Want to start your own travel agency?

If you’ve travelled Australia on a gap year and are now considering career options, you may be inspired to work in the travel industry. One option would be to set up your own business and start a travel agency, in Australia or back home. If you think this may be for you, you’re in luck, as over the past few years, it’s become much easier to start your own backpacker travel agency.

In 2014, the Travel Agent Repeal Bill 2014 was passed, which removed the outdated licensing program which governed Australian travel agents. Since the regulatory barriers have been removed, many new boutique retail and online travel agents have emerged, offering backpackers & holidaymakers an exciting new range of options for booking tours, activities, accommodation & transport across Australia and beyond.

Many of these new travel agencies have been founded by ex-travellers; people like you, who have experienced much of what Australia has to offer and want to share their knowledge, by helping other travellers make informed choices, get a great deal and have the trip of a lifetime!

In addition to changes in the law, travel technology solutions are now more readily available, some are free to use, and they remove much of the administrative and financial burdens of running a small travel agency.

There’s never been a better time to consider starting your own travel agency, but there’s a lot to consider. So, here’s our list of things you should think about in order to start your own travel agency in Australia.


Product Knowledge

True travel agents (not just salespeople) are passionate about travel. They have an extensive understanding of the products they promote and sell, and have experienced many of these products first hand. Travel agents provide added-value to their customers by offering impartial advice, to help their customers arrange the trip that’s best-suited to their taste, desires, personality, expectations and their budget. Travel agents offer a degree of peace of mind, and will act as a conduit between the customer and the supplier, before, during and after the trip as required – even when things go wrong!

Being a great travel agent isn’t easy, and simply spending a couple of nights on a yacht in the Whitsundays doesn’t make you an Aussie travel expert, so find ways to gain the necessary product knowledge that you need in order to offer a great service.

  • Experience the products first-hand. Many suppliers will be willing to offer you discounted (and potentially free) trips, if you have a solid business plan and can prove you got what it takes to generate sales.
  • Speak with other travellers. Get the low-down on what’s hot right now, and don’t just take a few a few opinions on board – get hundreds. Canvas hostels all over town and survey other travellers about where they’ve been and what they’ve experienced.
  • Talk to other travel agents. Travel agents are generally a friendly bunch, and many would be happy to offer you tips and guidance on how to succeed in the travel industry.
  • Get valuable work experience. There are hundreds of travel agencies across Australia who are desperate for smart, savvy and motivated travel sales staff. Be upfront and tell potential employers that you’re keen to work in the industry to learn as much as you can, as you would like a career in travel. Who knows, you make strike it lucky, and be offered a great job and may kick-start your travel agency career that way. (Get in touch with Hero if you’d like to explore this option, and we’ll hook you up with some awesome Agents across Australia)


Other necessary skills

In addition to having extensive product knowledge (which will develop over time) you’re also going to need:

  • Great communication skills
  • Patience
  • Attention to detail
  • Organisational skills and the ability to multi-task
  • Good maths & finance skills
  • Decent IT skills


What’s your sales strategy?

There are many different ways that you can go about selling travel:

  • At the most basic level, you may just want to arrange travel for friends that you meet whilst travelling Australia. You can receive enquiries by phone, txt or Facebook, and keep your costs to a minimum while providing a truly personal approach and travel at great rates. (Be sure not to sell travel within hostels who operate their own tour desks, as that ain’t cool).
  • You may wish to sell online, via your blog, a website or through social media channels like Facebook. For this option you may want to create a basic website, so check out Wix, Squarespace, Weebly and WordPress, which offer easy-to-use CMS options, enabling you to build a new website with simple drag & drop functionality. If considering WordPress, be sure to check out Hero’s WordPress Plugin.
  • If you have experience with travel sales and some money to invest in your venture, you may be keen to open a small travel shop, or rent a desk space in a hostel / language school which does not currently offers travel sales. This is a big step, but if low-risk rental terms can be agreed, it provides maximum exposure to a steady flow of potential customers.
  • Alternatively, a great way to kick-start your business is to align with an existing travel agency, and structure a partnership arrangement whereby you operate under their brand, benefit from their support services, and pay a fee / or a commission share back to the Agent. This option enables you to get up and running quickly and you’ll have experienced travel agents and successful business-owners helping you out along the way…  Your success, is their success! ; )  If you think this option is something you want to pursue, contact the team at Hero and we’ll put you in touch with other Hero agents who may be keen to discuss opportunities with you.

What’s your point of difference?

