5 Steps to Building an Online Presence for Your Travel Agency

Importance of Establishing an Online Presence for your Travel Agency, What You need to Succeed and Where to Start

Whether starting from scratch, trying to stay relevant or simply trying to maintain your website, my goal with this post is to help get you there or at least pointed in the right direction.

Are you a travel pro who, like me, gets frustrated trying to navigate through all the different systems, software, job aids, logins, suppliers, portals, websites, booking engines, co-branded sites, micro-sites, webinars, host agencies, consortia and associations? I know I am! I hope you found this post before you started chewing your finger nails or pulling your hair out!

Perhaps at the very least, you’ve caught yourself in a dead stare, in front of a mirror with huge eyes staring at  their own reflection, trying to figure out where the hell you should start. In this post, I’ll be going over the importance of establishing an online presence for your travel business and what steps you can take to get online today! You may be shocked to find out that you don’t need an online booking engine, you don’t necessarily need real time supplier promos and you can definitely do without destination and travel guides. Read on to find out why! 

Online Booking Engine for Travel Agents - Do I need a booking engine for my website?

There are mountains of various technologies and platforms to choose from as well as service providers everywhere you turn offering what they claim to be the greatest solution for travel agents. With their promises of more website traffic, better engagement from your clients, more leads calling you ready to book their dream vacation.

Travel Website Promos can make you rich!The technology suppliers in particular, the ones selling website solutions or stand-alone booking engine add-ons, flaunt you with all the charts and graphs showing the millions of consumers who book online. They get you all fired up thinking about all the money you could make! As disappointing as it is, I’m here to tell you, for the vast majority of travel agents, an online booking engine will make no difference on your day-to-day revenue operations or revenue streams.

When I launched my agency, I had just left a 10 year career in the technology industry so I put a huge emphasis on making sure my website offered the capability of booking online. In fact, the first host agency I went with, was chosen based on that particular feature! What a huge mistake that was, but more on that later.

What I learned the hard way was that having a booking engine is not important and despite all the marketing and advertising I did, which drove quite a bit of traffic to my site, no one ever booked on it.  Ever.

Clients who want to book online will go to an OTA. They typically arrive at an agency’s site  because they’re in need of an agent’s service, recommendations and expertise! Clients are not driven to your site because of promotions, either. There are deals and promotions everywhere.

What will drive them to your site, however and keep them coming back for more is helpful information, tips, time saving processes and unique, fresh content!

All of the fee based website service providers focus their offerings on providing promotional content for your website with some destination information but it’s all duplicate content so adds absolutely no value with regard to SEO (search engine optimization). In fact, Google and the other search engines will most likely categorize your site as having “thin content” which is not a good thing and can severely hurt your rankings.

In my opinion, the most important thing you can have on your website is original content. Helpful information for your visitors and unique information for the search engines to crawl. While having automatic supplier promotions is a “nice to have”, it’s not critical and is something that can come later, once you can afford to spend the extra money.

Plus, there’s really no need to pay to have promotions and booking capabilities on your site because there are many suppliers who offer co-branded websites free of charge that give your clients tons of information and will even allow them to book online all the while you get all the commission, should you happen to get lucky!

In future posts, I’ll not only be revealing the names of all the travel suppliers offering a co-branded or micro website solution to travel agents and agencies but I will also be walking you through setting them up, step-by-step so be sure to stay tuned for that!

5 Steps You Can Take Today to Get Your Travel Agency Online

  1. Purchase your domain name and hosting plan. If you need help finding the perfect domain, check out our article on 7 online tools to help you find the perfect domain for your travel agency website. If you don’t have a host, I recommend StableHost. I’ve used about 5 different hosting providers and Stablehost, as its name implies,  is very “stable”, they have lightening fast support, allow you to host an unlimited number of domains as well as provide Softaculous which allows you to install about 150 different website scripts and templates with the click of a mouse.
  2. Install a CMS, I prefer WordPress which is the most popular and has thousands of travel agency themes available for free. There are many reasons you should use WordPress if you don’t already have a solution, just 10 of which are mentioned in the video below.
  3. 10 Reasons You Should Use WordPress at your Travel Agency
    If you’ve already setup your hosting account, have access to cPanel and Softaculous, here’s an instructional video showing you how to install WordPress in minutes.
    1. How to Setup WordPress as your Travel Agency Website Solution
  4. Start adding fresh content! The Travel Institute’s “Travel Agent’s Guide to Writing Content” is a great resource and available free. Travel Research Online also offers tons of articles to get you started, motivated and advice for brainstorming. They even offer a white paper which supplies you with 365 days of topics you can cover in your first year.
  5. Sign up for a service like Agent Social Link by Passport Online which gives you content, including videos, blogs, articles and images you can freely use on your website and social media account, although I’d recommend rewriting the articles or spinning the articles to make them unique. According to vacation.com’s preferred supplier directory (page 183), Agent Social Link is free to us. They weren’t aware of this when I contacted them and I had to scan and send them the page from the guide to prove it. In the end, the service ended up being free. To save you time, I uploaded images of page 183 below.
  6. Use travel agent websites, blogs and forums (such as this one) to ask for help! There are tons of people willing to help their fellow agent and many who have not only been in the business for years but who have pretty much mastered getting online exposure from their websites.

I certainly hope this helps or at least points you in the right direction. There are tons of different solutions out there, this one just costs a lot less and is just as effective, likely even performs better! Using the tools and resources I’ve mentioned above should get you well on your way! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or give me a shout:  [email protected]

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Steven Talbott
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Steven Talbott

Managing Director at Vacation Side Travel
Steven is an aspiring entrepreneur in the travel industry. He Loves technology, cloud computing, intelligent lighting design and traveling the world. Steven is the founder of a travel and vacation rental agency in Nashville, TN.
Steven Talbott
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