Travel and Tourism contributed close to 10% to world GDP, which is approximately USD 7.2 trillion, in 2015. 1 in 11 jobs in the world is supported by this industry that has grown steadily and is forecasted to grow at a rate of around 4% for the next 10 years. These are impressive figures, considering the current shaky global economic scenario. Such a scenario is perfect to venture into this industry with a robust business plan.
To an extent, the travel and tourism industry is evergreen, in the sense that although global economic shifts can have an impact on the travel patterns of people, but invariably people have to travel, either for business or for personal work.
Choose your services
As a travel consultant, the first step is to decide on the number of services you are willing to offer to your clients. You may select niche services or may offer comprehensive services that cover every single aspect of the tour or vacation.
You may suggest travel locations, help with ticketing, hotel bookings, charting out itineraries, sending out travel advisories and helping organize personal and corporate events.
Promote your hometown to the world
If you are just starting out with this business idea, it is advisable to promote a local tourist-worthy location to start with. This is easier since you already know the place and can easily build your network of people who can help you.
I stumbled upon this idea when a friend told me about her this amazing experience at the exotic beach city of Playa del Carmen, just 45 minutes from Cancun Airport in Mexico. While searching for a Caribbean destination, she came across the website Playa del carmen which books hotels, activities, weddings and much more. This consultancy is run by people who have made this beautiful beach city their home. Apart from achieving a sort of marketing coup d’etat by getting the name of the city as their domain name, they are a full-service travel consultancy. Their “Travel Gurus” help create exciting itineraries for tourists, organize any kind of event, be it a wedding or a corporate retreat, and offer all the information tourists require to enjoy a memorable vacation in this beach city. This is also a great example of seeking and targeting a niche market to limit competition and increase chances of success.
Organize specialty tours
A new trend that is becoming exceedingly popular is “specialty tours.” This can also be a starting point for many wannabe entrepreneurs who wish to become travel consultants. Specialty tours can be created depending upon the choice of location. These could be anything from Seniors Only to Family Fun-time to Passage through History. You could target specific groups and arrange such tours for females traveling alone, music lovers, wine enthusiasts and so on. You need to tailor these tours depending upon what the location offers, what you are passionate about and then target the clientele.Mari
Travel consultants can also distinguish themselves by offering completely customized packages. These packages may vary for the luxury traveler and budget backpacker. This can be a very exciting USP and you can create a truly personalized vacation from the clients’ own set of demands and requirements. The consultant can charge a substantial premium for such services.
What skills should you possess?
As a travel consultant, you need certain skills. The basic requirement is the passion for traveling and exploring new places. With excellent people skills, you will be able to interact and strike a deal, with a wide spectrum of clients with different interests, preferences, and tastes, as well as with hotel owners and with other specialty service providers. Superb organizational skills will help you to arrange and coordinate events and activities and also help market yourself to the world.
Cater to the corporate world
The current hectic corporate environment has birthed the fears of employee burnout and companies are realizing the worth of a break from work. Many companies have revised their vacation policies and are actually encouraging their employees to take that long-pending vacation. Companies like Netflix actually don’t care how much vacation time their employees take as long as they perform and get the job done.
With companies asking their employees to take a break, organizing corporate retreats and team-building activities, there is a lot of scope for travel consultants to provide services for organizing employee vacations and corporate events. Since companies would like to focus on the actual activity and not get into the hassles of organizing the event, they will be well served by a travel consultant who can plan the itinerary, book tickets and hotel rooms and organize the entire event.
Market your business
Finally, you need a strategy to market your services. At the center of all your marketing efforts is your website. Make it intuitive, responsive, with a simplified design and update it regularly with great, informative and pertinent content. Integrate digital and offline marketing ideas – don’t forget social media – to come up with a well-rounded and holistic plan to attract customers.
Once you start getting clients, go out of the way to delight them. These happy and satisfied customers will be your brand ambassadors and will refer your services to their network. Encourage them to review you on third party review sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp to attract more customers.
Having a proactive sales personality and a passion to help clients enjoy their vacations to the fullest are key elements for your eventual success as a travel consultant. Although the initial phase can be financially challenging, that your career lets you travel, enjoy and have fun is reward enough, is an understatement.