So, you’ve decided you want to pursue your passion for travel as a career as an independent travel agent? With all the support and training we offer, getting started with Outside Agent Link is easy for beginners. However, everyone can use a little head start. That’s why we’ve put together a short glossary to help you understand some of the terms, acronyms, and abbreviations you’ll come across as you start your career as an independent travel agent:
Host Agency - A host agency is a company that provides smaller, independent travel agencies with booking services, marketing tools, supplier contacts, sales leads and more in exchange for a portion of the travel agents commission or an annual fee. Outside Agent Link is a host agency.
IATAN Card - International Airlines Travel Agent Network Card, the most widely accepted identification card provided by IATA, the International Air Transport Association, that distinguishes you as a verified travel professional. Outside Agent Link members can attain an IATAN card after proving they have earned a minimum of $5000 in commissions paid to them by Outside Agent Link within a 12 consecutive month period and working at least 20 hours per week as an Independent Travel Consultant.
CLIA Card - Sometimes referred to as an EMBARC ID, an identification card provided by CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association, that distinguishes you as a verified travel seller. Outside Agent Link members who have been paid a minimum of $2000.00 in commission within the calendar year and met the criteria and fees established by CLIA can enroll and get their CLIA card.
Travel Niche - An area of expertise or specialization chosen by a travel agent to focus on. This niche could be a certain destination, form of travel, a certain demographic or a number of other specifications. A travel niche can be broad or very narrow.
Travel Supplier - A company that provides travel services to the general public, such as an airline, cruise line or hotel chain.
FAM Trips - “Familiarization trips” or FAM trips are low cost or free trips provided by travel suppliers or operators to travel agents so they can better sell their travel services to their clients. In order to attend a fam, we require agents to have been members for a minimum of 90 days and have earned a minimum of $500.00 commission during their current active membership.
E&O Insurance - Errors and Omissions Insurance, A form of liability insurance that protects anyone who sells services for a fee, such as independent travel agents. Outside Agent Link does have Errors and Omissions insurance but strongly suggest agents obtain their own E & O coverage.
GDS - Global Distribution System, a GDS is a network that allows travel agents to access travel data, compare ticket prices and book travel reservation on one platform. Outside Agent Link provides free access to their GDS for their agents.
Ever wondered if you have what it takes to become a travel agent? Even if you haven’t considered it before, maybe you should start now. From a love of research to an obsession with organization, these are some of the top signs you could be a great independent travel agent:
We don’t mean you always keep your clothes folded neatly and never leave dishes in the sink. The best travel agents are organized when it comes to planning out and scheduling trips for individual clients. There are a lot of dates, numbers, destinations and times to remember when working with a client to book a trip. People who are adept at keeping detailed schedules, notes and files systems will have an advantage when it comes to organizing travel for clients. When it comes to planning the ultimate trip for your clients, every little detail matters.
If you love working with people and bringing happiness to those around you, a career in the travel field may be perfect for you. Your job planning trips and vacations for your clients will bring them joy and lifelong memories. The best travel agents find it easy to communicate with new people and make them feel comfortable around you. They listen to what their client is saying so they can better personalize the trip to that unique client. Travel agents can’t be afraid to reach out and contact someone first, either. In fact, that’s an essential trait when it comes to getting new clients.
In many situations, travel agents rely on their own experiences and first-hand knowledge to provide information to their clients. However, no one can know everything. When a client comes to you asking for a trip to a country you’ve never visited, a destination you're unfamiliar with or an experience you’ve never heard of, it is your job to research and learn everything you can in order to book the best trip for your client.
The flexibility to adjust to changes and unexpected situations quickly and easily is an important trait for travel agents. When you’re constantly working with other people’s schedules and budgets, you have to maintain a healthy level of adaptability to stay sane. Also, travel agents need to be prepared for travel emergencies when their clients are on their trips. Thinking on your feet when a client misses a flight or falls ill overseas isn’t just convenient, it’s essential to providing the best service possible for your clients.
Most importantly, the best travel agents have a passion for traveling and seeing the world. The thing that separates any regular job and a career you love is the passion you have for what you do. If you love to travel, that will translate into the work you do and the trips you plan for your clients. You’ll not only get the opportunity to learn about new places and help others see the world, you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to get out and travel yourself. Not to mention, the expert knowledge you accumulate while traveling can give you the leg-up over other agents. Even if you don’t a ton a lot of travel experience under your belt, there are still programs that will allow you to begin a career as a travel agent.
