Last Updated on 3 November 2020 by Gertrude
Travel agencies remove the hustle of purchasing tickets, finding out about a place. The idea of beginning a travel agency is lucrative to many Kenyans.
Many believe that in order to begin a travel agency you need a million dollars to buy the safari vans/start a tour business.
A safari van may cost 2million shillings (second-hand) but after customisation may cost an upwards of 5million shillings.
Many Kenyans don’t earn much to accumulate such an amount and may take a lifetime to begin a tour company.
In the end, they give up resorting to work in established safari companies or to pursue cheaper businesses.
In this article, we will debunk this myth of spending a fortune starting a travel agency.
I’ll show you how to begin booking flights for travellers from home. Most Kenyans hear about a home-based business and cringe.
A home-based travel agent doesn’t incur the debts and expenses incurred by a travel agent in a physical office.
Therefore, the potential to make profits fast as a travel agent from home increases. The profits, then get reinvested in a physical safari tour company.
I want you to begin small but think big – the ultimate goal being the biggest travel agency owner in Kenya.
I give you the details of everything you need to know about growing a travel agency from home and make millions if not more profits.
Tips for Growing a Travel Agency Into a Million Dollars/100M Shillings in 3 Years in Kenya
If you want to grow your travel agency from home into a million dollars, there are some plans/strategies for you to follow.
Some of the strategies include:
1. Start from a niche
You cannot start by being a general travel industry in Kenya. Like food, this is the most-oversaturated industry in the nation.
You hear of travel agencies sprouting because of the potential millions. Then the reality hits, no customers.
You want to begin from a speciality. For example, my heart and soul are in the gay travel industry in Kenya.
Have a business plan and in your business plan outline the following:
Sales strategies – yes, how are you going to sell your services? Who will buy your travel services and why do they need them?
Constraints you will meet as a travel agency operator and how to remove them – every business has constraints like competitors.
Travel Agent TIP: Instead of looking at what competitors do, look at what they miss. Your aim should be to stand out in the noise.
Goals and objectives – what are your aims in beginning your travel agency?. The aim could be as cocky as you believe you can do better. Or as simple as you love travelling.
Market analysis – check what your market has or doesn’t have. Include that in your business. Learn how to research the needs of the market and fill in the gaps.
The resources you have – because your travel agency starts from home, ask yourself, what resources do you have readily available you can use?
READ MORE: Grab your Lean, Easy to Execute Travel Business Plan
2. Branding your travel agency
I heard about branding when starting my pillow business. I almost fainted. Branding doesn’t have to make you faint. Simplify branding into:
Focus on the design of your website – you want your website design to sell for you.
Have a beautiful layout where customers find the services you provide and at how much.
I often wonder why Kenyan travel websites don’t have an amount provided for the services they offer.
I know the amount varies, but estimate it or add a calculator to help customers estimate the cost.
You want to have lots of information provided before a customer asks. When a customer asks about something, add that asap.
The value you provide to customers/travellers – the value that you want your travel agency to provide gets tied to your mission and vision. So, what are your mission and vision for beginning your travel company?
You want to build on trust – customers want to associate themselves with a valuable brand.
You want to stand out by focusing on honesty.
A lot of travel companies in Kenya don’t value honesty, they overpromise and underdeliver. Customers notice a ‘conman’ travel company.
Ensure you’re ready to address complaints as they arise.
Travel Agency Tip: Inform yourself. Read as many informational journals as possible. Check newspapers as to the trends in the travel agency. You want to be ahead of your customers always.
What’s your strategy – yes, there is a lot of oversaturation in the travel market.
What’s your plan, and how do you plan on getting there. You need to create a roadmap to success.
It could be starting from home saves you plenty of money or you want customers to know you better so as to cater to their needs.
It could be your plan is to travel to destinations before and experience then add the experiences.
It could be creating content for a travel blog, fill it with lots of travel tips and tricks before beginning your travel company.
Whatever the strategy, let it drive to your goal that’s being the best.
Focus on advertising and marketing your travel agency – I focus on advertisements like content marketing these days more than anything.
If you don’t love your brand, you get shy to tell others. If you do, you want to stand out. Go to destinations or give tips and tricks for your niche market or chosen market.
Get on a camera and record yourself enjoying an experience in Turkana or the best of the Maasai or the Digo traditions.
Pro Travel Agency Tip: You’re the face of your brand – let people know about you first. Travellers book a flight because a ‘friend’ recommended, you want to be that friend.
Create a memorable logo – the travel industry is about standing out. You want to be the best above the noise. A logo helps you establish your brand and your travel niche.
Take your time in designing your logo before sharing it with the world. Remember, you can change later.
A logo must tell a story. Build a story, for example, what’s your mission for starting the travel agency? Is it to save girls from sex exploitation by tourists?
I am a natural-born and declared gay activist and my travel company, queeventures.com offers that voice to gay travellers within and outside Kenya.
