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At work we travel frequently. Finding the appropriate deals is always a balance between saving time and saving money. Booking through corporate travel agencies is often the most time efficient way of booking tickets. BUT they are often quite expensive, but the biggest downside of these agencies is their flexibility. They usually sell the most flexible tickets, but that is where the flexibility ends. Don't expect them to be flexible in terms of different modes of transports (parking at airport, trains, ferries, venue locations, etc). That is also something you cannot expect from them.

The alternative is that you start booking yourself. Doing it yourself gives you the best flexibility in syncing the itinerary with your personal schedule. But then you end up in the mess in trying to make sense in the different airfares and possibilities. Sites like rome2rio go a long way, but travel agents always seem to have more insight in the options.

Is it possible and does it makes sense to become a "travel agent" for a small business, ngo, or any group that can't afford to let all its employees travel business class. If so, how can you become a travel agent yourself, not to make a living out of it, but to be able to have better insight in fares and issue your own tickets?

CAVEAT: I edited the question, the answers given show that I gave the impression that I wanted to start a business, I have no intend to do so, I merely want to have access to the same resources as a travel agent .

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Wouldn't you get better replies at startups stackexchange ? –  happybuddha Nov 18 '13 at 15:05
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I know first hand from buddies in other parts of the world where the travel agencies freely share their resources with other agents (and just regular fliers) and those agents pay commission per transaction or whatever their setup is. –  happybuddha Nov 18 '13 at 15:19
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What you are asking is not entirely clear to me. If you don't want to make it a sustainable business venture, what are you looking for? Access to a GDS? Using them is no picnic either. The web already offers a ton of resources that were unthinkable 30 years ago and makes it easier than ever to cut the middle man but putting together a complex travel just takes skill and time and the more complex your demands, the more difficult it will be. You can't expect to do it without any effort or have someone doing it for you without them getting something out of it in some way. –  Annoyed Nov 18 '13 at 17:41
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This is an interesting question but I'm not sure it's on topic. Still it wasn't me who voted to close it. I'll wait and see ... –  hippietrail Nov 18 '13 at 17:45
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about starting a business. –  uncovery Nov 19 '13 at 2:14
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You might already know that travel agents usually rely on providers. Travel agents are customers of these companies. These companies also have offers directly to companies, so that is probably what you are looking for. As far as I know, mostly large companies are customers, I suppose it is due to the cost of implementation, even though theoretically it should not be a problem.

But knowing that, another simpler solution would be to change travel agent : if you become a travel agent, you will have access to the same range of content (i.e. modes of transportation) as any other travel agent depending on how much money you can pay to extend your range. So a simple thing to do would be to ask your travel agent its provider, and whether it could provide more flexibility. Then go to the next travel agent and ask the same question. You will probably be able to find better, that's what concurrency principle is supposed to stimulate.

Disclaimer : I work for one of these companies.

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This is more complicated than you make it out to be. A travel agency needs certain permits and insurance. That costs money.

You'll also be acting as a middle-man, taking payment and using those to purchase services from a third party (airlines, hotels etc.). Just handling the money is going to cost (credit card processing is quite expensive).

Then, some of those third parties may only do business with you on specific terms or even not at all as they have existing contracts with other agencies about providing them with the best rates etc. At best you (as a small time operator) will be buying at the same retail prices as end customers. That means that your customers will be paying more than that to cover all your costs as well. As many of your costs are going to be fixed, you'll find it very hard to be competitive unless you've got a decent volume of business. This really is a game of economies of scale. I haven't even mentioned employee salaries, office or IT infrastructure costs yet!

So, is it possible? Sure. Is it viable? I doubt it. You state that you are targeting those that want to spend as little as possible on travel expenses. So, the only way you'd manage this without running at a loss is to have a fairly large client base. Getting to that scale will be hard (if not impossible) as these are the most price conscious customers and may not properly value the time savings you would be providing.

You could, of course, set up a travel advice service that just outlines travel plans, including current prices, and lets the end user deal with booking the actual fares. I don't know if there would be much call for that.

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yes it is possible, but not the way you think. You can sign up with the Travel Agent Advantage Network (TAAN) to get access to a travel agent database as a member. The result is the same, in that you get the same discounts & deals as travel agents, but rather than pay a commission and wait for one to book you - you book your own trip online & just pay a small fee to be a member.

Check out http://www.TravelAgentAdvantage.com for details, good luck!

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Is it possible?

Depends on the legislation of the country you are living in. Get into contact with professional associations, chamber of commerce, or even a ministry like the "SPF Economie, PME, classes moyennes" in Belgium.

Does it makes sense

No. If your aim is to make sense out of the airfares, you can learn that by yourself. You don't need to be a travel agent for that. The corollary is that if you become an agent, this does not necessarily imply that you everything about airfares. You will have to learn it too and acquire the experience and knowledge of professional travel agents.

If you want to be flexible knit your trips by yourself. The internet is magic and you won't find better rates in an agency. There may be exceptions for more special trips or exotic destinations. But for these you can still rely on local agencies. Being an agent in Belgium won't enable you to sort such issues.

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