Even the most seasoned travel agent can feel like they’ve hit a roadblock trying to reach new clients. Despite the many communication tools of our digital age, it seems more difficult than ever to be heard above the noise and to generate qualified leads for your independent travel business. Many independent and home-based travel agents are looking to expand their client lists without breaking the bank or trying to cold-sell. These three tips can help you make new clients and organically grow your travel business:
Don’t be afraid to tap into your existing client list to reach new people. Word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the most powerful tools to generate leads. People are more likely to trust the opinions of their friends than the advice of a stranger online. Not only is this tool often free, it requires less work on your part to seek out potential new clients.
When a client returns from a trip and is pleased with their experience, ask them to share your service with any of their friends or peers that may also need a travel agent soon. You can offer incentives such as discounts on upcoming trips or free gifts for each new client your current client sends your way. Even if you don’t feel comfortable asking clients to directly refer your service to their friends, you can encourage them to review your service on Facebook or write a brief testimonial to be shared on your website.
Blogging is an often-underestimated tool for reaching new clients and increasing awareness for your travel business. Not only does posting frequent blog articles to your website boost your chances of being found through internet search engines, it also provides you with a free way to show your expertise and share it on social media. Provide useful information to travelers that conveys your knowledge on the subject as well as your passion for helping your clients experience the best travel possible.
Potential blog topics could be tips on getting through airport security, upcoming travel destinations, how to guides for popular cities, packing lists and more. Be sure your blog is a helpful resource for travelers and not simply a marketing tool for your business.
We’ve shared tips before on how travel agents can use social media platforms, such as Instagram, to reach new people. No matter what your travel niche or specialty, social channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter are free tools that you can leverage to get your travel agency in front of potential clients.
But how specifically can these platforms be used for lead generation? Twitter and Instagram are excellent for finding people interested in specialty travel or destinations through hashtags. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to link to articles or blogs that will get people over to your website. LinkedIn also allows you to connect with other industry professionals. No matter which platforms you are active on, keep your voice both friendly and helpful. Don’t hesitate to include photos of destinations or previous trips and share experiences from your own travels.
Travel abroad is one of the most memorable experiences in an individual’s life. Often, travel agents will work with clients who are planning a trip overseas and want your assistance making the trip unforgettable. However, a travel agent’s job isn’t over after they have planned out a trip itinerary and booked the hotel and flights. Every now and then, an emergency occurs while a client is traveling abroad. One of the perks for travelers who book through a travel agent is the security they offer in unexpected situations, from canceled flights to medical emergencies. Check out our tips on preparing for and handling a client's travel emergency quickly and efficiently:
While it’s impossible to know what may go wrong when a client is traveling abroad, it is possible to have a contingency plan in place. Set up guidelines and steps for situations such as a client losing their luggage in a foreign airport, misplacing their passport, missing a return flight or falling ill while abroad. While the details will change case by case, you’ll know the appropriate starting point and feel better prepared to ease your client’s concerns. Your plan should also include a way for clients to contact you and receive a rapid response. Emergencies never occur on a preplanned schedule. It may be early morning for you when your client needs to contact you for assistance halfway across the globe. Make sure clients know the best way to reach you for an immediate response whether that be email, a certain phone number or social media.
No one wants to be frantically searching for paperwork and confirmation numbers during an already stressful situation. Make sure you’re adequately prepared to get in touch with a client, their emergency contact or their airline or hotel. Knowing reservation and confirmation numbers are essential for a fast response time if a client misses their flight or needs to reschedule the trip dates. If your client feels comfortable, keep a copy of their passport in a secure file in the event they lose the document while traveling. Additionally, have a list of each stop on your client’s trip and the numbers for the local U.S. Embassy.
Travel insurance is one of the most valuable tools in any travel emergency. From covering medical expenses in foreign hospitals to protecting clients in the even of canceled flights, travel insurance is safety blanket for unpredictable situations.Health insurance companies often don’t cover travelers while overseas. Also, travel insurance keeps your client from losing money in the event a trip must be canceled or cut short. The total cost for your client will be a fraction of the trip cost but can save them hundreds to thousands of dollars if an emergency occurs.
As a travel agent, you should do everything possible to prepare for travel emergencies that befall your clients. However, you should also give your clients the tools to avoid many of these situations before they happen. Create a list for a travel abroad kit that includes items such as essential everyday medications that may be difficult to locate abroad, copies of their passport, and some local currency. On the list, remind clients to contact their bank to make sure cards aren’t frozen and to be aware of any potential international ATM fees.