When creating a logo, focus on the logo bringing out the story in order to tell a brand story.
3. Acquire the licences required and your Tax ID number
I cannot insist enough, get the required licences to avoid any headache with the law. And get your tax identification number – pay your success into developing the economy and not shoring money away.
Set a budget
A budget is important because you’re going to think about
Marketing – marketing online and offline needs money. You need to pay for your unique service offerings to billboard operators.
Promotional materials – creating promotional materials may be free when using Canva but printing the promotional materials requires ink and paper.
A website – if you’re not a web designer, you need to hire one to design one for you. I’d ask for you to have an idea on the design so that when you see the final product, you don’t feel like vomiting. Hire a website designer via Fiverr, one with great ratings. Check how to design a website on YouTube from Ferdy. Ferdy is the WordPress king.
As you expand, ensure you consider the location of your travel agency in terms of foot traffic, car parking
Have signage or billboards
Promote new packages in your travel company until people know about you
Create landing pages/sales pages to help advertise what your company offerings will be.
Have online ads
Use social media to show your travel packages
Social media is free marketing and advertising. Promote your travel company on social media. Make videos or documentaries about a particular destination and why it’s part of your package. Start a travel business page on Instagram. Remember social media is about being social and communicative.
READ MORE: How to Start a Travel Company on Instagram in Kenya
Build customer relationships
If you want to work in the travel industry, customer relationships matter than anything else. Customers love your personality, let it shine.
Address customers complaints
If customers say a certain package doesn’t work for them or they need more time with a certain package, listen to them. If they say the tour guide didn’t know when the animals weren’t in the vicinity, listen to them.
Create travel videos answering related travel queries
Can I tell you how video marketing is? The travelling industry is a visual industry, can you imagine what and how video marketing will impact your business?
Use email marketing to advertise to previous happy and unhappy customers
Email marketing is abut forming connections in people’s inboxes. That’s where customers secrets and transactions are, in their emails. You want to reach out to customers via their emails, in the most personalised way by calling them by their names. You want customers to feel recognised. Introduce new packages to customers via their emails. Companies in Kenya ignore the power of email marketing, you want to leverage email more than social media. They say the money is in the list, true. A customer trusted your product to use it, they see the potential in it. You want to appeal to those who you have before venturing out to social media.
Have an SEO strategy
SEO is a branch of digital marketing. Digital marketing is about using the internet to market a business. And digital marketing and SEO involve
Content marketing – using a blog to create content for your website.
Social media marketing – using platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to advertise your travel business.
Email marketing – use a landing page to capture email addresses. Create an incentive like a free guide to a certain location.
Video marketing – i love video marketing, it’s the power of your customers getting to know you. You want to create engaging video content surrounding the travel industry.
What are your goals with your travel agency? What do you want to achieve? I love to think about the long-term, do you see yourself running a travel agency 30 or 80 years from now? Or are you doing it for the glam, to get some money like Bonfire? Your goals motivate you when the seasons aren’t going good. And when you have a blog, you cannot have low seasons, you get to earn whether you have visitors or not. Also, ensure you target customers who motivate you to be a better person/ contribute to a cause.
Consider your expenses
Expenses include personal salary and payments you have to make intilaity or as the business ekeeps growing. Learn to pay yourself so that you keep enjoying the benefits of your hard work.
Choose a memorable travel name
Choosing a name is simply so hard to figure out. There are a lot of logistics to take into account. For example, in the day of Google, figure out if you want your business to be searchable? Is that searchable name appropriate or does it match with your business. Don’t choose a name that niches you down so much that your customers get confused. Choose a memorable, creative and reflective name. A name that tells a story. Sometimes, you don’t have to choose a name matching your industry see Amazon and Apple. Read a bit about goes into choosing a name for your travel brand.
What’s your USP
If there are a million travel companies in Kenya, what makes your company different? It could be you go to destinations before customers or use social media to promote your business. You must gear to stand out.
Who are the Clients Likely to Choose Travel Agencies Over Online Bookings?
Let me give you some ideas on whose likely to choose a travel agency instead of making a booking online. The customer base include
Travellers not internet-savvy
Those who want and love to save time and money on destinations
Travellers who want a piece of mind.
Students on a break
Specialty groups like the LGBT, people with special needs,
Those with complex trips – or those who want to maximise on their trip by seeing everything in a destination within a short period of time
Celebrities and known personalities
Influencers so that they live reviews
Those whose travels get paid by companies
What are the services offered by travel agencies
Offers timely information on travel advisories
Advice on visa and passport acquisition
Offer their servies to individuals, corporates, groups
Ticketing agents for airlines, cruiseships and rails
Travel agencies also help with complex itineraries
Coordination for example of wedding venues, and experiences in exotic locations
What does a day look like in a travel agency business
Finding out where clients want to go and what they want to see
Processing a lot of payment – must charge your worth even if you’re at home
Determining your capacity meaning knowing how your products and services help a client/fulfill a client’s needs
Knowing the length of a customers say in a location
The date the customer wants to travel and via what means
Is it a group of people coming or a family? Do they have kids or a special needs person?
