If you dream of creating your own business and you have a special interest in travel and tourism, setting up your own travel agency from home can be the perfect way to achieve that work independence. There are several ways in which you can help people plan their next trip, so read carefully the following steps to start a travel agency from your home in Colombia.
Method 1 of 3: Establish the business plan
Step 1. Analyze the reasons why you want to create a travel agency
With this analysis you will be able to write the executive summary and the business mission of your company, establish its reason for being and be clear about its vision, competitive advantages, values and objectives. This will also allow you to explain your idea to a prospective investor and guide you towards the best business model for you.
- Analyze the national and international tourism market to identify the most important trends in the tourism industry, your biggest competitors and possible gaps or shortcomings where you can exploit your competitive advantages.
- With this research, develop an operational plan where you explain your business model, the specific activities that you will carry out, the process to develop and position your products and services, and an implementation schedule for all activities.
- Define your role within the company, if you are going to need employees and their respective functions.
- Finally, determine the most appropriate legal form to establish your travel agency.
Step 2. Design your financial plan
The future of your travel agency will depend on an honest and organized plan that explains in detail its financial reality, translates its operational plans into numbers, projections and budgets and allows to determine its value and future viability.
- Businesses usually take time to become profitable so it is important to determine your starting capital and if you need to seek additional financing. Make a list of all the assets at your disposal to start your travel agency including furniture, equipment, spaces, savings, loans or investors and decide if you need additional capital.
- Also make a list of all the initial expenses with which you will start your business, such as licenses, permits, incorporation expenses, employees or materials. Then, make a diagram where you include all the projected monthly expenses, such as salaries, fees, rents, insurance and servers and the expected monthly income, such as sales or loan projections.
- With these lists you can design an organized cash flow that explains in detail the origin and destination of each entry and exit from your travel agency. The advantages of good cash flow are innumerable and can lead you to make better financial decisions.
- You also need to establish growth and profitability strategies. For this you must have clear sales projections and other forms of financing that you can count on. Always look for a way to diversify your sources of income and to know how to invest any type of surplus.
Step 3. Design your sales and promotion strategy
When you know what type of product you want to sell and you have the financial plan ready, it is time to design a communication and promotion strategy so that the public knows you and listens to your message.
- Determine your target audience. A travel agency can have a fairly diverse target audience, with different needs and different income levels, so it is very important that you know how to identify it very well. The different market niches can help you classify the tourism market.
- Choose the corporate message that you want to communicate to your target audience and the best promotional channel to do it. Today there are several ways to convey your message without having to spend a lot of money on commercial advertising. You can make a corporate video and promote it on your social networks or create email campaigns to offer content and promotions.
- You can also develop strategies to get clients such as search engine advertising or visiting tourism fairs and conferences on the subject.
Method 2 of 3: Develop the business infrastructure
Step 1. Create a brand to represent your agency
The brand of your travel agency will be in charge of collecting all the tangible and intangible aspects that you used to describe it in the executive summary and translate them into an abstract idea in such a way that the public can distinguish and relate to it.
- The name is one of the most important aspects in the entire process of creating your travel agency. Try to give your business a short name, one that is related to tourism, easy to remember and above all that can be legally registered.
- Develop a logo and slogan that perfectly describe the values on which you have built your travel agency and implement an attractive design to facilitate its remembrance. Remember that you are going to use this corporate image in all digital and physical communications of your company.
- Create a fast, modern and easy to navigate web page specialized in tourism and where your users find all the possible tools to know your business, make transactions and contact you in a reliable and secure way.
Step 2. Set up your office
Even if you work from home, it is necessary to allocate a private and exclusively organized space to run your business in a professional way. If you are going to receive clients, you must issue all the necessary licenses to do so.
- You are going to spend a large part of your day in the office, so try to make it as comfortable as possible and make it a tool to increase your productivity and not a space where you feel confined or uncomfortable. Learn about color psychology in the workplace, use high-quality furniture and accessories, and make sure you have access to good light sources and plants.
- It is just as important to create a technological platform that can support the workload of a professional travel agency and use specialized and legal software and applications to make reservations, generate itineraries, receive payments online and send promotions.
- Invest in an Internet connection and a business phone line so you can guarantee fast, uninterrupted service.
Step 3. Look for alliances to access benefits and certifications
In Colombia there are several associations and guilds that offer great advantages and certifications to the travel agent.
- The Colombian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies Anato offers congresses, events, trainings and agreements with suppliers. The only condition is that the travel agency must be in existence for a year or more and pay a membership fee.
- The Fontur Tourism Promotion Fund also offers initiatives and projects to stimulate tourism in and to Colombia, creating support networks between individuals and companies.
- Procolombia offers tools for entrepreneurs in the tourism sector who want to deepen their knowledge and commitment in the tourism industry in Colombia and want to promote their activities.
- There are international associations that you can also join and that can certify you and help make alliances in other countries, such as the WATA (World Association of Travel Agents) and the IATA (International Air Transport Association for its acronym in English.)
Method 3 of 3: Complete the necessary paperwork
Step 1. Register the travel agency with DIAN
To start the official procedures, first register your company with the National Tax and Customs Directorate DIAN
Diligence of the pre-Single Tax Registration RUT. Enter the DIAN website and go to the link "RUT registration" to be able to fill it out. For the option "type of registration" choose "chamber of commerce."
Step 2. Register the company with the chamber of commerce in your jurisdiction
Then you must register your travel agency with the chamber of commerce of the jurisdiction where it will operate.
- Present the pre-RUT of the DIAN previously completed to the chamber of commerce so that they can assign your NIT number to the Chamber of Commerce.
- You must also formalize your commercial registration, with which you can prove your status as a merchant in front of the chamber of commerce in your jurisdiction.
- Make sure that the commercial activity and / or the corporate purpose of the company include tourist activities.
Step 3. Fill out the National Tourism Registry (RNT)
The RNT is a public registry to which all tourism service providers operating in Colombia must register. This registry is mandatory and must be updated every year.
- The RNT issuance process can be done easily online and payment can be made at the government's collection offices or authorized chambers of commerce.
- It is important that you renew your registration annually and notify the authorities if you are going to suspend or cancel your provision of services, since you may suffer sanctions if you do not do so.
- There are technical programs and online courses that can help you graduate or expand your knowledge in various topics related to your business. Remember that you can easily buy airline tickets or reserve rooms online, so it will be your service and the added value that you can offer that will allow you to be successful in your endeavor.
- If you do not have legal or financial experience, it is recommended that you get trusted experts. This can save you more of a headache.
- Depending on the business model you want to use, contact travel agencies that already have agreements with large airlines, hotels, cruise lines or car rentals.
- When making your financial projections, always overestimate your expenses, underestimate your income and save resources for emergencies.
- Various cloud services can help you avoid paperwork, disorganization, and high costs in your office.
- Review the legal framework that regulates the tourism industry, travel agencies and teleworking.
- It is necessary to know the rights and duties of both travel agencies and tourists and travelers and protect your travel agency from possible lawsuits or legal loopholes that could harm it.
- If the commercial company has fewer than 10 workers or up to 500 active minimum wages at the time of incorporation, it does not need a public deed to conform.
- You may have to meet certain legal requirements if you have employees and if you are setting up an office from your home.
- You must have the necessary permits and an independent RNT for each alternative service that you are going to provide, such as currency exchange, bus operation or organization of congresses.