Many industries saw employment numbers drop significantly during the Great Recession, and the travel industry was no exception. The number of travel agents has not bounded back so one way agents are meeting the challenge of remaining in, and growing their businesses is by cultivating a niche market.
Becoming a niche travel agent requires some careful exploration and planning. Today’s savvy travel agent assesses his or her own area of “travel agent expertise”, the various specialty niche markets already being served, and the potential viability of creating an entirely new niche.
Build on what you already know and do
Building a niche market for your agency doesn’t require focusing on the most obscure or out-of-the-way locations and interests. Look at your own interests and skills, especially as they relate to your travel business. Is there an area of interest in which you consider yourself to be an expert? What is your travel passion? Let’s look at some of the niche travel markets populating the travel industry:
- Business – yes, business travel can also be a niche market. Do you have expertise in making travel arrangements for large groups of business travellers, especially at the international travel level? You may be skilled at the travel arrangements and pulling together great deals on lodgings, side excursions, etc. for convention and conference attendees.
- Disability – you may be very knowledgeable in the special arrangements that people traveling with disabilities require. Build your brand on always getting your wheelchair-bound business clients safely to their destinations with the least amount of difficulty for the clients. Plan “accessibility” dream vacations. Become a disability travel resource expert.
- Culinary – for one “major” anniversary, a client booked a culinary immersion vacation in Tuscany for himself and his wife. Put your foodie talents to additional good use in building a culinary travel niche market.
- Adventure – love outdoor adventures? White water rafting, photo safaris, heliskiing, or even service immersion vacations are all niche adventure travel opportunities.
- Romantic – specializing in romantic travel may mean planning a couple’s dream honeymoon or destination wedding. Become the region’s expert on the most romantic “boutique” B&Bs or luxurious resorts.
- Retirement – many retirees, young and old, travel extensively; some will book retirement travel that extends over several months and numerous destinations; others want to connect with special interest travel like university-related study excursions.
Building your niche
There are many niche travel opportunities but building a successful business takes more than your travel agent expertise. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Specialize in something that fills a need or interest. Study the demographics and trends of your potential niche market: is there a strong enough market or need for your specialized travel agent services?
- Be the expert you claim to be. If you have a general interest but no real experience or deep-level knowledge in your area of interest, find ways to become expert in your future niche market.
- Create and market your image to the right people and locations. You might do poorly promoting your wheelchair holidays to the competitive ballroom dancing market.
- Stay focused. Niche travel is not like collecting scout badges. Stretch too far and you may lose credibility with clients. Expert travel agents in niche markets don’t try to be experts in many specialized travel services; they focus on one or even a few related specialty areas.
- Build your niche, but honour your clients’ regular travel requests, too.
If your travel agency is just hanging on or if you find much of the thrill of being a travel agent has worn down, give serious consideration to creating a niche travel service. You may revitalize your business while providing a much-needed and valued specialty service. And you may also rediscover the excitement and satisfaction of being a travel agent – all based on doing something you love.