What does it cost to be a Travel Advisor?

We get asked a lot - “How much will it cost to start my career as a Travel Agent?”

The hard, honest truth? It depends! And yes, I hate that uncertainty as well. But it does depend on a number of factors - what your business model looks like, the tech choices you make, the host agency you choose, even the state you live in!

We say it all the time - this is a business, not just a job, and you need to look at it as such. There are expenses that need to be factored in, but the value and return on that investment is what is most important.

Here are some common items you’ll want to consider when starting out:

  • Host Agency Start-Up Fees - These can range from Free to $2,000! It’s usually the administrative fee to get you set up in the systems, registered with suppliers, and the overall onboarding process

  • Host Agency Annual Fees - These range from free to around $750. They are typically intended to cover your E&O insurance, backend system, affiliation costs, and more. In smaller agencies, the cost is typically around $150, and in larger hosts $500.

  • Host Agency Monthly Fees - This is often attached to your commission split. The more you pay monthly, the more you take from your commissions. Many experienced agents choose to pay upwards of $100 a month but keep 95% or even 100% of their commissions in return. But if you’re just starting out and keeping costs down, the average we have seen across the larger hosts is about $30 a month for you to keep 60-70% of your commission. Many smaller agencies choose to forgo the monthly fee altogether.

  • CRM System - This is possibly the most crucial piece of software you can purchase. Your CRM is the epicenter of your travel business. This is where you track leads, manage new client intake and trips, securely collect traveler and credit card information, and run sales reports… I could go on forever. Plain and simple - if you get nothing else on that never-ending list of optional items, Get The CRM! There are many choices there, but they average about $40 a month. Some agencies, like us at LTN, can provide deep discounts!

  • Itinerary Builder - These are life savers in certain instances. If you focus mainly on theme parks or cruises that provide their own consumer-facing apps and schedulers, this can probably go pretty low on your list. But if you focus on FIT-style travel, custom itineraries, excursion-heavy getaways, and group travel - this is something you are going to want to look closely at closely! There are quite a few options, and they all have their pros and cons. They average around $35 - $40 a month. But just like the CRM system, be sure to check for discounts with your host agency!

  • Web Hosting, Domains, and Emails - Web hosting, domains, and branded email accounts are crucial for those opting to self-brand. This means anyone with a larger host agency or anyone with a small agency that does not contract you to operate under their business name. Your web presence is what takes you from hobby goer to business owner. It tells your story, provides solutions to your potential clients, and creates the professionalism that consumers are looking for when hiring a consultant.

  • Branding and Marketing Support - Not everyone is savvy when it comes to graphic design and creative materials. And ththat'sats ok! But it’s something to take into consideration when starting this new business venture. If you are that person that pulls clip art into a Word document to create your next new masterpiece, then I sincerely hope you consider factoring in the cost of a graphic designer to set up your initial brand and materials.

  • Email Marketing Software - This is one that most people don’t think about it. But it’s a big step in the marketing process when you are looking to take the jump from hobby to career. You can absolutely get manageable email marketing software with free plans to start out with. But my suggestion is to ensure you find a program you can grow with. There is nothing worse than having to go from one email marketing platform to another, trust me!

  • Business Licensing - I’m going to disclaim this right away by saying that I am not an accountant, so your best business license option may not be what is popular. Ask your accountant, do your research, and be diligent. The most popular option we see is the LLC structure. This protects you from liability personally, which is ideal as a sole proprietor. The cost of an LLC differs by state, but the average in the US is about $140. You will also want to consider if you are in a state that requires a seller of travel license. Not only will you want to align with a host agency that is licensed in that state, but your affiliation could cost you approximately $50 per year.

  • Training and Certifications - There is no certification required to be a Travel Advisor. But there is lots of optional training and certifications you can take advantage of. For experienced agents - I typically suggest to budget at least $600 a year for association fees and ongoing education, but that can increase depending on the courses you decide to take and associations you are a part of. Using myself as an example: with 3 associations and one new paid training a year I can sometimes hit $900 for the year. For newer agents, $300 a year is a more reasonable expectation, as much of your basic training can be free. But expect it to increase, and make sure you are partnering with a host that provides the training you need as a part of your affiliation. This can help cut costs tremendously.

It’s a lot, right? And realistically, there could be more. It all depends on you and your needs. But these are all typical expenses across the board.

This is what the average cost looks like for some of the more popular combinations. But remember, there are hundreds of Host Agencies, a multitude of business plan structures, and an endless array of options when choosing a host agency. It’s all about what works best for you!

Here is what we see as popular options within the industry.

Large Host Agency - Self-Branded Agent

Start-Up Host Fees - $300 per year

Monthly Host Fees - $30 per month

Annual Host Fees - $500 per year

Average CRM - $30 per month

Average Itinerary Builder - $40 per month

Website Domain - $12 Per Year

Website Hosting and Builder - $25 Per Month

Branded Email - $6 Per Month

Logo and Other Branding - $750 for essentials

Business License - $150 Per Year

Total Average Investment Yearly: $2984

Lotus Travel Network - Self Branded Agent

Annual Membership Dues - $199

Monthly Host Fees - FREE

Required CRM - $10 Per Month

Average Itinerary Builder - $290 Per Year

Website Domain - $12 Per Year

Website Hosting and Builder - $25 Per Month

Branded Email - $6 Per Month

Logo and Other Branding - $550

Business License - $150 Per Year

Total Average Investment Yearly: $1703

Lotus Travel Network - Flagship Branded Agent - Our Most Popular Option!

Annual Membership Dues - $175

Monthly Host Fees - FREE

Required CRM - $10 Per Month

Average Itinerary Builder - $290 Per Year

Website Domain - FREE

Website Hosting and Builder - FREE

Branded Email - FREE

Logo and Other Branding - FREE

Business License - $150 Per Year

Total Average Investment Yearly: $560

We understand considering cost is a necessity, but it’s also important to consider value as well. In this case, you’re not only starting a new career but a new business! That means investment is key, and smart investing will help you succeed that much faster. There are low-cost options out there. Just know that they are not all created equally! That's a big reason we decided to start Lotus Travel Network. We needed to bridge the gap and pack as much value into a low cost as possible!

Some things to ensure you are asking your potential new host agency:

  • What fields do they cover for internal training? ie. operations, marketing, supplier, etc.

  • Do they provide mentorship programs and a sense of community?

  • Are agent needs consistently met in terms of providing necessary resources?

  • What are their strongest partnerships and why?

  • Do they believe in lean operational techniques to support you in streamlined technology?

  • Do they provide business consulting alongside trip based consulting?

  • How often do they meet as a team, or at least provide the option to do so?

  • Are there hands-on training opportunities available?

And remember, it’s never a one size fits all solution. Find the host agency that is right for you and your business - no matter what that might look like. Check out what Lotus Travel can provide you here!

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