How to start an international travel business


Updated on:

international travel business

Did you know that the travel and tourism industry contributes over £200 billion to the UK economy annually? With the rising popularity of international travel, there has never been a better time to enter the market and start your own international travel business. Whether you dream of curating bespoke vacations or connecting travelers with the best deals, this guide will walk you through the steps to establish a successful travel business in the United Kingdom.

Educate and Upskill Yourself

Before starting your own travel business, it is important to educate and upskill yourself. By acquiring the necessary knowledge and expertise, you can enter this new and exciting industry with confidence. One way to gain knowledge is by enrolling in a travel agent course. These courses are designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the travel industry, including different types of bookings, reservation software, and the legalities involved in running a travel business.

Consider exploring educational materials provided by professional associations like the American Society of Travel Agents. They often offer webinars, workshops, and industry-specific materials that can further enhance your understanding of this dynamic field. Staying informed about the latest trends and developments in the travel industry will give you a competitive edge and enable you to offer exceptional service to your future clients.

Investing in your education and upskilling yourself will not only make you a more knowledgeable travel professional but also demonstrate your commitment to excellence in this new industry. By continuously expanding your knowledge base, you can confidently navigate the challenges that come with running a travel business and provide exceptional service to your clients.

Choose the Business Model

When starting your international travel business, one of the first decisions to make is the business model you will adopt. There are several options to consider, each with its own unique advantages and considerations.

Referral Agent

As a referral agent, your role will be to refer clients to established travel companies. You will earn a referral fee for each reservation made through your recommendations. This model allows you to focus on building relationships with clients and directing them to trusted travel providers.

Host Agency

Signing on with a host agency can provide you with access to a network of contacts and resources. You will use the host agency’s established relationships to book reservations for your clients. In return, you will receive travel agent commissions. This model offers support and guidance from an experienced agency while still allowing you some independence.

Independent Travel Agency

If you prefer to have full control over your business, starting your own independent travel agency may be the right choice. As an independent agency, you will establish your own contacts and negotiate commissions for your bookings. This model offers the most freedom and flexibility, allowing you to shape your business according to your vision.

Consider your preferences, goals, and resources when deciding which business model suits you best. Each model has its pros and cons, so take the time to evaluate which option aligns with your aspirations.

  • Referral agent: Earn referral fees for each reservation made through recommendations.
  • Host agency: Use established contacts to book reservations and receive travel agent commissions.
  • Independent travel agency: Establish your own contacts and negotiate commissions for your bookings.

Evaluate the Benefits of Niching

When starting an international travel business, it’s important to consider whether you want to cater to all kinds of travel or focus on a specific niche. Specializing in a niche market, such as adventure travel or honeymoons, can bring several benefits to your agency.

One advantage of running a niche travel agency is the ability to target specific customers. By focusing on a particular type of travel, you can tailor your services and offerings to meet the unique needs and preferences of your target audience. This targeted approach allows you to provide personalized experiences and build stronger connections with your customers, enhancing their satisfaction and loyalty.

In addition, operating within a niche market can reduce competition from other travel agencies. By carving out a specialized space in the industry, you can differentiate your agency from the broader market and establish yourself as an expert in your chosen niche. This can attract customers who are specifically seeking the type of travel experiences you offer, enhancing your chances of securing bookings and growing your business.

Reduced Competition in the Niche Travel Market

Unlike larger travel agencies that cater to a wide range of customers, a niche travel agency can focus its marketing efforts on a more targeted demographic. By understanding the unique needs and desires of your niche audience, you can create tailored marketing messages that resonate with them. This highly focused approach not only helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace but also allows you to attract customers who are more likely to convert into bookings.

Furthermore, operating in a niche market may open up opportunities for partnerships and collaborations with other businesses that cater to the same target audience. By forming strategic alliances, you can leverage each other’s customer base and expand your reach within the niche market, ultimately driving more traffic and bookings to your agency.

Overall, evaluating the benefits of niche travel agency can help you make an informed decision about how to position your business in the international travel industry. By targeting specific customer segments and reducing competition, a niche travel agency has the potential to thrive and achieve long-term success in this competitive marketplace.

Negotiate Fees and Commissions

When starting your international travel business, it’s important to reach out to travel companies and negotiate fees and commissions that align with your business goals. The specific terms will depend on whether you’re operating as a referral agent or an independent travel agency.

