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If you’re a travel agent, starting your own travel agency, or want to know how to improve your travel agent business, you need a strong marketing plan to succeed. The ultra-competitive travel and tourism industry is worth $37 billion in annual revenues and generates $1.5 trillion in economic output; and, it’s growing by a rate of 3.7 percent per year. There are plenty of business opportunities for travel agents to thrive, but there’s also plenty of competition. This travel agent marketing guide will help you beat your competitors, get more sales for your travel agency, and position your company for success.
Our travel agent marketing and sales tips include:
Travel and tourism is an enormous industry, yet the number of full-time travel agents has decreased from 124,000 in 2000 to around 70,000 today. In large part, this is due to the evolution of DIY online travel companies: Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and the wealth of travel destination information and deals that can be found on the web.
However, so much available data can quickly overwhelm, and travelers are returning to travel agents in droves to seek advice and ensure they’re “asking the right questions.”
Succeeding as a travel agent today means viewing yourself as a partner in helping your clients plan the perfect trips; and, it often means catering to specific clientele and specializing in certain types of trip planning.
Travel agent specialties include:
Girlfriend weekends and man trips
How much does it cost to start a travel agency?
Most modern travel agencies conduct their businesses exclusively online and via the phone, and often from home offices, which means you can start a travel agent business for a relatively small investment and minimal risk. In fact, how to start a travel agency working from home is a question frequently asked by startup entrepreneurs.
Rolling Globe offers a nice breakdown of travel agency startup costs, and concludes you can expect to spend at least $3,200 on startup. Entrepreneur.com pegs the startup costs for an independent or specialty travel agent at between $2,000 and $10,000. If you go through a host agency, you could be looking at around $20,000 in initial fees and $2,000 for annual renewals.
Travel Agent Startup Costs
To determine your startup costs, you’ll need to create a business plan for your travel agency. Your business plan will help you identify what type of travel agency you want to start, how and where you will operate, and project expenses and revenues.
You can find free travel agent business plan templates and advice from the following resources:
How much do travel agents make?
How much you make depends on a variety of factors, including whether you’ll be a sole entrepreneur or hire agents to work for you.
That said, here are some income ranges for your consideration:
Of course, you won’t make anything as a travel agent without a smart marketing plan!
As a travel agent, your job is to get your clients the best deals for the best destinations possible. You’re also responsible for helping them get the travel experience of their dreams, not to mention ensuring their safety and security. Indeed, travel agents wear many hats.
Communicating your dedication to those goals is paramount to success, and this is where branding comes in. When you have a powerful brand image, your clients trust you to have their best interests at heart.
The following details how you can develop a winning travel agent brand image so you can help clients enjoy the times of their lives.
Logos for travel agency brands. Examples include:
Importance of a branded image
In business, a branded image is your logo, tagline, colors, fonts/typesets and other attributes that visually symbolize what your company does and who it serves. For travel agents, a brand image is much more than a palm tree and a company name - it is the ideas and emotions that establish credibility and make customers trust you to handle their travel arrangements.
Your brand sets you apart from the competition, so when customers browse your marketing materials it’s clear why you’re the number one choice.
How to identify your branded image
You can identify your branded image by answering the following questions:
Next, turn your answers into benefits that describe your travel agency. Jot down short phrases that describe what you do best and different (your unique selling propositions), then carefully study and rework those phrases until you develop one that precisely describes your company. This is your tagline, and it lays the foundation for all your branding efforts.
Branding through design
Skilled graphic designers can transform your branded identity from a written concept to a visual influencer. Hire a designer to create a logo that represents your brand and also help you identify brand colors, fonts, and design styles you’ll use throughout your marketing collateral.
The goal is to develop a strong, unified image that lets your audience know, at a glance, what company is behind any materials they see – and what that company stands for.
Consistent branding establishes your credibility in the travel industry and will transform your travel agency from just another listing to the go-to agency for smart travelers.
Once you've developed a powerful brand identity for your travel agency, it's time to get the word out about how you can help travelers get their dream vacations.
The following details what marketing materials you need to successfully market yourself as a travel agent and land your clients in Hawaii, Cancun, Paris and beyond!
Essential travel agent marketing tools
Business cards – Print business cards for your travel agency and hand them out to everyone you meet. You can also leave them in strategic places where your audience might find them. Consider printing ultra business cards to help your brand stand out from competitors.
Travel agent business card template
Brochures – Brochures are powerful travel agent marketing tools because they offer a succinct overview of the benefits you offer your clients. You can print travel agent brochures to send via direct-mail, use them as sales tools during meetings with your clients, and leave them in strategic public areas.
Posters and flyers – Posters and flyers can be placed in strategic locations such as public bulletin boards and places where people buy travel gear.
Banners – Print vinyl banners to market your travel agency, then place them in high-traffic areas. One excellent idea is to place banners along routes people travel on the way to and from work – a prime time to catch them thinking about vacations!
Vinyl banner advertising travel agency
Newsletters – Stay connected with your customer base by printing monthly or quarterly newsletters. Your newsletters can feature the latest travel deals, the best vacation destinations for your audience, and travel tips – all of which will help establish your credibility and increase follow-up calls.
Magnets – Print refrigerator magnets featuring important local numbers, and include yours for when your customers want to get away from it all. Print car door magnets to market your travel agency everywhere you go, too.
Calendars – Calendars are excellent marketing tools because they offer real value for your audience. Your customers will use and reference them daily. Feature popular travel destinations each month, along with a call to action to get in touch when they’re ready to plan their trips.
