How To Start And Market A Travel Business Cost Effectively

Starting a travel business from scratch can take years before it becomes profitable. Besides the set-up costs, such as company registration, insurance, licensing, and accreditation, there are the marketing costs incurred to develop trade networks and attract clients.

But there are quicker and more cost-effective ways to start your own travel business. This article looks at how to buy an existing, established travel business and provides cost-effective ways to attract more clients to your travel business.

First off, you’d need to decide what type of travel business you want to get involved in operating. There are a lot of travel agencies for sale worldwide and you can choose to buy either a traditional storefront travel agency or a work-from-home online travel agency (OTA).

Niche tourism fields, such as medical tourism, sports tourism, cruise tourism, business tourism, and eco-tourism agencies provide specialist knowledge and appeal to travellers who want a particular type of service and experience. Then there are tour operator businesses who provide local or cross-border ground handling services, usually including road transport and tourist guides as part of their service to both direct clients and to travel agents.

Whichever type of travel business you decide to purchase, be sure to do your own research and check that the sellers client database is current and not out of date. Above all, ensure that you have knowledge and passion for the particular type of travel business.

Now that you have secured your own travel business, you’ll need to continue marketing as cost-effectively as possible. Here, then, are several marketing methods that can easily be applied to attract more clients to your travel business.


If you want to attract more customers to your travel business, you cannot afford not to have a monthly email newsletter. Creating one is easy as bulk email service providers, such as MailChimp, provide a host of purpose designed templates. In addition, they provide an effective and easy way to manage and grow your mailing list. More so, it is a very cost-effective way to retain your current customers and gain referrals in the process. As you compile email newsletters, ensure that they remain relevant to the season.

Social media

To attract clients to your travel business, your social media posts should have variety. Always be up to date, share photos, new holiday ideas, videos and so on. The visual content should be of high quality, and you should keep your text content interesting. Your titles and captions should be catchy too. If people are interested in your posts, you’ll generate more engagement and leads for your business.

Trade fairs

You will need to attend both local and international trade fairs. As a travel agency, registering as a hosted buyer is the most cost-effective way to go about it as the event organiser or destination will cover your flights, accommodation, and meals for the duration of the event.

You also do not have to wait for events. Shopping malls have a steady flow of people, all of whom can be your potential customers. Request the management to allow you to set up a booth for your business.


Merchandising is a great way to gain brand awareness. And, as a travel agent, you don’t even have to buy your own. Ask the destination marketing bodies or the tourism products that you send tourists to, for marketing collateral, such as branded t-shirts or notebooks and add your logo to these items. If USB memory sticks are supplied, add your digital brochures to these giveaways. It is a great way to gain visual brand exposure at little cost to you.


Word of mouth is an effective way to get your brand trusted by many people. Kick off a referral program to attract more customers to your business. Add an incentive to reward your customers for making referrals.


It may be old-fashioned to ‘snail-mail’ printed postcards in today’s techno-savvy world, but the tactile feel and surprise of your established customers receiving a postcard under their door or in their mailbox will remind them to arrange their next holiday and the country of origin’s postage stamp will leave a lasting impression.

As a travel agent, you’ll be hosted to attend familiarisation (FAM) trips to exotic destinations who want to attract your business. It doesn’t take much effort or expense to buy a dozen or so postcards and mail them to your top clients with a short “wish you were here” note. In fact, your host may even supply you with postcards – it’s worth asking before you depart on your FAM trip.


Hosting social influencers, travel bloggers and journalists is always a cost-effective way to gain exposure and promote the destination itineraries and tourism suppliers that you represent. The cost of hosting is shared among the itinerary suppliers, and, depending on the volume of travellers that you book on specific airlines, you may be able to get them to sponsor the flights too.

Most travel content publishers, such as this website, will do hospitality & destination reviews on a trade exchange basis. In effect, your suppliers are using unsold inventory to gain valuable exposure and generate new sales leads. It’s a fact that the average occupancy rate in the accommodation sector is 60%, which means that 40% of unsold rooms are wasted each year. It’s a bit like perishable products on their sell-by date – if they’re not used today, they’re gone forever.

The most important point to note is that the best way to draw customers to your travel business is by keeping them engaged. Give the above marketing methods a try, and you will see your business grow from strength to strength! 

Header image Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License Via Flickr by J Pana.

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