Free Travel Agency Business Plan Template
Okay, okay. I know you’re crazy thrilled that you’ve found a free travel agency business plan template for your agency! I promise we’ve got a super razzly-dazzly one that will help you craft THE BEST travel agency business plan out there. So we’ll have you download your free travel agency business plan template in just a second, and then we’ll walk you through the different pieces of the business plan in the article.
Sound like a (business) plan?! (Ahem, sorry, couldn’t help it.)
What Is the Purpose of a Travel Agency Business Plan?
Business plans got their start as a way for banks to vet new businesses before deciding to give them a loan. After all, people that have thought long and hard about their business and taken the time to painstakingly write down all the steps and intricacies have a higher likelihood of success.
Now when it comes to travel agencies, you may think having a business plan is overkill or outdated. Sure, if you’re opening a storefront agency or a franchise you may need some capital from the bank/investor so a business plan may be a necessity. But now that most agencies are home-based, the median start-up cost for a non-franchise travel agency is $1,500. If you’re not getting a loan, do you really need a business plan?
If you’re starting a travel agency, here’s a few reasons why creating a travel agency business plan might be helpful to you:
- Practical: it will help you feel prepared and confident as you make important business decisions.
- Inspirational: it will help remind you what it is that inspired you to start a travel agency and what kind of impact you hope to have on your clients. The kinds of things that will remind you why you started all these shenanigans when logistical tasks like taxes get boring or complicated.
The other thing a travel agency business plan can do? It will help you describe your agency—the service you provide (do you have a niche?), the market in which you’re operating, the money you need to get started and keep going, and the people you need to help you get there (accountants? Sub agents? Bookkeeper? Web Developer?) In short, it can help you feel prepared and confident, and our free travel agency business plan is going to help you with that!
Download HAR’s Free Travel Agency Business Plan Template
We have a handy dandy (and free) travel agency business plan template for YOU, dear reader! Yay, it is the companion to this article.
We’re offering our travel agency business plan template free (no catch) because we want your new business to be off to the best start possible!
Alright, now you’ve downloaded our free travel agency business plan template, great! We’ve already filled it out for our fictional travel agency, Corona Travels, and now we need to work on personalizing this business plan to your travel agency.
To update your personal business plan template with your brilliant ideas, all you'll need to do is delete the sample description provided in the template and add in your own material! In the next section, we walk you through each part of the business plan. I recommend that as you read through the article, you compare the sections of the travel agency business plan template. That way, you'll have an explanation for each part with an example.
Let’s jump in and start tailoring the business plan template to your travel agency!
Hold up. Still need to get your agency set up? sWe have just the thing.
Now, a business plan template may feel like you're getting ahead of yourself if you haven't named and/or registered your business yet! If you still need to take strides to get your agency off the ground (your agency, name, niche, registration, host affiliation etc.) we have a course that will fast-forward that process.
Check out HAR's course, The Complete Guide to Starting a Travel Agency. The course is written and taught by HAR Founder, Steph Lee, and professional Educator, Bridget Lee. It includes nine chapters with 70+ instructional videos, course quizzes, peer accountability, and monthly meet-ups with HAR members and industry experts. Check it out!
Now, let's go over the business plan!
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 1: Overview
The overview is like an executive summary that briefly summarizes all aspects of your travel agency business plan. You can think of this as the “elevator pitch” of your travel agency business plan. Oddly enough, I like to do these summaries last, since then you’ll have all the info at your fingertips that you'll need to summarize.
So what details are you filling out in this first part of the travel agency business plan?
- Name of Your Business: Not sure what your travel agency name is yet? We can help you with that.
- Location: Is it your house? A PO box? A storefront? Your sister’s basement?
- Your Travel Niche: Specializing as a travel agent is more important than ever. Selling travel is about much more than booking. It’s also about bringing knowledge, expertise, access, and resourcefulness to the table—all the qualities that help separate you from an OTA (online travel agency).
- Your Target Client: Luxury? Families? LGBTQ? Cruisers? Boomers or Millennials? Honeymooners? Foodies? Who do you imagine your client to be and how will this shape the way you develop your travel agency?
- Your Competition: Another way to look at this is, who are your industry peers? What might your customers consider if they don’t use you as a travel agent? (Try to think beyond OTAs like Expedia.)
- The expertise of Management Team: Okay, so your management team might be you and the office dog (we know who’s the alpha in the office!). But even if that’s the case, this section is an opportunity to reflect on your strengths as a travel agency owner.
- Financial Projections: Unless you’re coming into the industry with a book of business, this might seem intimidating. It’s hard to know what to expect right? But the good thing is we have an amazing resource for you: “Travel Agency Startup Costs and Earnings: What to Expect” Wow! Who knew?!
