The question I often get asked from outsiders looking into the travel profession is undoubtedly…
“Can you really make money as a travel agent?”
It comes up so often that I feel drawn to address it. Regardless of whether you are working as an independent travel consultant. Or if you are currently working for a tour operator or other travel entity, or even if you are thinking about becoming your own boss. At some point, you will wonder what you can reasonably expect to earn.
Sadly, this isn’t an industry known for churning out ballers. And I’m not just referring to times during our current Covid crisis. There simply are not a lot of travel agents featured on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
At least, not yet…
So, is it a shortcoming of the industry, or, something lacking in the mindset of those who embark on this career path?
That’s what I’d like to tackle in this post.
Most of us were raised with the belief that we get paid for our time. Accept a position in a new company and we instinctively know that full-time work typically means a 40-hour workweek. You might get a half an hour lunch break – maybe an hour – and if it’s your first job in your field, chances are you can expect to get a two-week holiday.
40 hours a week | 50 weeks of the year = your salary. Time for money. That’s the equation.
And if you think about it in those terms, because there are only so many hours in a week, then it would follow that there is a cap on your earning potential.
After all, we can’t create more time. Sure, you could work overtime, but most travel companies don’t pay overtime wages. And, if you work independently, at some point, there is something to be said for a work/life balance. Nobody really wants to be working more than 40 hours.
The average salary or income in the travel business currently falls somewhere between 40K and 60K per annum. That’s $20 to $30 per hour. Is that a lot of money? Not really. So it’s no wonder there is a low-income status associated with the travel industry. And it’s also become the acceptable norm. The industry sets the standard much like the real estate market sets the value of property. If people are willing to work in the travel industry for $20 or $30 an hour, and if travel companies are happy with the results that they are getting, then what is the impetus to increase wages? None.
Logistically, I understand why things are the way they are. I get it. It’s easier to offer a paycheck every two weeks based on time. Did Mary show up every day of the week? Yep…great, here you go, Mary. Here is your paycheck. As long as Mary is producing the expected baseline of results, then we keep Mary. If not, Mary gets the axe. In terms of not complicating the payroll department, it makes sense.
But just because it’s easier, and that’s how most 9 to 5 jobs are structured, is this the most effective way to run a business?
What remains is a vicious circular chicken vs. egg dilemma for most travel companies. They pay minimum wages and wonder why they struggle to find top-quality people.
But what if we flipped the switch?
What if instead of trading time for money…we traded value for money?
Is there a cap on value? Hell no. We can deliver an infinite amount of value. Value is similar to beauty. It lies in the eyes of the beholder.
What if we could deliver the same amount of value in 5 hours a day instead of 8 — in 4 days a week instead of 5? What if?
Now if you are currently working in a salaried position, you probably don’t have a lot of options. The only way you can increase your earnings is to move up the corporate ladder to a role within the company that is deemed more valuable than your current role.
Or find a travel company that pays you based on your results, not your time. These are commission-based positions. Most people are fearful to work for a company that only offers commission. They trade wealth for security. They prefer the comfort of a reliable paycheck rather than betting on themselves.
Or better yet… strike out on your own and put all your chips on black. 100% bet on yourself. You create your own hours. You deliver exceptional value in those hours and you get paid according to that value.
One of my all-time favourite quotes is this one from Zig Ziglar who, in his day, was one of the most sought-after sales coaches.
People are willing to pay you if they see the value in what you are offering.
That is the equation that I think we all would do better to live by.
Let’s suppose a client comes to you and wants to book a cruise package she saw advertised in the weekend paper. You know the company. You make the call. But all you’ve really done is saved her the time to make the call herself. How much is that worth?
But if instead, because of your knowledge, you are able to offer her an alternate cruise, only slightly more expensive but offers inclusions that far exceed the original package. Plus, you offer to help her with her insurance. You provide her with a packing list. You book her flights, recommend a great hotel pre-cruise and an excursion she had no idea was even available – well wow…now what you are offering is something she couldn’t have done herself. Margaret and Floyd have gone from having a ho-hum holiday to a truly remarkable vacation.
So it follows if you are going to invest in anything, invest in yourself and in your education. Invest in anything that will increase your knowledge, your skill, and give you the tools needed to provide your client with exceptional value. You will soon see how that investment begins to generate dividends.
While some say that we can’t create more time…actually, that’s not entirely true.
The more money you make, the more you can outsource the crap you don’t want to do. Instead of spending three hours on the weekend cleaning your house, you can now afford to hire a cleaning service, saving you those precious hours to sit by the ocean with your watercolours if that’s what brings you light.
More money means you can afford to take a direct flight from New York to Tokyo instead of routing yourself through LAX shaving off at least 5 hours in transit that are better spent inside an Izakaya sipping sake in Shinjuku.
Or what about having enough money to hire people who can support you. It’s rare that we are good at all aspects of business. What if your zone of genius is in your ability to sell? So instead of getting bogged down with the documents and the invoicing, you hire a virtual assistant (VA) to handle that, leaving you to work your magic. That’s your sweet spot, so double down on it. Just think of the wealth you can create using that model.
So can you make money in the travel industry?
Your earning potential is only limited by the amount of value you can create. Isn’t it time to ditch the 9 to 5?
Want to learn more? Save your spot in my upcoming course that will teach you all you need to know to have six-figure success with your travel business and do so on your terms.
Or …book a chat with me to discuss your next steps in this industry. I’d love to hear from you.