The way you begin your business will go a long way in determining how well it will fare.
Just like laying the foundation of a building, if you start your business without first equipping yourself with sufficient knowledge and information on your proposed line of business, your business may fold up in no distant time.
As someone wishing to start a travel agency, it’s necessary to first equip yourself with the necessary knowledge.
If you’re setting up your travel agency in the UK, then your business will be guided by regulated by organisations such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Air Traffic Organisers License (ATOL), and European Package Travel Regulation (PTR).
It implies that whatever business strategy you choose must agree with the regulations of these regulatory bodies.
Travel Agency Regulations in the UK
To protect the interest of customers patronising travel agencies, the government has laid out some guidelines. These guidelines help immensely in checking excesses on the part of travel agencies. They include:
- You must serve your client with a copy of the contract you both have entered. This written contract should explicitly state how much you are selling your package (with implied dues and taxes), the mode of payment, meals to be provided, and itinerary. Also, the contract must include the destination(s), length of stay at the destination(s), details of the package organiser, and all information on the means of transportation.
- Your client must agree with every change made on the contract. If the change doesn’t go down well with the client, they should have the right to pull out freely from the contract.
- You should take responsibility for any inconvenience that arises as a result of misinformation on your part.
- Your clients should have the right to request a refund if any service providers fail to meet their needs.
How to Start a Travel Agency in the UK
The following are steps to take in setting up your travel agency.
Do Your Findings
There is a whole lot to know about travel agencies and their modes of operations. Some of these modes of operations are unique to the UK. Before you begin to make any financial commitment to your plan, it’s important to know the full implication of what you are about venturing into.
The internet is loaded with lots of such information. If you can, get connected with the directors of existing travel agencies to obtain first-hand information about the industry.
Your findings should include the rules and regulations guiding the travel industry, how they will affect your business, and the challenges travel agencies face in the UK.
You should also inquire about the tax and dues implications of running a travel agency, the possibility of sustainability in the face of strong competitors, the level of demand for travel agencies, and any other necessary information.
However, you must know that every business comes with its downside. So while you carry out your findings, they will furnish you with information that may deter you from investing in the travel business. You simply have to list all the risks involved in starting a travel agency against your likely profits.
Weigh the two and decide if the risks are worth undertaking. If you must undergo any risk, make sure it’s a calculated one. You wouldn’t want to end up in debt or have problems with the travel regulatory bodies in the UK while operating your business.
Get a Cost Estimate
Many factors affect the cost of starting a business. When it comes to travel agencies, the start-up capital is highly dependent on the founder’s taste.
With just a computer, a telephone line, and a small workspace in your home, you can kick start your travel agency. Or you may decide to start in a bigger way by setting up an office and getting into competition with other high street travel agencies. However, both ideas have their advantages and disadvantages.
For a start, you can estimate the cost of purchasing the necessary tools and resources and go for them first. Also, consider the fees you will have to pay to the travel regulatory bodies in the UK to have your business licensed.
Gauge Your Financial Capability
While making your findings, you must have heard or read that the travel business requires a high level of financial security. The capital you need to start your business should be an amount you can easily part with in case your plans go south.
Taking a loan to augment your capital is not advisable. However, there are other options you can explore if you feel your capital isn’t good enough. For example, you can go into a partnership agreement with another person wishing to start up a similar business, or you can decide to become a member of a consortium.
Being a member of a consortium affords you the benefit of gaining access to a wide range of resources and travel packages that can set you into competition with already established travel agencies.
Join a Travel Association
Joining a travel association is as important as any other plans you are making for your business. One of such associations is Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing (ATOL). This association is aimed at protecting the interest of your clients whenever you fail in rendering your services.
For example, in an event where your client gets stranded abroad, ATOL will cover the cost of their flight back to the UK. In addition, whenever you submit booking confirmations to your clients, you will also have to attach a copy of this certificate.
Another similar association is the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Their protection covers holiday packages sold in the European Economic Area.
Focus on a Niche
While it may be tempting to immediately begin exploring every aspect of the travel business like mountaineering, cruise holidays, beach holidays, and offering so many destinations, it’s advisable to first focus on a particular niche. It should be one that the organisers are readily available.
Have a good network of tour operators organising travel packages on your niche. It will ensure that when you offer these packages to your clients for sale, they will have many options at their disposal. It will give them the impression that you are an expert in such a niche, and they won’t fail to recommend you to others.
Over time, as you get grounded in your niche, you can expand to other services.
Give a Name and Logo
This step should be the most exciting. It’s the time to get a name on everyone’s tongue as far as travelling is concerned. You are free to give your agency any name that another company hasn’t trademarked.
This name should be unique and give an idea of your business at first glance. It should be a name that can stick to one’s memory for a long while.
Your logo also can be a selling point for your travel agency. Just like your agency’s name, it should be fanciful and capture the idea of services you are rendering. Getting a good quality logo might be expensive, but it’s definitely worth the purpose it will serve.
However, you should avoid getting a logo with so much resemblance to already existing ones, as you might be sued for trademark infringement.
Provide an Easy Means of Accessibility
In an era where the internet has made the world a global village, your business should take advantage of its benefits.
You should build a website where you can display enticing pictures of the travel packages you are selling. This website should be rich in information, such that a potential client can go through it, get basic information about your services, and decide if they will patronise your agency or not.
You can decide to make it easy for customers to book you by adding such features to your website.
You can also explore social media platforms as a means of easy contact. Create a Facebook page, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, and other social media platforms where your potential customers can get to you easily.
You should ensure that your website and social media accounts are catchy and are regularly updated with content to keep visitors glued to these sites.
Above all, your telephone line should be available 24 hours of the day because your business cuts across countries of different time zones.
This point is where you let the world know the services you’ve got up your sleeves. There are so many means to this, either through the print media or non-print media. For example, advertisements through print media such as newspapers and magazines are usually more expensive than non-print media.
With the increase in internet usage, social media platforms have been proven to reach more audiences than print media.
An advantage of using social media platforms to place your advert is that you can set your adverts to reach out to a target audience.
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