A Complete Guide to Travel Agency Websites [+Comparison Chart]
We’re frequently asked about travel agency websites. As in, how in the world do I create a website for my travel agency? We totally get that you’re a travel agent—a career that doesn't have much in common with a web developer—and your time is best spent selling and researching travel, not different travel agent website programs.
We here at HAR are on a quest to help you make an informed decision. In fact, Steph just chatted on this in a recent Friday 15 episode. It's like a teaser for what's to come in the article. Take a quick look:
Did that whet your appetite for website knowledge? If you already know what options you want to explore, see below to fast-forward:
⭐️ HAR ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS: ⭐️
- 4 Travel Agency Website Options: A Comparison Chart [download]
- 1. Third-Party Travel Agency Website Templates
- 2. Build Your Own Travel Agency Website
- 3. Content Management System (CMS) Websites
- 4. Hiring a Developer for your Travel Agency Website
- What Websites do Travel Agents Use?
- Other Website Purchases You May Need
- Top Tips for Travel Agent Websites
And it’s not just the HAR perspective here. We’ve asked oodles of agents what they like and dislike about their travel agency websites. We share their thoughts at the end of the article!
Four Travel Agency Website Options: A Comparison Chart
Our comparison chart is a scenic view of travel agency website options. This is handy to have alongside you as you go through the article to dig into the details of the pros and cons of each model and decide what works best for your business.
Which Options Were Most Popular in 2021?
We took a peek at our 2021 travel agency survey data to check out which platforms advisors preferred. 1,100 advisors weighed in . . . here's what the data told us:
We also chatted on websites in our Facebook groups . . . we'd love for you to chime in with what travel agency website platforms you use and love.
We've gotten great feedback so if you're new to industry or just browsing travel agent websites join the conversation in our 7 Day Setup Facebook Group. If you have a few years selling travel under your belt, join us at the Travel Agent Think Tank! This offers an insider look at what travel agents are using!
1. Third-Party Travel Agency Website Templates
Approximately 65% of host agenies offer some sort of website program to their agents.
Costs for these types of programs typically range from free to $70/month. Oftentimes, if you sign up through a host agency, you will have access to one of these programs. Since hosts use a higher volume of these website programs, you may get a lower price for a third-party travel agency website through your host.
But if this is the route you want to go, it's still important to see what program you like best . . . It might even help you decide what host is best for you.
We peeked at our host agency database: Approximately 65% of host agencies offer some sort of website program to their agents.
Most of the time when a host agency offers a consumer-facing website program for travel agents, it is offered through third-party travel agency website programs like the ones listed above.
Of advisors who used a 3rd-party travel agency website, here are the ones that ranked highest in 2021:
How do you know if a third-party travel agency website is best for you? Here's how to decide:
Who is it for?
Is a third-party website right for you? Here's a quick list that illustrates if it might be a good match:
- You want to have a “hands-off” website with little to no set-up or maintenance.
- You don’t need/want control over all aspects of the site but still want an online presence.
- You want clients to be able to research and book travel on your website.
With these websites, you'll have access to pre-designed templates, pre-filled content, a booking engine (in some cases), and automatic updates.
Here's a deeper dive into features of third-party websites:
Pros & Cons
- Pros: In general, a major benefit of using a third-party travel agency website is the ease of use and its customization to the travel industry. With these websites, you'll have access to pre-designed templates, pre-filled content, a booking engine (in some cases), and automatic updates.
- Cons: On the flip side, since most of the design collateral and content is pre-filled, it may be hard to brand to your agency and reflect the unique voice of your business.
Third-party travel agency websites usually have multiple design templates you can choose from. The amount of design flexibility you have will depend on the platform. Some allow you the ability to add your logo and maybe choose a general color scheme but you won’t be able to customize or change much else. Others have more design options with drag n' drop features similar to the website builders we'll go over next.
The biggest benefit of third-party travel agency websites is the content! They are pre-filled with detailed content on destinations, suppliers, ships, trip types, etc. that your clients will be able to search through and read. They also commonly have supplier specials and news feeds that are automatically updated. You will need to customize the sections of your site that are specific to your agency, like your about us page or your meet the team page. If you don’t want to write content, you can always hire a content writer.
Because there is limited editing of the website layout, you are typically just editing the text for a page. The more advanced options are drag n' drop style. I would say the learning curve is pretty easy for both types.
While pre-filled content on third-party travel agency websites is its biggest benefit, it can also be a curse for those who are going for SEO. Why? Duplicate content from cookie-cutter sites is often seen as negative. Search engines don’t want someone to search a term and pull up 100s of travel agent sites that all (essentially) the same content.
“Pure affiliate sites consisting of content that appears in many other places on the web are highly unlikely to perform well in Google search results.” - Google Answers
That being said, if you just want to have a website to direct people to and don’t want to hassle with trying to rank with search engines, these sites more than get the job done!
