It’s a strange time for travel agencies. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced holidaymakers to cancel their hotly anticipated breaks and any upcoming appointments with travel agency reps. But as we emerge from international lockdown, there’s a unique opportunity for home travel agents to pick up the slack.
In the UK, the travel industry generates an annual revenue of around £36 billion. The profitable sector comprises roughly 5,000 businesses employing nearly 70,000 workers. Every year, they support Brits as they select and book their dream holidays – but 2020 has been a little different.
Work has inevitably slowed almost to a halt throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But as things pick up again, travel agencies – and, in particular, home travel agents – have the chance to set themselves apart from the competition and make up for lost time. Here’s how you can take advantage of the opportunities available to you as a work-from-home travel agent.
Opportunities for home travel agents
1. Focus on advising customers
Let’s start with the biggest opportunity open to travel agencies at the moment. As we work to eliminate the virus across the world, people will inevitably be taking fewer holidays than they have in previous years – especially when it comes to travelling abroad. But this doesn’t mean travel agencies have to lose out on custom.
Now is a great time to diversify your offering and put more of an emphasis on offering valuable advice. There’s so much misinformation floating about and holidaymakers want to know they’ve made the right choice booking – or not booking – a holiday. By running an advisory service, you can give them the facts and tips they need to make an informed decision.
This is a chance to provide real insight and help people book the holidays they so deserve. And you can always adapt your service as international breaks become popular again.
2. Benefit from the growing popularity of online travel agencies
Across the industries, more and more ‘brick-and-mortar’ businesses are being overlooked in favour of online ones. This is good news for work-from-home travel agencies, as most of them operate over the internet. They’ll be in the best position to get customers back onto their books in the coming weeks and months.
3. Choose your working hours
Now we’re getting to the other advantages of running a business from the comfort of your own home. As you can imagine, this set-up provides plenty of flexibility to choose the hours you want to work and mould your schedule around any existing commitments you may have. It’s particularly suited to parents who need to do the school run and be there for nativity shows or sports days.
4. Work wherever you want
Why should your customers be the only ones who travel? When you’re working remotely, you can too! If you find it helpful to break up your day by working for a couple of hours in the local café or even in your garden, you can incorporate this into your schedule. Use this technique to promote good mental wellbeing so you can approach tricky tasks with newfound energy.
5. Cut business expenses
Home travel agents have a distinct advantage over other businesses; the vast majority of competitors will be paying to occupy expensive high street properties. But if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar premises, you won’t have to fork out for steep rental fees and all the insurance and tax payments to go along with it. This gives home-based travel agencies the chance to recoup their investments quicker.
6. Save commuting time
Does anyone enjoy their commute? One of the biggest advantages of starting a home travel agency is avoiding the journey to and from work every day. Not only will this probably reduce your stress levels, but it’ll also give you extra free time, which you can dedicate to developing your business, should you choose to.
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Challenges for home travel agents
1. The industry is constantly changing
The travel industry has been turned upside down and virtually ground to a halt in some areas, so you’ll need to tread carefully as the coming months unfold. Doing daily research is imperative if you’re to avoid offering dangerous advice or putting customers in risky situations. You’ll have to have detailed knowledge about regulations in other countries, and keep up to date with the news so you can always give customers relevant information.
2. It can be hard to generate brand awareness
Sadly, what you save in rental fees, you lose in brand awareness and passing trade. If you don’t have a high street premises, you won’t benefit from passers-by becoming familiar with your brand or spontaneously deciding to pop in. Of course, effective marketing campaigns can mitigate against these issues, but it’s worth bearing them in mind.
3. Expanding can be complicated
When you have an office on the high street, you can easily hire a team of employees to work there. But if you’re working from home, the situation can be a little more tricky. It can be harder to grow the business, as you’ll need to decide whether to continue working on your own, hire other home-based workers or eventually rent office space.
4. You’ll need to be self-motivated
Like anyone who does their job from the comfort of their own home, you’ll need a certain amount of self-discipline to get you through. If you’re easily distracted or tend to procrastinate, working from home may not be the best option for you, as your business is bound to suffer in the long run.
Become a home travel agent
It’s a difficult time for most businesses at the moment, but there is lots of potential for home travel agents to grow by making the best of a bad situation. To take advantage of the all the opportunities open to you, browse our travel agency franchises to find out which businesses are looking for investment right now.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©