If travel is your passion, and you can’t visualize yourself sitting at a desk all day, answering the question about travel destinations which you would rather be visiting, becoming a Group Leader, may be your best solution.
The cruise line industry caters to the group sales methodology to fill up cruise cabins. Most of the major cruise companies will provide a free cruise for a Group Leader who sells 8 cabins or 15 full paying passengers. Some cruise companies require the group leader to pay for taxes, fees, and upgrades. Smart group leaders usually will book themselves, into an Interior cruise cabin. That way no one in the group has a less expensive cabin.
The Group Leader can sell his/her cruise or, cruise for free. This option is what makes the group leader’s opportunity so popular.
Experienced Tour Conductors, usually generate multiple methods to market their cruises or group travel events. The most common way is to locate established groups, who want to save money by traveling together. Other successful groups include special interest travel.
Because the majority of Group Leaders are not, travel agents, they may have regular jobs, and belong to social organizations and church groups which put them in touch with hundreds of potential travelers.
There are a number of ways to get started as a Travel, Group Leader. If you are a junkie traveler, you can use your own experiences to build your confidence and your sales.
If you have a limited travel background, yet travel is a passion, you can take a home study course, or enroll in a couple of classes at your local junior college. There are also courses online, which is extremely affordable. Travel is a billion dollar industry and there are many options for learning different phases of the travel industry.
My own path through this maze was to enroll in a UC Berkeley Extension (Berkeley, Ca) course, on Group Travel. My instructor was one of the most successful group travel professionals in the country, at that time. My next step was to volunteer as a group leader for a social club who was attending an annual ski summit in Vale.
It is not necessary to spend lots of money on schooling be become an effective Group Leader. However, it is mandatory that you learn everything you can about your destination and the travel involved.
Once you have secured a basic knowledge of the type of group travel you want to offer, you can then seek out a host agency. A Host Agency is a licensed, bonded travel agency which allows travel agents or outside travel agents to book travel using their company name. There is a split in the commission, as the host agency is the legal business which allows you to book travel for your clients. Most host agencies charge a fee and an annual fee, but not all. Fees for joining a Hosting Agency can range from zero dollars, up to $500.
Another option is to contact your local travel agency and let them know you want to work as an outside agent. Be prepared to explain what types of travel you want to offer and to what type of groups you want to specialize in. The agency owner, or manager, will provide you with the commission structure if any, policies and procedures. Some travel agencies only offer free travel to group leaders, while others offer, free travel, and commissions.
When first starting out, it is almost always better to join a group in the process, or, create a fun, 2-day trip, to get experience. My own experience included learning the procedure for a particular cruise ship. For about 5 years, every time a Princess Cruise ship docked in San Francisco, I thought I should further my travel education and be aboard the ship when it cruises under the Golden Gate Bridge and out to sea. My efforts landed me in the Captain’s Circle and qualified me as a Platinum Cruise Member.
It is easy to find clients. Below is a list of ways to market your travel events.
1. Informing your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members, club members, organizations, friends of friends, twitter pals, and your personal email buddies, is a great way to find new clients.
2. The second best way is to invite friends, neighbors over for a travel party or a cruise party. Ask the cruise line or the resort, for a videotape and free promotional material to share with the guest. Provide guest with snacks and (cheap) wine. Keep the wine coming! No need to be aggressive. Travel sells itself, especially, if the destination and price are of interest. You can provide your clients with a bottle of fine wine aboard ship.
Remember to ask for a deposit. Stay focused, your job is to provide information and collect checks. Ask friends to sponsor a travel party. The more parties you have, the more people you sign up. It’s that simple!
3. Make announcements at your church and your organization. Include the information in the church bulletin or your organization’s newsletter, as many times as possible.
4. Have flyers made up, but not before you have business cards printed, with your name, contact numbers, email address, the name of travel event, dates and starting cost.
5. Distribute flyers, at public places or public events.
6. Use classified ads, online and offline to promote your travel event.
7. Pass out your cards, everywhere you go. Doctor’s office, cleaners, grocery store, beauty shop, stores where you shop, your children’s school, your favorite neighborhood bar, and eating establishments.
Paperwork is extremely important and without it, nothing happens. Paperwork must be completed correctly and forwarded to the host agency or travel agency in a timely manner. Failure to do so could result in an ugly situation, which could escalate into a legal battle.
Checks should be made out to the host agency or the travel agency. Even if the travel agency says its OK for your clients to make the check out to you, don’t do it. Get you commissions from the host agency, unless you have a Seller of Travel license. Once you turn in your deposits and payments, the host agency or travel agency will provide you with your commissions, based on your agreement.
Outside travel agents usually work under an Independent Contractor Agreement and are issued a 1099-MISC at the end of the year.