We've included some screenshots of the top third-party travel agency websites from Voyager Travel, and Passport Online. (An example from Travefy's new travel agent website platform is soon to come, so stay tuned!)
2. Website Builders (Build Your Own Travel Agency Website)
As opposed to third-party agency websites, website builders offer a little more flexibility for customization. Common examples of website builders are Wix (this is what HAR recommends), SquareSpace, Weebly 2, and GoDaddy.
If you want to fast-track this process, we generally recommend that newbies create a travel agency website via Wix. Why? Because Wix is user-friendly and you can create your travel agency website in 7 minutes flat. (No Joke. We have a video to prove it.)
But we understand you're here to shop around :) There's a lot of great programs out there that allow you to easily build your own professional-looking website with no coding knowledge necessary. Here are the top website builders advisors reported using in 2021 (of those who used a website a builder):
Let's dig into these types of sites, and how they're good for travel agencies.
Who is it for?
Websites builders are best for those who:
- Want to personalize their travel agency website with their own structure and content
- Don’t mind putting in the work themselves to create a website for their travel agency'
They're the happy medium between 3rd-party sites and 100% custom jobs (more on that later). They offer more opportunities for customization (incorporating your own branding, design, and content) without sacrificing ease of use.
Here are some more details:
Pros & Cons of Website builders:
- Pros: The biggest pros are user-friendly template options, and the ability to customize them to your brand.
- Cons: A booking engine is not included (if you want that) and it's a bigger time investment than third-party programs.
Website builders have loads of different designs that you can customize with different colors, images, and layouts. Wix even has specific travel agency website templates! You’re easily able to change it and make it your own so your site doesn’t look like a "cookie-cutter" site.
Travel agency websites built with website builders like Wix and Squarespace will require that you write your own content, create your own pages and structure it accordingly. The templates usually have layouts with dummy text to give you an idea of a typical website layout with what type of information a page can hold but it isn’t usable content. If you don’t want to write content, you can pay extra for a content writer.
These sites are typically drag n’ drop meaning you drag, say, a text box where you want it and ‘drop’ it. And voila! You have a text box where you want it! They’re built to make it easy for people with no coding knowledge to create nice-looking websites. I would say the learning curve is pretty low when it comes to editing your website.
This is an area where website builders have really advanced over the last few years. There is still a stigma around website builders and bad SEO that arose from their early days but rest assured, you can have a successful, ranking travel agency website on a website builder platform. The SEO edits we mention above are doable with most website builders. WebsiteToolTester.com has a super helpful chart that shows the specific SEO capabilities of the different website builders.
Here are a few examples of common website builders that travel agents used to create their travel agency website:
3. Content Management Systems (CMS)
No doubt about it, CMSs are another popular way to build travel agency websites on the cheap. There is a lot more flexibility with CMS . . . but with that comes more complexity. If you frustrate easily and friends would never call yourself technologically inclined, this is not the option for you!
CMS programs are free but you’ll need to pay for hosting your CMS ~$10/month. Other potential costs could be premium plug-ins and hiring a developer.
While you don’t need to know coding to get a CMS site off the ground, to get a site to look like the professional sites you see, you will most likely need a little developer's help (and that can add up quickly).
Who is it for?
Are you cut out for a CMS? Here's how to tell:
- You want to completely personalize their website with their own structure and content
- You're savvy
- You know a bit of coding and you're not afraid to use (or learn to use it)
- You don’t mind spending time learning the CMS backend
Pros & Cons of CMS
CMS' by nature are more complicated, which can work for you or against depending on what you're looking for. Here's the pros and cons in a nutshell
- Pros: There are 1,000s of templates, they're cost-effective, you can edit SEO aspects, and there's a ton of flexibility as to what your site can look like and what features it has.
- Cons: Most of the pros are also cons. But some of the challenges you may encounter are a higher learning curve, takes more time, effort, knowledge, and upkeep, there are more "hidden costs" (some plug-ins and themes cost extra), you can royally mess it up if you don't know what you're doing.
With the three CMS’s we mentioned above, you have access to loads of templates. WordPress has a variety of travel agency website templates/themes.
You can search through included templates or ones designed by others. Some are free. Some are not. Once you have your template, you're able to customize it to your specific branding (coding oftentimes required) and added plug-ins (costs vary, many free) to give your site additional functionality.
For travel agency websites built with CMSs, you will need to write your own content, create your own pages, and structure it accordingly. Some themes will have dummy text and structure that you can copy over to help you start but the content won’t be usable. If you don’t want to write content, you can pay extra for a content writer.
The biggest drawback to using a CMS for travel agency websites is that the backend is much more complicated and ‘less pretty’ to use.
There's a steeper learning curve compared to other travel agency website options. To get the best results, you often need to know how to code a bit (or hire a developer). When you’re editing a page in a CMS, you’re not really sure what the design aspect will look like until you preview or publish your page.
Since everything is so flexible and customizable, you have the ability to steer your own SEO. Remember, simply having a CMS like WordPress doesn’t make your site rank high in the search engines, it is the work you put into cultivating your SEO on the site.