Postcards - Postcards are the go-to direct-mail marketing devices for travel agents. Postcards work will in virtually every industry, but they have more meaning for travel agents. Print postcards to promote your travel agency – perhaps feature a famous destination with the words "Wish you were here? We can help you get there." It's a play on the tourist postcard sent back home, and it almost guarantees a look. If you have a special discount offer to attach to it, all the better!
Wish you were here postcard/postcard template
Website - Put up a website with destination deals, your business philosophy, instant booking tools, appointment setting tools, and a contact form; and make sure your URL is included on all of your printed marketing materials.
Social media – Be active on the social media sites your audience uses. Ask current customers to post testimonials and photos of them on vacation.
Together with your brand image and design, copywriting plays an integral role in demonstrating to clients why you're the best travel agency in town. Here's what you need to know about copywriting to get those on the go to choose your agency.
Four steps for writing winning travel agent copy
1. Craft a powerful headline
Your headline should entice interest or deliver an offer. At the very least, it must capture attention so that potential clients read the rest of your pitch. It's even better when it can do all three.
2. Highlight your benefits
This goes back to your brand identity. As a travel agent, what is the benefit of doing business with you? Make sure this is very clear.
3. Develop an incredible offer
A time-limited offer encourages customers to make travel arrangements sooner rather than later. You can't dictate when your clients can take a week off work, but you can dictate when the best time is to book ahead.
4. Motivate with a call to action
You must tell your clients what to do to redeem your exclusive offer, in no uncertain language.
Example travel agent postcard copy (over an image of Jamaica's white beaches):
Wish You Were Here? We Can Get You There For Just $399
White sand beaches, clear blue water, the soft scent of coconut wafting through the breeze: Get a week for two at the all-inclusive Wanabi Resort and enjoy the finest dining, most beautiful waterfront, incredible action sports, and incredibly romantic sunsets for just $399 each.
GUARANTEED to be the best price you'll find for a luxury all-inclusive Jamaican resort or your money back.
Book your romantic Jamaican Getaway with Super Tourists by June 1st and you'll FLY FOR FREE!
Call 555-555-5555 or visit www.supertouristsfaketravelagency.com to reserve your trip today.
Super Tourists Travel Agency
The best deals, the best destinations, guaranteed.
Side view of ultra postcard
One of the major benefits you have as a travel agent is that you're selling something everyone wants. The trick to business success then is in proving you're the right agency to help clients plan their vacations. To do that, you'll need intelligent marketing distribution.
Direct-mail is one of the best ways for travel agents to earn clients. Repetition is crucial to direct-mail success, but you don't want to overdo it. For travel agents, there's a fine line between being aggressive and becoming a nuisance, so carefully choose who you should send your direct-mail marketing pieces to and when you should send them.
Make sure you have a well-targeted mailing list for your direct-mail campaigns to increase your odds of success. If you don't already have a good customer base or are seeking new customers, make a list based on targeted demographics or hire a list broker to find the best list for you.
Here's a sample direct-mail marketing campaign for travel agents:
Send a postcard announcing a special one-time only vacation destination deal.
Send a brochure that highlights your unique selling propositions and showcases the benefits of hiring you to help with travel planning.
Send a calendar that showcases favorite destinations and includes travel tips, tricks, and discount coupons.
Send a newsletter full of travel news, destination ideas, vacation tips, and personalized messages from you to brand your business.
Send a calendar featuring popular vacation destinations each month, plus calls to action to influence follow-up calls.
Send a flyer with upcoming destination deals so your customers can take advantage of them now - bookable up to a year in advance.
The more avenues you pursue, the more likely you'll pick up a large customer base that yields an excellent income.
Test, track and tweak: These three T’s will help you develop winning travel agent print marketing campaigns.
Always test different variations of your marketing materials on small portions of your mailing list before launching the full campaign. Sometimes a single word change can make a significant difference in your return on investment.
Keep a database of your clients, and evaluate recognizable trends so you can customize your pitch, which will allow you to make intelligent marketing decisions based on honest, proven statistics. Doing so will help you fine-tune future campaigns for almost-guaranteed success.
The Three T’s
Try these creative travel agent marketing ideas and resources to boost your marketing efforts this year.
Host a charity event
Host a charitable event that brings your community together to help you get the word out. Auction off a vacation with proceeds going to charity, and you'll also get free press.
Give away a honeymoon
Have a couples contest - something funny and humorous perhaps - and award the winning couple with a honeymoon or other vacation destination. You could make this into a full-blown publicity stunt to get a ton of PR.
Be always visible
Make sure you have posters, flyers, banners and other materials placed in high-traffic areas so you can brand yourself 24 hours a day. Ever notice how a celebrity's power seems to increase when they're always on display? Same goes here.
Get celebrity endorsements and you'll immediately increase your credibility.
Partner with others
Partner up with other members of the hospitality industry to create full theme-based packages. Attractions, restaurants, spas, hotels, museums and other members could sponsor an adventure getaway, a romantic getaway, a historic getaway or just about anything else.
Here are a few links to travel agent marketing resources you can use to bolster business.
PsPrint Full-service printing, direct mailing and mailing list generation.
American Society of Travel Agents Full of resources you can use to market your company. As the site states, you're "in the business of selling travel."
National Association of Career Travel Agents Another membership support service for travel agents with marketing resources.
Specialty Travel Agents Association Do you have specialty packages or serve a special type of client? Then this association is for you.
State, local and regional travel agent associations - There are many other travel agent associations with marketing tips. Perform an online search and you'll find associations pertaining to airlines, islands, destination-specific associations and more.