5. Travel Business Operations
Travel Business Operations
Why read this section? Marketing and sales may be considered the fun part of the business. They deliver bookings which need to be delivered to the customers. Obviously you will also need to understand how your business will fulfil the sale and deliver the holiday to the customer and be paid. This section describes this, with the options for delivering each covered in travel business network.
What you need to know before you read this section: Nothing!
As a new business you will be keen to get moving without creating the perfect set of operations. The basic operations to consider are divided into
- Front office: customer facing
- Back office: non customer facing (mainly)
All of this assumes that you have the basics of an office – which might be part of your home or a specific workplace. A few items to consider:
- Office facilities
- Computer facilities
- Stationary supplies
- Travel agency furniture and signage
You are going to need management information to understand where the business is. Just how many sales did I make last month? Which supplier payments are due today? Think about the core questions you will need to answer and look for how you will answer them with the minimum of effort.
Finally, I need to raise the subject of software. In my opinion it is becoming harder to operate without good software in this industry. Consumers want more choice and higher levels of service. The complexity that comes with that usually requires software that you use daily to keep on top of the business.
Travel business network describes some of your options, as in, which bits you need to do for yourself and which you can get other companies to do.
At the Travel Network Group, we provide our members with booking facilities to help you search for the package your customers want, and book that with your suppliers. We can also recommend a back office system which helps keep on top of all that complexity and the operations I have described above.
We have 180 approved business partners. Each of these have negotiated preferential terms that members get on day 1.
Front Office Operations
The front office (customer facing) part of a travel business has the following functions:
Creating a booking: the heart of the day to day travel business revolves around creating bookings by searching your chosen market for the options, quoting on the best options and then managing them through to a fully paid up holiday. Creating the booking in a clear, modifiable way at the outset will make the operation much smoother. Managing that booking to completion comes under the back office.
Managing customers: Your opportunity to really understand your customers starts as they consider a booking right through the booking and trip. The key to a smooth operation and repeat business is gathering the relevant data once and using that for the booking and future marketing campaigns.
Website or travel shop presence: It is hard to imagine a new business without a customer facing web site or a travel shop. Whatever your choice this is likely to be a big cost item and one that it is important to get right quickly.
Market literature, advertising and campaigns: As covered in travel business network, there may well be a lot of data and a lot of critical activity to consider.
Back Office Operations
The back office of your travel business will need the following functions:
Managing a booking: Once the booking is made, ticketing, payments, and managing suppliers all kick off. While you are at it, managing the customer and the overall cash flow is also necessary.
- Managing travel suppliers: You will no doubt end up with many suppliers. You may well have different deals and commission levels with each of them. You ought to manage each of them on the customers behalf and your own.
- Managing finances: I hope that you got information on money from cash, surviving the first year. The discipline of managing money in and out of the business will make all the difference. Add to that currency exchanges for some suppliers as something else to keep an eye on. As travel regulation described, meeting the consumer protection regulation needs to be done. If you want to take customer payment by credit and debit cards you will need to get merchant acquirer facilities with companies like Worldpay. As they hold some of the risk, they are particular about granting these facilities, merchant acquirer describes this in more detail. You will need to set up business banking facilities for day to day management of your business. Finally, consider the business insurances you will need, from professional indemnity to contents insurance for any premises.
Managing people: Your second biggest cost is likely to be the cost of employing people. Be clear about what you expect them to do, the hours they work and what their rewards are.
Company diary: The reason we raise this is that creating and managing a booking is a process of multiple stages. It will be key that you know who to chase for say, the final payment, and when to chase. For a one person business, it is worth being very organised, for a business with many employees it becomes a real necessity. If this diary can be integrated with the other parts of the front and back office, then all the better.