Are you someone who’s looking to start a travel company but are completely clueless on how to go about it? Don’t worry, you’re not doomed. Being clueless is the first step to understanding the problem at hand and we will help you take on this problem head-on.
Starting an online-based travel is fairly inexpensive. All you need at the beginning is a computer, a printer, internet and a phone to make calls. On the flip side, it’s a fiercely competitive market with multiple vendors and agencies. To start your travel agency, the first thing you need is a website. If building a webpage is out of your skillset, you can always opt for a travel CMS tool which will make it easier to build one.
Coming to the question of the hour, what are the things you should know before starting an online travel company?
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Do your Market Research
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The online travel industry has seen a rapid boom in the last few years. There are hundreds of companies out there, each fighting to get ahead of the others. To stay ahead of the curve, put in the effort to perform extensive market research. Find out if there’s a niche market or segment that’s relatively untapped? Understand and profile your ideal customers, their likes and dislikes, and what kind of experience they are looking for. Research of this nature will help you in creating a fool-proof business plan.
Additionally, research on your competitors, both big and small. Understand their market reach, unique value propositions and marketing strategy. This information will help you know how to stand out from the crowd when you go live.
Register Your Business
Before you start any business, there are certain registrations, regulations and compliances that need to be fulfilled. The same is the case for any travel company. There are certain key things to remember with regard to registration. Let’s dig into the different registrations that are required for starting an online travel company in India.
- Becoming a Government-Approved Travel Agent: While it’s not necessary to be a government approved travel agent, it’s still recommended. That’s because tourists tend to go with credentials. Even though you can charge a commission without registration, it will be a hindrance to building the overall trust.
- Registering a Company: It’s not mandatory to register your company or declare it as a private limited in the beginning. You can do a service tax registration (more on that later) and open a current account with any bank, through the license obtained. Once your business is established, you can convert it into a private limited company, LLP or any other form.
- Registering a Trademark: It is recommended that you register a trademark to maintain brand uniqueness. This ensures that you are the sole proprietor of your company’s brand name. Trademark registration can be obtained within three days of applying.
- Service Tax Registration: When your company’s annual revenue crosses Rs 9 lakhs, a service tax registration is mandatory. When you cross the Rs 10 lakhs mark in annual revenue, you can charge a service tax. At this point, you will also have to make GST payments.
- IATA Registration: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines. It represents 240 airlines all over the globe. If you become a member, you get access to comprehensive training and a seal of approval that’s recognised worldwide.
UI/UX Plays A Key Role
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If you are an online-based company, your website is usually the first access point for a customer. According to a study performed by the Nielsen Norman Group, the average time spent by a user on a webpage is less than a minute. This means that your website has to be appealing enough to keep customers interested for over 59 seconds and make them browse further.
User Experience (UX) is the collective physical, mental and emotional reaction that users have while interacting with a digital product. It’s made up of different factors like accessibility, usability, performance, design and overall interaction. Since users have become more sophisticated in the way they access the internet, the user experience has to be specialised enough to leave a mark. From visual cues to content, from colour combination to website optimisation, there are multiple aspects of a website that need to be carefully planned and designed to ensure a good user experience. User Interface (UI), on the other hand, is the collection of screens, pages and visual elements, like buttons and icons, that a user needs to interact with a digital product.
The UX and UI aspect plays a crucial role in deciding how your online travel company will perform. We have already learnt that users spend less than a minute on a website. To grab their interest, both UI and UX have to be optimised to provide a good first impression. Ensure that your content is both correct and understandable, your visual aesthetics are appealing and the overall experience serves the purpose of users. Have a good content management tool to manage the website and update content as and when required.
Maco Infotech comes with a very reliable and inclusive travel CMS tool called Travel CMS. You can use it to manage package details, build content for tour pages and manage vendor details. Your UI/UX component is improved with Travel CMS as your content is up on the website, your customers can manoeuvre the webpage through different options and the myriad of templates available for the website.
Leverage Your Brand on Social Media
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Before your website goes live, a large aspect of your time and money should be spent on marketing. Social Media is an important marketing platform available to any brand, and you should build a strategy to leverage it.
While reachability in social media is important for any brand, don’t waste your time and resources marketing everywhere. Identify the platforms where potential clients are and market accordingly. For example, if your travel company is one that caters to low-budget travellers, identify the websites and forums where you can connect with them. Instagram, Snapchat and TripAdvisor have become premium platforms for travellers to share their travel experience as they have a vast audience. Because of the popularity of these platforms among millennials, target audience reachability is higher on these platforms.
Coming to Facebook, while it is the premium social media platform, marketing there is a little trickier. Sure, Facebook has the most active users but that also makes it tougher to market because of the competition all around. Your campaigns on Facebook have to be unique and relatable, at the same time. Study the campaigns done by other travel companies on Facebook to understand what works and what doesn’t. Since your company is starting out, focus on building a brand presence through regular posts and getting your first set of customers to leave a review. If your budget allows, use the paid promotion tool at Facebook to market your brand and products to a wider demography.
Start an Informative Blog
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Once you have done your market research, registered your business, built a website and marked your presence on social media, move on to starting a blog page. A blog page is beneficial on multiple levels. It can be used as a marketing tool, an engagement tool and a conversion tool.
The simplest way to understand the usefulness of having a blog can be explained by a simple example. A customer who knows your website will type the name directly into a search engine and go to your website. However, what about the rest? A blog can attract the rest of the crowd by virtue of the content it covers. So, if users, who’re not aware of your company, searches for a topic related to travel, they will probably encounter your blog link with an article on the same (depending if the topic is covered on your blog page). Should they open it, they are now aware of the company’s existence which makes them a prospective lead. So, let’s say they are looking for stay options in Australia. If your blog has an article on the same, they will probably encounter it (depends on searchability and ranking). If they enjoy the content covered, they are more likely to stick around and look for tours offered by your company.
Another important aspect of having a blog is the engagement that it can create with users. Not all blog posts have to be promotional/marketing based. You can simply write a blog that informs and educates users about any aspect of travelling. If the content is engaging and informative, it will drive greater reach and engagement through shares and comments. This increases your reader base and gives you some new prospects. It also leads to organic growth of the user base, as people are likely to read other topics covered on the blog page and initiate a conversation with your team. This will benefit you in two important ways. Firstly, it helps propel your brand visibility on Google search. Secondly, it helps in getting more people invested in your brand. A good travel CMS tool like Maco Infotech’s Travel CMS can help you set a blog page on your company website quick and easy.
These are the five key things you should remember before starting an online travel agency. Did we miss out on something important? Don’t be a stranger and let us know below.