How Much Does it Cost to Become a Travel Agent?

March 7, 2024

How much does it cost to become a travel agent? If you want to start your own travel agency, which is the most common way future travel advisors enter the industry, we've got tons of info for you! (If you're looking for how much travel agents make, we've got another article for you.)

Our annual travel advisor survey finds that travel agency startup costs typically run between $0-$20,000, which isn't the most helpful. This vast range illustrates just how many factors impact how much it costs to start a travel agency.

In this article, we'll break down how much it costs to become a travel agent by the most common routes people enter the industry:

  1. Franchise travel agencies
  2. Hosted travel agencies
  3. Independent travel agencies

Below you can see the average startup cost for a hosted travel agent in 2023 was $2,846.

Not sure what a hosted advisor is? First thing you need to know is what a host agency is.

Travel Agency Startup Costs

This article is going to look at the latest data for how much it costs to become a travel agent when it comes to hosted travel agents, advisors overall and why it's so stinking hard to get concrete data on startups for franchise owners and independently-accredited advisors.

This resource offers a run-through of what you can expect budget-wise for four different types of travel agency models.

⭐️ HAR Article Highlights: ⭐️

How Much it Costs to Become a Travel Agent: The Big Picture (+Infographic)

  1. How Much it Costs to Become a Hosted Travel Agent
  2. How Much it Costs to Start a Travel Agency Franchise
  3. How Much it Costs to Become an Independent Travel Agent

Travel Agency Earnings: What You Can Expect in the First 3 Years

Income for Travel Agency Startups: The Big Picture

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Travel Agent: The Big Picture

If you balked at the massive range people are spending to become a travel agent ($0-$20,000), you’re not alone. Why is there such a disparity in how much travel agents invest?

If you forced me to give a bottom line, shoe-string budget number on how much you’d invest at minimum to register your travel and access an accreditation number to book travel, I’d say the bargain basement budget startup cost would run around $300 at a bare minimum.

Frankly, when folks say they start an agency for nothing, I don’t know how they do it. If you’re one of those people, give me a holler. I want to know your secret! I’m thinking it’s likely they’re not factoring in the cost of registering their business, investing in their accreditation number, or purchasing a website domain. Those costs seem negligible individually but can start to add up.

We're going to look at how much it costs to become a travel agent in a bunch of different ways. How do we do this with any amount of confidence or accuracy? I'm so glad you ask!

We pull new agent data from HAR's ridiculously comprehensive annual travel agent survey results.

1. Range: The range is the lowest and highest reported startup costs. This helps give a sense of how much it can vary and will guide you in making a budget that works for you.

2. Average: The average is the total sum of startup costs divided by the number of agents who responded to the survey. I like to think of average as the “ballpark figure.” A lot of time, the average is a “middle value,” but when you have some folks invest $20 bucks and some invest $20K, sometimes these averages aren’t the best representation of what you can expect to spend.

3. Median: Median is the true middle startup cost. It’s the startup cost entry with an equal number of higher and lower-cost entries. And because we like to go big rather than go home, we’ll also look at . . .

4. Mode Startup Cost: The mode is where it becomes a popularity contest: it’s the startup cost is the value that travel agents reported most frequently.

How Much it Costs to Become a Hosted Agent:

Host agencies are a great option for new travel agents who want to start their own business, but don’t have the time/resources/people power to research and invest in every nook and cranny of the backend of running an agency (accreditation number, E&O insurance, Seller of Travel registration, CRM . . . the list goes on) and are looking for higher commissions.

It will come as no surprise to you that we’re fans of host agencies, and we recommend it to 99% of folks who are new to the industry and want to start their travel agency business and brand.

Hosts provide that administrative framework so you can focus on developing your travel agency brand identity and focus on selling travel. (You can read more on the benefits of using a host agency here.)

If you’re starting a travel agency with a host agency, here’s how much you can expect to invest in your startup cost:

1. IQ Range1of Travel Agency Startup Cost for Hosted Agents in 2023: $500-$3,000

2. Average Cost to Become a Hosted Travel Agent in 2023: $2,846

3. Median Cost to Become a Hosted Travel Agent in 2023: $1,213

4. Mode Cost to Become a Hosted Travel Agent in 2023: $1,000

That brings us to . . . .

How Much it Costs to Start a Travel Franchise:

Above, I mentioned that hosts are a great option for those who want backend support but still want to develop their brand. If you want to run your travel agency, but do not want to spend time creating a brand identity from scratch, a travel agency franchise is a great option.

With a travel franchise, you get to use the franchisor’s established branding.

The benefit of this is that, rather than starting your brand identity from the ground up, you get to hit the ground running with a brand identity that has already been established for years. (In industry lingo, they call this a turnkey travel business.)

Is that up to your alley? You can learn about travel franchises here!

For the franchise listings on our site, the startup cost to become a travel agent through the franchise route ranges from to $300-$8,995.

The latest data we have on startup costs for franchise owners is from 2020. Here's what that looked like back in the day:

1. Range of Travel Agency Startup Cost for Travel Agent Franchisees in 2020: $162-$15,000

2. Average Travel Agency Franchise Startup Cost in 2020: $5,690

3. Median Travel Agency Franchise Startup Cost in 2020: $9,250

4. Mode Travel Agency Franchise Startup Cost Mode for Franchisees in 2020: $2,000

We'd LOVE for more travel franchise owners to take our survey. Is that you? Sign up for reminders so you can get our survey when it launches!