Mantaining records about travellers preferences for example, seating arrangements, smoking vs non-smoking zones, hotel ameenities and needs
Researching on travel destinations by travelling or reading how the destination looks, the good, bad, attractions
Checking your website for leads, requests and ideas for improvement
Reading about travel and watching travel films on Nat geo
Handling office work like answering phone calls or emails
Handling payments, receivables
Review your business reports by tracking income and loss statements and
Shopping for office supplies (travel guides) to make your home office professional
Networking with other travel industry professionals or by attending travel fairs and exhibitions
Taking classes to help improve your knowledge in the travel industry
How to succeed when running a travel agency
Know when to hire a team
You’re not a robot. Hire a team. Take it slow when hiring a team. Why? Because your team may want to take over your business. You don’t want competitors in your business but employees. You want people with ambition but different, to stand out people who want to serve and offer the best services. You may need to train some members especially on customer service and exxcellence. I love to hire people who want to get teh job get done well than those with degrees.
READ MORE: How to Hire a Team
Find a mentor
A mentor is someone you loook up to. It doesn’t have to be a mentor in the travel industry. Get a mentor in who inspires you, who you want to be like. You cannot choose a mentor who doesn’t earn money or doesn’t have services or isn’t in the same place as you are. You’re bound to fail. You can read about your mentor or meet them up. To organise a meeting with your mentor, you want to know a lot about them, for instance, you cannot say your mentor is Jeff Bezos if you know nothing about his work ethic or motivation.
Have a bank account
Yes business owners forget to have separate business accounts from personal accounts. If you want to see success in your travel industry, I want you to open an account. You want to know about your expenses, income, gross profits and net profits. You want to know the numbers running your business.
Offer a specialised niche travel service appealing to a narrow audience like LGBT, luxury
You cannot succeed in the travel industry when you want to offer everything the others offer. You want to get recongised as the King or Queen of gay travel in Kenya or whatever niche you choose. You want to stand out, then you can buy or introduce other travel packages.
Specialise in packages like cruise honeymoon packs, cruises, European tours, expeditions
You know honeymooners will pay any amount to have a gateway of their choosing. Cruise takers are a one of a lifetime opportunity, no wonder companies like Bonfire rakes in billions a year. They saw a gap. Also, overseas cruises are on the rise in the travel industry in Kenya. Kenyans don’t want to go live in German, for example, but tour the 20 plus some countries in Europe and come back home. Capitalise on the trends by reading the travel magazines and newspapers and on blogs and other travel documentaries to know what packages reward you.
Have the best or if not exclusive customer service and excellence
I love my customers, the make it happen. If they tell me we didn’t like this service, I ask, can I get you a refund? See, this hurts your profits but in the end, you earned an angry customer into a happy customer. You want to feel the excitement of a customer and help them fulfil that dream through your company. You want customers to leave your premise with a huge smile on their face so they recommend you to others. Focus and love your customer like they were and are family. Simply know, you can change the heart of an unsatisfied customer with your words.
Start small think big
I often see people thinking big and starting big. The problem is you may not have 20M shillings to begin your travel agency with. Ask yourself what do you have now and how can you use what you have to make money? It’s starting from what you know about the travel industry and then branching out to the unknown. In the end, you will reach the sun if you keep taking big calculated risks.
So you want to begin a travel agency but got confused when you heard the initial amount you must spend? Start small but think big and long-term. Stop looking at what other travel agencies in the nation do or did, look at yourself and progress. Plus, your aim must be to create the best experiences there are. Have a plan of how to move from step 1 to 2. You don’t want to get stuck in the comfort of your home. Reinvest in your business. If you love the travel industry but don’t know how to begin, look at providing Airbnb experiences. On Airbnb experiences, you will be taught to choose, or focus on a niche. What’s that one thing that makes your heart jump when you hear the word travel? That’s what or where you want to begin your travel business from.
Educate yourself about the travel indsutry, there’s stiff competition. But have abundant mentality, where you don’t fous on the customers of others but your niche customers. In Kenya, unlike South Africa, we focus on game drives (safaris) there are other experiences to showcase in all counties. Read lots of information or reviews on websites like Tripadvisor or Booking.com, you want to familiriase yourself with locations and reviews of the big companies. Most big companies have very poor rating on the websites. You want to take the bad and turn it in your business. Focus on what the customer is saying wasn’t fulfilled then add it in your business. Remember the travel industry is about the customer and customer’s happiness, provide the best by reassuring the customers and understanding their needs. Make your csustomers think like you, encourage them to accompany you to adventures they have never heard about. The travel agency is word of mouth driven, you want customers to never stop hyping about you. Also, ensure to stick to the changing times in travel, educate and read about travel and experiment.
Do you see yourself establishing a travel agency from the comfort of your home in Kenya?