Have you ever had to help a client through a travel emergency? How did the situation play out? Share your comments and tips with us on Facebook.
If you’re a travel agent, you know what specialized knowledge and skills you offer your clients. However, do you know what they hope to get from you when it comes to planning their trip?
Travelers may be turning back to travel agents instead of budget booking websites, but their expectations are still high for the service they’ll receive from travel professionals. Below are some of the most common expectations for travelers who work with travel agents:
This is the most obvious expectation of travelers working with travel agents, but also one of the most important. Individuals who book with a travel agent do so because they want someone who has accurate, up-to-date information on their destination. Travel agents’ clients don’t have the time to sort through thousands of search results about their trip and guess what information is correct.
Planning an overseas vacation or business trip can be a complex process for which many travelers don’t have time. Travelers want travel agents to do the legwork of their trip planning while they share their ideas of how the trip will go. Large group trips and vacations to new destinations require complex planning and hours of communicating with airlines, cruise lines and hotels. One of the main perks of working with a travel agent is the ability to hand over the reigns when travel planning gets difficult.
Travel emergencies are unpredictable and can wreak havoc on a vacation or business trip. Travelers who book their trip with a travel agent expect their agent to be available to help in the event an emergency does occur. This may mean locating lost luggage, scheduling a late night flight at the last minute or finding a doctor’s office in a foreign country. Travel agents are a lifeline to travelers when the unexpected strikes.
It’s widely expected that travel agents have unique connections and resources that can get their clients extra perks during their trip. This may mean an upgraded room, a reservation at that hard to book restaurant overseas, last-minute deal on their trip that isn’t available to the public or simply extra attention to the smallest of details during the trip such as free wifi on their flight.
While travelers know that there are costs that come along with booking travel through a travel agent, most still expect to save money. Travelers who work with travel agents assume their agent will find them the best group deals, monitor for price drops and get them specialty hotel or airline rates only available to travel professionals.
Those who travel without the aid of a travel agent sometimes fall victim to unpleasant surprises during their trips in the form of stand-by only tickets, canceled hotel reservations and more. However, one of the major draws of booking with a travel agent is avoiding these inconvenient and unexpected issues. Granted, some travel issues are unavoidable, but it’s assumed that a travel agent will have the foresight to prevent any problems that are preventable.
In many cases, people who come to a travel agent to get help planning their next trip don’t just need airline tickets and a hotel reservation. Travel agents have the valuable knowledge and experience required to plan a detailed schedule for a trip somewhere new. Clients may have a general idea of what they’d like to do during their trip, but they’ll leave it up to their travel agent to work out the details and timing.
While Facebook should be your top focus of the social media platforms when it comes to reaching current and potential clients, there is still much to be said for a strong Instagram presence. After all, people say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and Instagram is at its core a photo-sharing app. The travel industry has a unique opportunity to thrive on this social platform. In fact, “48% of Instagram users rely on Instagram to find a new travel destination” (source).
As an independent travel agent, Instagram is the perfect platform to show your knowledge and passion for travel. It gives you a free tool to promote special offers, follow travel industry trends, get in front of new clients, and see what current clients are posting about the trips you planned for them. So where and how do you get started? We’ve got an easy guide to Instagram best practices for independent travel agents:
Types of images to post
Because Instagram is a photo-based app, it’s crucial that the images you post are both high quality and inspiring to travelers. There are many ways you can find photos to post. Ask clients to share photos from their travels, or get permission to share Instagram posts they’ve previously posted (and be sure to give them credit). Share your own pictures of your past travels. Post pictures of your workspace. Find free images of travel destinations from sources such as Pixabay.com and Pexels.com.
Once you find an appropriate image to use, Instagram will let you crop and edit the photo. Instagram offers over 20 potential filters within the app for your images, and it can be tempting to over-filtering your photos or switch out the filter you use between each post. Try to pick one filter that you like the look of, adjust the level of the filter so your photo still looks natural and stick to that setting for all of your photos. This will give your Instagram feed a consistent look.
Caption topics to consider
While Instagram is a form of advertising for your independent travel agency, that doesn’t mean you should use marketing talk in your posts. People are looking for authentic content that they feel they can relate to, even if your captions. After you’ve picked your image, write a caption that is unique to both the photo and to you. Tell your story in a few sentences. Share memories from past trips you’ve been on. Talk about your favorite part of planning a trip for a client.