Here are two different examples of travel agency websites created from WordPress:
4. Hire a Developer to Create Your Travel Agency Website
Hiring a developer is for those who want it all and have the budget for it. It's easy (depending on how involved you want to be) because you can wash your hands by making your own website. Here's a few examples of travel agency websites created with the help of a developer:
Costs vary widely but this is by far the most expensive option. Expect at least $500 and up to $1,000’s of dollars for a full website build.
Is hiring a developer for you?
Hiring is the developer is great for you if:
- You don’t want to have to ever ‘touch’ your website
- You have a specific design or functionality they want
- You have a larger budget
Pros and Cons of Hiring a developer
When it comes to hiring a developer, you have lots of options. You may have started your site using one of the methods above and just need a little help or some tweaks that you want to hire someone to do. On the other hand, you might want to have someone build your travel agency website from the ground up and not have to worry about it.
Pros: It's customized to your exact design wants, you can add specific features, and there's minimal work on your part so you can focus on what you're good at (selling travel!)
Cons: Expensive, and you'll likely work through your developer for future updates and changes (which is also expensive!)
Since you’re working with a developer, you can sketch up the way you want your site and your developer should be able to deliver. If you’re not sure what you want it to look like, you might have to pay extra for design services. A quick way to save money is to research other websites and take screenshots or notes on what you like about those sites. Maybe it was the color, the font, the style.
With developer-built travel agency websites, you will need to write your own content, create your own pages and structure it accordingly but the developer should be able to help with best practices for page structures. If you don’t want to write content, you can pay extra for a content writer.
Depending on where and how your developer sets up your site and what level of access you want, you may or may not go into the backend of your travel agency website. Typically speaking, if you hired a developer, you’ll likely use them for any updates as well. Expect to pay for their time when you have updates or change requests.
You’ll want to check your developer's credentials to see if they have experience designing websites with SEO in mind or if they work with an SEO expert to make sure your site is in tip-top shape. Don’t forget that much of the SEO legwork is in the page’s content.
What Websites do Travel Agents Use?
In our annual travel agent survey, we ask advisors what websites they use. In our 2021 survey, the majority of advisors reported using a 3rd-party travel agent website (whether on their own, or through their host, consortia, or franchise).
Other (Important) Website Purchases to Keep in Mind
A domain is your website address. Ours is www.HostAgencyReviews.com
Cost: Depending on your name, a domain costs about $10-$15. Just an FYI, you technically don’t own the domain, you’re renting it so don’t let it lapse or someone could take your domain! You may also want to consider buying the .org or the plural of your domain.
Your domain should not be confused with your website. After you purchase your domain, there won’t be anything at the address until you purchase and link your website. Most places that sell domains also offer their own website building program but we recommend sticking to the travel agency website options we went over in this article.
Popular places (domain registrars) to purchase domains:
- GoDaddy, (While it has strong brand recognition and has competitive pricing for your first year, GoDaddy jacks up the price on renewals. You can always change domain registrars, but it takes time and energy.)
- Google Domains,
- NameCheap, (This is who we use at HAR. Initial pricing is competitive and the renewals are still fairly priced.)
All the files on your site have to be stored somewhere! Your hosting provider has that space for you. When you use a website builder like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace they host your website for you. If you use a CMS like WordPress, you will need to find a hosting company to store your CMS. Many CMSs offer their own hosting as well.
Cost depends on how much space you need but for a typical website, expect to pay <$10/month. But like domain pricing, it often goes up to about $15-20/month after the first year. You can move hosts at any time.
Popular Hosting Providers:
- GoDaddy, or
- WP Engine (save 20% on monthly plans | 4 months free on annual plans using this link). WP Engine is the premium, white-glove host, meaning top website speeds, amazing support . . . and it has premium pricing as a result.
We highly recommend getting a custom email at your domain to add that professional polish. Consider our email: firstname.lastname@example.org compared to helloHAR@gmail.com.
Costs for custom emails are about $5/month.
You can typically get custom emails through the company you purchase your domain with. If you’re interested in using Google Workspace to get your custom email, we have some 2 week free trials + 10% promo codes for new users! Pop us a note in the comments and we’ll send you over a code!
Here are a few popular custom email providers:
- Google Workspace, (This is who we use and HIGHLY recommend because of the ease of use + our 10% off promo code above)
- GoDaddy (use our link for a $9.99/domain promo), or
- NameCheap (use our link for a $9.95/domain promo)
Creating a website is a fantastic way to showcase you and your travel agency to the world. It is an easy way for potential clients to learn more about you and what you offer. Hopefully, we’ve made the process of travel agency websites and all that comes with it, less daunting and more accessible for first-time website builders!
After you get your travel agency website up and running, you might like our $100 Travel Agency Marketing Plan [+ Video] for more ideas on getting your name out there!
I’d love to hear about your experiences with different travel agency website programs – leave a comment below with what type of website you have and how you’re liking it!