How Much it Costs to Become an Independent Travel Agent:

When we say independent agent, what we mean is a travel agent who gets their own accreditation number, rather than using a host agency's..

Independent travel agents are on the opposite end of the spectrum from franchisees. Whereas travel franchisees (typically) have their entire business setup from backend to branding, and hosted agents typically receive backend structural support, independent agents do it all on their own.

They get their accreditation, their travel agent license, join their consortium directly, forge their relationships with travel suppliers (etc.).

Why don't we have info on startup costs for independent advisors? Because most independent advisors started out with a host agency before going it alone.

Among the 2,600+ advisors who responded to our latest survey, only 9 were new, independent advisors.

Our survey asks for startup costs for agents with 0-2 years of experience. Among the 2,600+ advisors who responded to our latest survey, only 9 were new, independent advisors.

Wowza. Because of this, we don’t have enough data on startup costs for independent agents to provide reliable data. Sad face.

If you’re a newbie independent agent, we’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below if you’re willing to share how many coins you dropped! But most importantly, take our survey so we can offer great more great data in the independent segment!

Travel Agent Earnings: What You Can Expect in the First 3 Years

Now that you have an idea of approximately how much it costs to become a travel agent, let’s talk about how much you can expect to earn.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this: It may take you a few years to be able to earn a living from your travel agent career. Why? There are a few reasons:

Here are a few reasons why it can take time (typically 3-5 years) to generate a steady income as a travel agent:

  1. It takes a while to build a client base and develop your brand.
  2. Even when you do make your first bookings, you're often not paid commission until after your client completes their travel (or after final payment for some vendors). So, if you make seven bookings in January but the clients aren't traveling until November, you might not get paid until the next calendar year. Let's just say, if you're wanting to walk off your current job, thinking that the big bucks will roll in the next month, you might want to reconsider your strategy. 😉
  3. (Leisure) travel is something most people only do 1-2 times a year. Even with referrals and repeat clients, it can take a lot longer to build a steady business compared to a new restaurant or other service industries like a hairstylist.

Now let’s talk about moolah.

Income for Travel Agency Startups: The Big Picture

We have loads and loads of in-depth travel agent research reports. In our hosted advisor report, we have a section specifically for newly hosted travel agents with 0-3 years of experience.

I’ll offer you a brief overview of new travel agent income data, plus show you how it’s trended over time.

The Latest and Greatest New Travel Agent INCOME Data:

New advisors earned $3,198 on average, according to HAR's 2023 survey. However, those with 2 years of experience earned nearly 8x higher average income. Here's a look at what hosted advisors earned!

Hosted Advisor Startup Costs

You can find all the information your heart desires in our annual travel advisor reports.

What Factors Lead to More Income For Travel Agents?

The secret sauce to earning a higher income as a travel agent is not a well-kept secret. We’ve been collecting data on travel agent income for years now and here’s what we’ve seen:

Income potential increases if you:

  1. Work full time
  2. Charge a fee
  3. Sell certain travel products
  4. Have employees or independent contractor agents working with you

But that’s only part of it.

Investing in travel agent startup resources is step one. Leveraging those resources is step two.

What I’m about to say is going to sound extremely obvious, but hey, it’s what leads to earning more money: Investing in these resources is step one. Leveraging resources is step two.

Getting to a point of income stability is about so much more than investing dollars in a fancy website, joining a host agency or getting an accreditation, or ticking off boxes for travel certifications. It’s just as much about taking advantage of the tools and resources that are available to you through your host or consortium.

How do you know? You can find more details than you ever wanted in our travel agent income survey archive. (Psst, if you click on that link and get a little scared by the sheer volume of data, a good start is to check out our latest longitudinal travel agent income report.)

Ready to Get Started?

Not only are travel agency startup costs affordable, but there are also plenty of resources.

If you want to get a lay of the land, check out HAR's 7DS Accelerator course options. If you just want to dip your toes into the waters to see if it’s for you, give the trial a try.

7DS Accelerator

Once you hit your stride as a travel advisor, our travel agent income data shows that earnings trend upward with experience, time investment, and industry engagement.

We'd love to hear from you—new and experienced agents alike! How long did it take for your agency to become sustainable? Did you find your cost to become a travel agent was similar to those in the article? For agents with a few years under your belts, what do you wish you did differently? For new agents, where are you feeling the need for additional support?

Let us know in the comment section below or email us!

*Editor's Note: This post was originally published on July 17th, 2018. We updated the information to reflect current income trends. (You can find the original article here.)


  1. IQ (Interquartile) Range: Layspeak? An IQ range is a more “typical” range, looking at averages that are between the 25th percentile and 75th percentile. This helps us give advisors more of an idea of what they can realistically expect when it comes to things like income, fees, and startup costs.
About the Author
Mary Stein - Host Agency Reviews

Mary Stein

Mary Stein has been working as a writer and editor for Host Agency Reviews since 2016. She loves supporting travel advisors on their entrepreneurial journey and is inspired by their passion, tenacity, and creativity. Mary is also a mom, dog lover, fiction writer, hiker, and a Great British Bake Off superfan.