Referral Fees

For referral agents, the focus is on negotiating fair referral fees. These fees are the amounts you earn for referring clients to travel companies. By reaching out to travel companies directly, you can discuss and negotiate suitable referral fees that reflect the value of your referrals.

Commission Amounts

If you’re starting an independent travel agency, commission amounts become a crucial aspect of your negotiations. Commission amounts are what you earn for each booking you make. It’s important to negotiate contracts that outline transparent commission structures, ensuring you receive appropriate compensation for the effort and expertise you contribute to each booking.

Wholesale Rates

Additionally, it’s beneficial for your business to apply for wholesale rates when it comes to airline bookings and Amtrak reservations. By going through the Airlines Reporting Corporation, you can access discounted wholesale rates, which can help you offer competitive prices to your clients and increase your profit margins.

For commissions on international flights, contacting the International Airlines Travel Agent Network will allow you to explore commission opportunities in this specific market segment.

By actively negotiating fees, commissions, and wholesale rates, you’ll establish a solid foundation for your international travel business, ensuring both your profitability and the satisfaction of your clients. Remember, each negotiation is an opportunity to showcase the value you bring to the travel industry.

Sign With a Host

If you prefer to work under the umbrella of an established agency, consider signing on with a host agency for your international travel business. Working with a host agency allows you to leverage their system, contacts, and resources to book reservations for your clients.

When you sign with a host agency, it’s important to understand the financial aspect of the partnership. In most cases, your business will split commissions with the host agency. This commission structure ensures that both parties receive a fair share of the earnings.

However, it’s essential to be aware of potential costs associated with signing on with a host agency. Some host agencies may charge a startup fee and monthly fees to work with them. Before making a decision, evaluate the fees and consider whether the benefits and support offered by the host agency outweigh the financial investment.

Signing with a host agency can provide you with a solid foundation and access to industry knowledge, networks, and resources. It’s an option worth considering if you prefer a structured approach to starting your international travel business.

To illustrate the significance of signing with a host agency, let’s take a look at this visual representation:

With a host agency, you can tap into their expertise, established relationships, and preferred supplier network, enhancing your ability to deliver exceptional travel experiences to your clients.

Invest in a Reservation System

If you are starting an independent travel agency without the help of a host agency, consider investing in a computer reservation system (CRS). This will enable you to book a wider variety of reservations directly with travel suppliers. While many travel companies do not require the use of a CRS, having one may provide greater flexibility and options for your business.

A computer reservation system allows you to streamline the booking process and access real-time availability and pricing for flights, hotels, rental cars, and more. With a CRS, you can search, compare, and book reservations efficiently, saving you time and effort.

  • Access a wider variety of travel options: With a computer reservation system, you have access to a vast network of travel suppliers, which means you can offer your clients a wider variety of options for their travel needs.
  • Efficiency and convenience: A computer reservation system automates the reservation process, reducing the need for manual data entry and paperwork. This not only enhances efficiency but also ensures accuracy in bookings.
  • Real-time updates: A CRS provides real-time updates on availability, prices, and any changes or cancellations in bookings. This allows you to provide your clients with up-to-date information and make informed decisions.

Implementing a computer reservation system in your independent travel agency can give you a competitive edge by offering a wider range of reservations to your clients. It also allows you to provide personalized and efficient service, enhancing the overall customer experience.

Create a Business Plan

Starting an international travel business requires careful planning and consideration. One of the first steps you should take is to create a comprehensive business plan. A well-defined business plan will serve as a roadmap, outlining the key aspects of your travel business and helping you make informed decisions as you progress.

Here are some crucial elements to include in your business plan:

Startup Costs

  • Estimate the initial investment required to start your travel business, including expenses such as licensing, office setup, software, and marketing materials.


  • Consider how you will finance your travel business. Will you be using personal savings, seeking investors, or applying for a small business loan?

Finding Customers

  • Outline your marketing strategy for attracting customers. Research your target audience, identify effective marketing channels, and plan promotional activities to reach potential clients.

Business Running

  • Specify how you will run your travel business on a day-to-day basis. Outline your operational processes, staff requirements, and any necessary partnerships or collaborations.

A well-crafted business plan will not only help you secure funding but also provide a clear vision for your international travel business. It serves as a valuable tool to refer back to throughout your entrepreneurial journey, ensuring you stay focused and on track towards success.