- Travel Agency Mission Statement: This will help you remember why you did this in the first place, and remind you what kind of impact you hope your business will have on others! Warm fuzzies, right?!
And hey, we’re done with Part 1!! Just like that. ;)
I know you can barely contain your excitement to start reading about our next section, business foundations!
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 2: Business Foundations
This section of your travel agency business plan provides background information on your agency. If you’re brand-spanking new, much of this information will be provided in the overview. If your business has roots, it may be a little more complex.
This section can include:
- Legal Structure: What type of business is your agency? LLC? Sole Prop? S Corp? Has it changed over time?
- Agency Founders and Their Role in the Formation of Your Travel Agency: Who are the founders and what are their roles?
Ah, that was a nice and easy section, wasn’t it? Now we need to start getting real. Yes, folks, the well-loved travel agency business plan template goes OCD in the next section!
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 3: Product or Service
This section is where the rubber hits the road with your niche and will help you begin to think about developing preferred supplier relationships with your travel agency.
- Products/ Services Provided: This may seem obvious—you sell travel! But if you’re considering providing other services (even if it’s a future goal), it will be important to consider that too. In addition to planning and booking travel, this may include: Coaching clients to book their own trips; trip consultations; wedding planning; providing education, training or mentorship to other agents; facilitating educational webinars (etc.); speaking at industry events.
- Sales Projections: This is hard if you haven’t booked any travel yet. But consider what kind of travel you want to sell. How many clients are you booking? How many trips do you aim to sell weekly/monthly/annually?
This is a good opportunity to make financial goals for your travel agency. What kind of annual income are you aiming for? How much would you have to sell in one year to reach that?
If you are providing multiple services as a part of your travel agency business, what is the breakdown among those different services?
- Industry Projections for Your Travel Services: We’ve done a lot of legwork for you on this one in our travel agency business plan template. But, if you want to add more, imagine this as describing the industry viability to someone who is not within the industry. What influences demand for your travel services? How is the health of the travel industry overall? Check out HAR's latest income survey results!
Now that you’ve dug into the details in this section, let’s move into the next section of your travel agency business plan that doesn’t tax your brain. It’s about management structures and it’s equal parts easy and boring (#honest).
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 3: Management Structures
This will be a very fast exercise if you are opening your agency alone :). If you’re working for yourself, you may also want to consider outside organizations that influence your business:
- If applicable, which host agency/franchise do you belong to?
- If you or your host belongs to a consortium, which one?
- What travel organizations are you a part of? (i.e. ASTA, IGLTA, PATH, CCRA etc.)
- Since you are an independent agent, these outside organizations won’t have a direct stake in your business, but they may influence your day-to-day operations in some way.
If you're flying solo, you can probably stop here! But if you have or want to take on sub agents or employees you’ll want to do the above, and you’ll also need to go into more depth with your travel agency management structure below:
- If applicable, create an organizational chart of your travel agency. You can think of this as a business version of a family tree. This will help you visualize who the players are and what roles they serve to your agency.
- What value do the different management positions add to your travel agency?
- What are the responsibilities of their positions?
- Describe other ICs or employees/ positions and their responsibilities. How will they complement what you do for your agency? (i.e. Sell a different type of travel under your brand? Work on sales? Bookings only? Administrative assistant?)
- If you have sub agents or employees, break down overall payroll expenses. What is their compensation? A commission split? A base salary? A combination of the two? Will you provide any bonuses or benefits if you have employees?
- Do you anticipate future additions to your staff?
Phew! That was a long one. Well, you certainly nailed it. Kudos!
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 3.2: Who Is Your Office Mascot?
This is probably the most important factor in building a business plan. How the heck are you going to get up and work every morning without a dog pushing its cold nose into your face, or without a cat trying to use your neck as their personal radiator?
Still with me? Okay, no more goofing off. Just wanted to throw in a fun interlude . . . I’ll get back to business now.
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 4: Marketing Strategy
This section of your travel agency’s business plan will help you clarify some of your marketing goals in the long term.
- Who are your major clients? Include names, location, and what kind of travel they prefer. What was the sales volume for each customer? Have they provided referrals for your business?
- Who are prospective clients? Who might be other potential travel clients for you? Parenting class members? Your yoga class? Regulars at your favorite bookstore? Do you have a way to informally see how they might respond to your travel services?
What is your marketing plan? Consider things such as:
- Your pricing. For example, if you want to charge fees.
- How do you want to market to clients? Online, at wedding expos, in line at the grocery store?
- What region do you want to target and if you want to target clients outside your locale, how do you plan to do so?
- What is the flow of your services during planning, travel and post-trip? How do you plan on getting feedback from your customer once the travel is complete?
- What are your marketing priorities? Networking? Referral? Online? Social media?
- Sales Strategy: Now that you have a list of potential clients and a marketing plan, how will you reach out to prospective clients? Host a cocktail hour? Send a mailing? Go to networking meetings? Do you need to outsource or delegate any tasks to help you with your sales efforts?
