Travel may be at a standstill at the moment but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time to become a travel advisor.
Sandy Saburn of Gifted Travel Network sat down with Steph Lee of Host Agency Reviews for a webinar discussing why and how potential travel advisors should think about starting a business now.
Saburn is the ideal person to tackle this topic since she launched her own career in the travel industry right after September 11.
“I was passionate about travel and that’s what I wanted to do and like then, now is a great time,” she said.
Saburn defined what she meant about timing, noting that you need to be driven by more than just a love of travel.
“What we are talking about is people who are serious about starting a travel business—not a hobby,” she said. “It may not be full-time but the goal is for this business to support you and your family.”
New travel entrepreneurs have a lot of decisions to make which takes time and that is why it is good to start now.
“You have some time now,” she pointed out. We have lots of time to do things that we want to do…like finish Netflix or instead, you could be working on starting a travel business.”
Travel advisors are in the spotlight now in a positive way and new advisors can take advantage of that. Saburn pointed out that demand for travel advisors is higher now after this event. Online travel agencies or OTA’s have received a lot of negative press while travel advisors have received praise for their handling of this pandemic.
“The travel industry is coming back,” she said. “Americans are not going to stop traveling. How they travel may be different for a little while or a long while—we don’t know that yet, but we do know that travel agents are in demand. A lot of people have said that this ‘do it yourself thing’ is not as great as I thought it was.”
Saburn points out that Virtuoso, to which Gifted Travel Network belongs, says that there is more demand for luxury travel advisors than there are advisors specializing in this type of travel, illustrating that when travel does return, there will be a need for more travel advisors.
Saburn goes on to detail how to launch a travel business the right way to lead to success.
“You are not going to just flip a switch and turn this on and suddenly the money starts rolling in,” she said. “This is not that kind of business.”
If you want to make money, Saburn says you need to make three critical decisions: Who are you going to serve, what makes you different and how will you reach your ideal client.
Saburn also advised potential travel advisors to pick a specialty. This will help drive marketing and can earn advisors more money.
“There are riches in niches. It doesn’t limit you, but it expands your opportunities,” said Saburn.
Saburn walks potential travel advisors through the critical steps they need to tackle before deciding to launch a travel business—most importantly your pitch to potential clients.
“You need to be really clear about what it is you have to offer,” said Saburn, who stressed the importance of picking a specialty and having a marketing plan that will guide future decisions and build trust.
Saburn goes on to recommend those considering becoming a travel advisor partner with a host agency and not go it alone.
“You will make more mistakes, you will be more frustrated and you will have less opportunity because you are operating in a vacuum,” she said.
Many prospective advisors are concerned about the money that they will have to put forward but Saburn points out that you are going to get so much more from your host.
“You can’t start a business without making some sort of investment. You need to invest in things in order to get this business off the ground and being part of a community has immeasurable benefits.”
Saburn also noted that, for potential advisors, choosing a host is an important decision and a site such as Host Agency Reviews, which provides detailed information on a wide range of host and franchise opportunities for advisors, is an ideal resource.
“We send people there all the time…because you read the reviews that are there and set up appointments to talk to different hosts and find a fit.”
Advisors should look for hosts whose vendors match their goals, provide resources that meet their needs and a community that is a good fit.
In addition to a host agency, future travel advisors are going to first and foremost need a training program.
“The host agency’s job is to provide support and infrastructure for experienced agents,” said Saburn. “You need a training program and a mentor.”
To evaluate and find a good training program, Saburn recommends looking at the curriculum, the community, mentorship opportunities and selling opportunities.
“You need to find a training program that meets you where you are so that your learning style is taken into consideration when you are making this decision,” she said.
Saburn also steered new travel advisors away from focusing on aspects of host agencies that sound tantalizing to new adviors, but that aren’t really as beneficial down the road, such as lead generation, websites and dedicated booking engines.
An excellent resource for new agents is the Travel M.B.A. program. The program trains new agents to operate successful, rewarding businesses without working 16-hour days.
The program is exclusively for travel entrepreneurs and designed for people who want to focus on service, putting new travel advisors on a path to success.
The Travel M.B.A. includes 12 months of mentorship, comprehensive e-learning modules and it is part of the Gifted Travel Network, which offers an engaged community of supportive entrepreneurs. It also includes hosting so that travel advisors can start selling when they are ready.
The cost is $4,997, payable in 12 monthly payments.