Get a Business License

Before officially starting your international travel business, you will need to obtain a business license. Most states require businesses to have a license, regardless of whether they are home-based or not. Contact your local department of licensing and inspections to determine if you need any travel-specific licenses or permits to operate your travel business.

Join Travel Associations

Joining travel associations is a valuable step for enhancing the professional image of your travel agency. By becoming a member of esteemed organizations like the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents, you can establish credibility and gain recognition within the industry.

Membership in travel associations offers numerous benefits, including exclusive commission and training opportunities. Staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and developments is vital to maintaining a competitive edge. Being part of a travel association allows you to regularly network with other travel professionals, fostering valuable connections and partnerships.

Whether you are an independent travel agent or part of a larger agency, joining travel associations showcases your commitment to excellence and professionalism. It sends a clear message to clients and partners that you are dedicated to providing top-notch service and staying abreast of the latest industry standards.

To reinforce your professional image and unlock new commission opportunities, consider joining prominent travel associations today.

Purchase Liability Insurance

Protect your international travel business by purchasing error and omissions insurance. This insurance provides coverage in the event that you make an error and a client sues you for it. Having error and omissions insurance is essential for safeguarding your travel business against potential client lawsuits.

With error and omissions insurance, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are financially protected in case of any unforeseen circumstances. In the travel industry, where unforeseen events can happen, such as canceled flights or incorrect bookings, having this insurance is crucial.

While error and omissions insurance helps cover certain costs, such as legal fees, it is important to note that there may be a deductible you need to pay out of pocket for each claim. However, the costs associated with client lawsuits can far outweigh the deductible, making this insurance a vital investment for your travel business.

Benefits of purchasing error and omissions insurance:

  • Protection against client lawsuits
  • Coverage for legal fees
  • Financial security in the event of an error
  • Peace of mind for you and your clients

Set Up an Office

Create a dedicated home-based office or workspace to efficiently handle reservations and other travel business tasks. By having a designated area for your international travel business, you can establish a professional and productive work environment.

Equip your home-based office with essential equipment to ensure smooth operations. A computer with internet access will be vital for research, communication with clients and suppliers, and online reservation management. Additionally, invest in a printer to generate necessary documents, a telephone to provide prompt customer service, and a fax machine for any required paperwork.

Having a well-equipped office will enable you to handle reservations and efficiently manage various business tasks, such as coordinating travel itineraries, processing payments, and addressing customer inquiries. Ensure that your workspace is organized and conducive to productivity, allowing you to focus on serving your clients’ needs effectively.

Spread the Word

To attract clients to your international travel business, it is crucial to establish a strong online presence. Create a professional travel business website that showcases your services and allows potential clients to easily book their travel online. A visually appealing and user-friendly website will leave a lasting impression on visitors and increase the likelihood of inquiries and bookings. Provide detailed information about the destinations you specialize in, your expertise, and the unique experiences you offer.

Aside from an online presence, consider leveraging various advertising channels to spread the word about your business. Flyers and print ads can be distributed in local businesses, travel agencies, and community centers. Engage potential customers through targeted online advertisements that reach your desired demographics. Additionally, explore advertising opportunities on radio and cable to reach a wider audience.

Key Points:

  • Create a professional travel business website to showcase your services and enable online bookings
  • Distribute flyers and print ads in local establishments and community centers
  • Target potential customers through online advertising campaigns
  • Explore advertising opportunities on radio and cable to reach a wider audience

Considerations for Business Travel

Business travel can be a demanding experience, often accompanied by stress, delayed flights, and high costs. However, there are effective strategies you can employ to avoid stress and make your international travel business trips more enjoyable and productive.

One crucial tip is to plan ahead meticulously. This includes booking your travel arrangements early, checking-in online, and allowing enough time for potential delays. Having a well-structured itinerary and keeping important documents organized can also alleviate stress during your trip.

Additionally, it is vital to prioritize self-care. Maintaining a healthy routine and staying hydrated are essential for managing stress. Exercise and relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help you stay centered and calm amidst the challenges of business travel.

Remember, a positive mindset goes a long way. Embrace the opportunities that come with travel and approach each trip with adaptability and resourcefulness. By implementing these tips and maintaining a proactive approach, you can navigate the complexities of business travel and make it a smoother experience.

Source Links

Leave a comment

Business, International