We asked The Travel Agent Next Door founder, Flemming Friisdahl, to look in his crystal ball and predict the future for home-based agents and small agencies.
Why do so many agents go the home-based route?
Travel agents who work in a storefront today often make between $25,000 to $40,000 and yet those agents can be bringing in well over $100,000 in commission. Those agents often feel that they should be getting a bigger piece of the pie
Many storefront location agents have to work flex hours, and this can be hard on their personal lives.
Going home-based allows more flexibility in the time you spend at work versus being free to enjoy your life. You will not work less, however you will work the hours that best suit your lifestyle.
Most agents want to sell what they want to sell, and often in a storefront the owner makes the decision on what should be sold and determines things like service fees for a client who is buying a net air ticket with a cruise. Being independent allows you to decide what you sell and how much you charge your clients.
What about smaller agencies going home based?
You will start seeing more storefront location going either home based or start working with a host agency that does all the back end functions for them such as TICO registration, insurances, accounting, marketing and websites-- to just mention a few. The consortiums cannot do for small agencies what a host agency can do.
You are already seeing a lot more flexibility in branding and this will continue. Traditionally you had to be branded the same as the host agency. Now, many home-based agents are using their own branding, allowing them more freedom to show the customer what they have to offer. So if you only do weddings, you would want a brand name that says this about you.
Is the industry attracting new blood?
We continue to see many new people becoming travel agents, and it is often a second, third or even fourth career choice. These people are generally aged 40 and up and no longer want to work in an office, as they've done this before. They want to work from home and being a travel agent allows them this flexibility.
What makes a home based agent successful?
Travel agents are a bit like real-estate agents: it's all about your network and circle of influence and this is not something you normally have working in an office-- but what you do have in your community. So it is all about getting out from behind your desk and getting to know your customers.