Wait, Travel Agencies Still Exist?

Once a staple of getting from here to there, the digital age has forced the travel agent to seek work elsewhere…or has it? Believe it or not, even now when most travel plans can be made independently and online travel agents and travel agencies do still exist! They just look a little bit different now.

Going Solo

Gary Leff, for example, is an independent travel agent who helps people book trips in his spare time. He specializes in helping people use their frequent flier miles to put together great vacations and trips that they might not have been able to design themselves.

Others have taken their professional experience and knowledge and turned it into informational products that people can use to travel better and smarter than they would know how to do on their own. Chris Guillebeau’s How to Be a Travel Ninja, for example, teaches people how to travel affordably and effectively no matter where in the world they want to go.

That’s great and all, but what if you have a standard “run of the mill” travel agency and you want to keep it alive long enough to help fund your kids’ braces (or, better, college educations)?

Cover Your Business’s Bases

Before you can even think about marketing tricks or SEO techniques for raising your brand’s awareness, you need to make sure you have your business basics covered. According to the Houston Chronicle, the US does not require travel agents to have state licensing. There are, however, certificates (like the certification for travel associates and travel counselors) that you should have. Potential customers will want to know they can trust you and having verifiable certifications will help build that trust.

Insurance is another thing that you will need to have. John Noel turned us on to the special insurance that exists solely to protect travel agents. This way if you accidentally book someone on the wrong flight or give them bad information you won’t be out the cost of their trip and you won’t be held liable if a customer gets sick or injured taking a trip that you’ve put together for him. Showing proof of insurance is another step toward building real trust and will set you apart from the hundreds of other people online who are claiming to be travel agents.

Marketing Your Travel Agency

Come up with a really great tagline. Papa Murphy’s tagline is “Love at 425 degrees.” It’s something people remember and applies to their product. Coming up with a great tagline that you can use to brand your business is important whether your marketing is going to be done online or offline.

Use Photos. You are a travel agent. This means that, ostensibly, you’ve been to some really great places and have some really great photos from those places. Use those photos in your articles, blog posts and definitely on your social media pages. People will see the photos and want to know more (plus, when you use your own, you don’t have to pay royalty fees) and be more likely to visit your site.

Make Videos. Making and using videos to promote your business is one of the top ten marketing techniques advocated by Travel Agent Central. Make short videos of your trips and post those trips online. Or, better, get your customers to send you video clips of their own trips and (with their permission of course) edit those clips together into promotional materials for your business. The evocation of jealousy is a powerful motivator when it comes to booking travel.

Really, marketing a travel agency isn’t all that much different than marketing any other type of business. Make sure your business is properly set up, tell people about it in as many direct and creative ways as possible and then reap the rewards. It’ll take time but it’ll happen!

About Shawn Hartley

Creative technologist by day. VP at Corporate 3 Design in Omaha. Proud father and husband.