While the emergence of no-frills airlines, as well as websites like Lastminute.com and Expedia, have had a notable effect on the workings of the travel industry, the business is still thriving - even the economic downturn has failed to make a notable dent. In fact, for the discerning travel agent who can quickly adapt to changing trends in the industry, things are definitely on the up and the service that an independent agency can offer can be very appealing to the public.
You won't be able to compete with the big brands on price so it is all about what you can offer over and above that. This is where customer service is so important, what differentiates your business from others. Overall quality of service is a key aspect.
The current market
Setting up as a travel agent shouldn't be confused with being a tour operator. The difference is that the former sells the holidays while the latter organises them. It's possible to set up as an independent tour operator but there is a lot of competition for big firms that have the buying power to keep prices lower.
Who is it suited to?
By choosing a competitive industry you are inevitably resigning yourself to a high degree of hard graft. And you may not have the time to take advantage of the attraction of free or discount holidays at the start - in fact, there are few, if any, small businesses which afford you much respite in the first couple of years. So your motivation needs to be linked with the work and the service you are providing.
You will be actively dealing with people all day either on the phone or in person - which is demanding even if you are naturally interested in people. But if you don't have the stamina or the inclination for this kind of work, owning a travel agency may not be for you.
Travel agencies are more about selling advice to your clients than holidays. Your customers want to be reassured they will be able to hire a car, go walking or get vegetarian food, so being able to provide this personal touch will be essential.
You don't necessarily need to have experience of the industry. As with most things it may help, but the most important thing is to be prepared for a steep learning curve.