Are you ready to head on over to that travel agency business plan template you have a love-hate relationship with? Good, because you’re gonna read all about Corona Travels marketing strategy and how they plan on closing the leads they get . . . and maybe you can steal some of Sol’s ideas for your agency. :)
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 5: Technology
What kind of tech do you need to help your agency get up and running, and what technology will you need to keep your travel agency machine humming? You don’t need everything at once, but you’ll want to have an idea of what you need to reach some travel agency milestones you’re going for.
You might want to consider things like:
- Travel Agency Website
- Read up on different website options for agencies
- Customer Relations Management (CRM):
- ClientBase Online
- Travel Joy
- Online Scheduling Tools:
- Itinerary Builders:
- Axus Travel App
- IT Explorer
- Payment Processing (for fees)
- Quickbooks Payments (use this link for 50% off first SIX months -- normally it's 3 months)
- TESS (built into CRM)
- Travel Joy (built into CRM)
- Bookkeeping and Accounting
- Google Sheets (part of Google Workspace)
- Mac Numbers
- Quickbooks Online / Quicken (use this link for 50% off first SIX months -- normally it's 3 months)
- Quickbooks Online (use this link for 50% off first SIX months -- normally it's 3 months)
- Travel Joy
- Booking tools
- Google Workspace: We have an exclusive 10% off promo code for Google Workspace! Just fill out the form and we'll send you the code.
- Office equipment
- Fax: eFax
- Fax: FaxZero
- Scanner: Scanner Pro ($3.99 in Apple App Store)
- Scanner: Tiny Scanner (Google Play Store)
- Business Card Scanner: CamCard (Free on Apple App Store | .99 on Google Play Store)
- Forms / E-signatures*
- JotForm (free plan allows e-signatures)
- Travel Joy
- Email Automation
- Sendinblue (that's what we currently use)
- Active Campaign
- Constant Contact
- Online Meetings / Video Conferencing
- Google Meet (part of Google Workspace)
- Secure Password Manager (also known as The Handiest Thing Ever)
- Mileage Tracking
- MileIQ (Free but if you ever decided to upgrade, use this link for 10% off paid plans)
- Quickbooks Online (use this link for 50% off first SIX months -- normally it's 3 months)
Just because it’s technology, it doesn’t mean it has to be state of the art or über fancy. You can pick and choose where you want to allocate your financial resources on tech: I’ve spoken with several travel agents who swear by a combination of sticky notes, physical calendars, and Excel spreadsheets.
Think about which of these technologies you really need. If you go with a host agency or consortium, which of these technologies do they provide? Looking forward as your business grows, which technologies do you anticipate you’ll want to phase in?
Choosing those technologies was fun, wasn’t it? But now we need to iron out how you’re going to run the agency. So let’s move into the next section of your travel agency’s business plan template and make sure you’re running a tight ship!
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 6: Operations
Developing a plan for travel agency operations will help you understand how to ensure your business runs smoothly, in addition to understanding the capacity of your travel agency. For this section of your travel agency business plan you’ll want to consider:
- What is your sales volume compared to your sales capacity? How much travel can you actually sell in the time you want to spend working to sell travel?
- Who are your preferred suppliers? Who are your host or consortium’s, preferred suppliers? How do these suppliers (and your host) disburse commissions and on what timeline? How does this impact your bookkeeping and workflow?
- If you are booking groups, plan ahead. Are there any special cruise sailings or new ships you want to block space for? Is a resort opening a new property that you’re excited about and might be in high demand? Is there a new exciting product coming up that you want to get ahead of?
- In order to find out about some of these opportunities, what travel publications do you want/ need to subscribe to? (*Ahem* Make sure HAR is one of them!!) How are you utilizing your host or consortium resources to stay ahead?
OMG. OMG!!! That’s right, keep that grin plastered on your face because we’re entering the final leg. You did it!
Travel Agency Business Plan, Part 7: Administrative Support
As a business owner, there will be a lot of external organizational support as you go. First, we’ll focus on financial logistics. What are the business names (or contacts) and addresses of some of your administrative support? This may include:
- Your bank/ banker
- Accountant and/or Bookkeeper
- Host agency or consortium
- Legal counsel/ lawyer
Congratulations. You Have a Travel Agency Business Plan!
Seriously, that was INTENSE. Give yourself a huge pat on the back. Creating a business plan for your travel agency ain’t for the faint of heart, but you did it.
Go ahead and tell us about your process. Was our free travel agency business plan template helpful? Did it help to think things through and write a business plan for your agency? Was it a waste of time? Most importantly, what kind of office pet do you have and what sort of moral support do they provide?
*Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 16th, 2019. We updated it on the publish date listed on the article!