The travel industry is a crowded market, so to stand out from your competitors, you’ll need to decide what makes you better than the rest. Some possible unique selling points could include:

  • Honest & unbiased travel advice
  • Exceptional customer service
  • Premium / unique / specialised product range
  • Great value / pricing policy
  • Comprehensive after sales support
  • Ethical mandate, i.e supporting local charities


How will you purchase?

In order to act as a travel agent, you need the ability to purchase travel from a supplier and resell at a profit to your customer. In travel industry lingo, your purchase price is known as the ‘net rate’ and the amount you sell for is known as the ‘retail rate’. Your profit margin or mark-up is generally referred to as your ‘commission’.

In order to establish these sales relationships, you can either contact each supplier individually, or book via an online B2B travel sales platform. A range of platforms exists, and some, such as Hero, are free for agents to use and offer access to thousands of products, including day trips, tours, accommodation, bus passes, campervan & car hire. Net rates, retail rates and commissions are already loaded into the platform, so it’s easy to see what you can earn.


Paying your suppliers

If you choose to purchase directly from your suppliers, you will need to agree to their payment terms. Often, for new agents, payment will be required at the time of purchase via credit card, or if credit terms are agreed, you will be required to pay the net amount in full within 7, 14 or 30 days from the sale date.

In some instances, suppliers may offer agents a deposit-only payment model, whereby the customer pays you the commission amount, and then pay the supplier the balance (net amount) upon arrival. This is an incredibly simple model, but customers may be reluctant to pay a ‘deposit’ to a small travel agent, for fear that it may be a scam.

For a more systematic option, by using an online travel booking platform such as Hero, your payments to suppliers will be aggregated into 1 simple weekly direct debit payment. The platform will then distribute payments electronically to each of your suppliers. This alleviates administration, finance and management burdens, allowing you to operate without the stress.


Issuing Tickets

Once you’ve sold a trip, your customers will need a ticket or travel voucher.

You can create your own vouchers, although this is not recommended, as you will be prone to human error resulting in the wrong / missing information being provided to your customers.

You can ask suppliers to email a booking confirmation directly to your customers, although there’s a strong chance that your net rate / commission amount may be accidentally shown on the booking confirmation, leading to very unhappy customers.

If using a booking platform, vouchers will be automatically generated, and can be easily downloaded, printed or emailed to your customers.


Taking payments

Taking payments from your customers can be a tricky affair, as people will need a level of confidence that it won’t ‘disappear’.

If selling travel to close friends, and after building up a strong reputation, this may become less of an issue, and customers may be happy to pay you in cash, or transfer money to your bank account.

Payment solutions such as PayPal may enable you to ‘request’ funds via email, rather than taking cash payments. Visit Paypal’s website to figure out if this is right for you and how much it will cost you in fees.

Alternatively, many booking platforms offer the use of their own merchant facilities, enabling you to take payments by credit card, or by emailing a payment link to your customers, allowing them to pay online. Again, fees will be incurred for each credit card payment, but you can choose to absorb these yourself (out of your commission) or your customers can pay a credit card fee, to cover associated costs.


Promoting yourself

To start your own travel agency and be successful you’ll need a smart marketing & promotional strategy, to ensure your sales messages reach potential customers. There are countless opportunities available, however some of the most popular include:

  • Google AdWords
  • Facebook Ads & Promoted Posts
  • YouTube Videos
  • Website SEO
  • Printed marketing material – such as business cards / brochures


Name your business?

Depending upon how you plan to brand yourself, you may want to choose a business name, or simply stick to your own name, for that personal touch!

If you have a business name in mind, visit the ASIC website to see if the name is currently unused, and available for you to register.

Registering your business name relatively easily. ASIC’s website is packed with handy videos and guides to help you get the name you want.


Register an ABN

In order to look professional and keep the tax man happy, you’re going to need an Australian Business Number, or ABN. It’s free to apply for an ABN and the process can be completed easily online via the ABR website.


Open a bank account

Once your business name and ABN are sorted, you’ll need to open a company bank account. Speak with your local branch or call your bank’s small business helpline to see what’s best for you.


Get Insured

Be sure to speak with a specialist insurance provider to find out what cover you will require. The team at Acumen Insurance are big supporters of the Australian backpacker travel industry, so we suggest you give them a call to find out more.



The Hero travel booking platform is designed for travel agents of all sizes. If you’re keen to start your own travel agency, contact us and we’ll do our best to provide you with additional help and information.