travel products. Those prices are usually lower than retail prices as you buy them in bulk. Then, when you sum everything up in one big, juicy offer, you sell that offer to travel agencies that then resell them to travelers at higher prices.
Becoming a Travel Agent
Tourism is a massive worldwide business that covers many different areas. If you want to become an exclusive distributor and build your franchise from the ground up, you will first have to get the legal part in order. First of all, you will need an IATA certificate even to get started.
As a travel wholesaler, you can’t work for another agency using their license, but you need a few years of experience to get an IATA.
What that means is that you can’t become a travel wholesaler overnight. You first must understand how the entire industry works, make the right connections, show that you have the skill needed to handle so much information, and earn a reputation.
Even if you have all that, you will need referral letters from agencies where you worked and as many suppliers as possible. For example, if you ever worked in the Marriott resort hotel, a letter from them would give you a good head start.
Apart from recommendation letters, you will also have to pay fees and bonds that are not cheap. That’s why it’s critical that you establish yourself in the travel industry as a trusted tour operator for another company. Once you meet the right people and have years of experience behind you, you will have the needed tools to become a travel agent.
From Travel Agent to Travel Wholesaler
Once you’ve built a strong foundation for your business, you can start working as a travel wholesaler. That will require a detailed business plan with an emphasis on finance, and you will have to keep an eye on your competition at all times. Check what your competition is doing before starting a business. See if there is room on the market for your agency. If the competition is too strong, you won’t have a chance, no matter what you try.
If you think that you can make it, you will still need a mentor to guide you through the process. That mentor has to be a non-competitive travel agent working for another company. These agents will be happy to give you a hand and help you understand the entire process better.
You will probably have to call dozens of businesses until you find one that’s willing to help you out. You can reach out to Expedia and Traverus Global and ask them for some advice.
Franchising Will Help A Lot
Starting from nothing will put you against huge companies that will close all doors before you can get in. That’s why you should consider buying a franchise. Doing so will give you access to a working system and help you avoid common entrepreneurial mistakes. Your job will be to improve the franchise you get with better offers and more travel locations.
Since you will already have some regular customers, you will get some valuable feedback you can then use to improve your offer further. Remember to take one step at a time, and you might find yourself neck and neck with the most prominent travel wholesalers in the country.
Good Luck – You’ll Need It
The travel industry is an unforgiving place. You will find yourself in a small pool filled with sharks, as no one wants to give their piece of the cake away to someone else. However, some careful planning and a few useful contacts can help you build a strong travel wholesale business, but only if you time your moves right.
The current COVID-19 situation has put the industry under more pressure than it has ever seen. It will make your job harder, but on the other hand, the prices are lower, allowing you to close better deals quickly. We wish you good luck on your future travel business!
Senior Director of Business Development APAC at Hotelmize, fourteen years experience in the travel industry in the APAC region, including eight years expertise in the travel technology industry, with a track record of proven success in the sales of travel technology solutions.