Hashtags to use
Instagram hashtags are the tool that lets your post get in front of new audiences and potential clients. There are millions out there to choose from, from extremely popular and commonly used tags too much more niche tags only a handful of people would search for. For your Instagram posts, you’ll want to utilize all 30 of the hashtags Instagram allows per post. Choose tags that match the interests of the clients you want to reach and that are relevant to the photo you are posting. As a basic rule of thumb, find 20 hashtags that are more general to your page and content and 10 hashtags specified to each post. Use some of the hashtags to get started:
Specific travel hashtags: #FamilyVacation, #DestinationWedding, #Honeymoon, #Adventure, #GroupTravel, #AllInclusive, #Cruising
Broad travel hashtags: #TravelTips, #TravelQuote, #InstaTravel, #InstaGo, #InstaPassport,
Day-specific hashtags: #MondayMotivation, #TravelTuesday, #WanderlustWednesday, #ThursdayThoughts, #FridayFun, #SaturdayVibes, #SundayFunday
Brand name hashtags: #RoyalCaribbean #OasisoftheSeas, #CarnivalCruise
Destination hashtags: #InstaNYC, #VisitParis, #LondonCity, #VeniceItaly
People to follow
When starting out your travel page, it’s perfectly okay for it to take a while to build up your follower base. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be following people and brands before you get your own followers. Start out by following the big names in the travel industry, such as TripAdvisor, Passion Passport, Travel Channel, National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, Airbnb, and National Geographic Travel. You can also follow local companies in your town, current clients, and other travel agent friends.
Engaging with other users
Don’t expect everyone to come to you. You must go to them first. Use the hashtags above to search for your ideal traveler and have genuine conversations with them. Don’t immediately advertise your service. Instead, talk with them about their favorite destinations, their travel goals, etc.
When to post
While the frequency of your posting will be largely dependent on your own schedule, aim for once every other day to start. If possible, one post per day is a happy balance between staying visible to your audience but avoiding annoying them. Finding the best time of the day to post will be trial and error. Try posting in the morning, afternoon and evening to see which posts get better responses.
What are you waiting for? Get your independent travel agency in front of the Instagram world. And while you’re there, don’t forget to follow us at OutsideAgentLink!
For a long time, the travel industry has focused the majority of its attention on reaching older demographics. We have assumed that those most likely to need the services of a travel agent are older individuals who have an established career that offers ample vacation time or are retired. However, recent studies show that millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, actually account for 16 percent of all American travelers and are the driving force behind growth in the travel industry. But how do we reach this demographic of younger travelers? Here are three tips for independent travel agents marketing to millennial clients:
Social media is one of the key influencers on travel interest. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, aren’t all outfit inspiration and animal videos. In fact, social media is the prime source for millennials seeking travel inspiration. Millennials are more likely to pick a travel destination or activity from something a peer posted online over an advertisement. How can travel agents use this to reach millennial clients? Be engaged on social media platforms. Regularly post pictures and interesting travel facts on Facebook and Instagram. Maintain a blog and share links to it on Twitter and Pinterest. Instead of looking at social media as a platform to make a sale, consider it a way to engage in dialogue and connect with potential millennial clients.
Think off the beaten path of traditional travel. Millennials are looking for unique and unfamiliar experiences when they travel. According to Expedia, 86 percent of millennials travel to experience new cultures. Most aren’t looking to stay in a big chain hotel and visit the most popular tourist attractions. Instead, they want to take a trip that lets them see a destination through the eyes of a local. What can travel agents do to offer this experience travel to millennials? Study lesser-known destinations and attractions. Offer to share, or hand over, the reigns when it comes to planning daily travel activities. Connect millennial travelers with a local tour guide once they arrive at their destination. Show these potential clients that you understand their travel needs and offer unique, trustworthy information that they wouldn’t find online.
Work with a different set of concerns and restrictions. Travel restrictions and concerns for millennials are often much different than they are for older generations. For example, while budget is still a key concern, length of travel is often a bigger concern than cost, since many millennials haven’t accumulated as much vacation time as a more seasoned professional who’s been with their company for years. Also, keep in mind that this demographic tends to book more last minute vacations and travel than older generations. How can travel agents cater to these concerns? Offer last minute deals and discounts that encourage spur of the moment decisions. Market more weekend trips that require less time off work. Be flexible and authentic and show millennials you understand their travel limitations and are able to work around them.
Once we reconsider how we reach new millennial clients, connecting with this younger generation of travelers can offer great success and build lifelong partnerships between travel agent and traveler.