Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Travel Specialists will bring in Tourists from all over the world by helping create unique touring packages that are tailored to those who wish to tour and make connections within our 5 state service area.
One of our 2022 goals is to be an Entrepreneur Incubator. We appreciate any feedback as we try to produce ideas for others to run with.
Provide professional trip planning services and help tourists connect with people and the landscape. Time is a constraint with many potential tourists, and as a Travel Specialist you can render services to help tourists make more informed decisions.
Travel Specialist (TS)
Many areas within our general 5 state region of Appalachia are still struggling to diversify their economies. Thanks to 20+ years of Business Management Information Systems (BMIS) you can become a TS who collaborates with others to help create specific tailored vacations of a lifetime.
It is importatnt to note that a Travel Specialists can mean several things. It can be someone who knows a ninche tourism experinece, or someone who sales travel. Those who sale travel booke hotels, plane flights, and a number of other transactions that are based upon sales and commisions. The tourists pays them and nearly all of the details are handled.
There are several things to consider when it comes to selling travel or being a Travel Agent.
1. Consortiums are made up of a number of Travel Agencies.
2. There are hundreds of Travel Agencies around the globe.
3. There are thousands of independent Travel Agents around the globe. They typically pay a fee to Travel Agencies to be apart of their access to hotels and other vendors and suppliers.
4. From what we have gathered in Coal Country, Travel Agents look to low hanging fruit like Disney, and Cruiseships for easy commisions and do not have any local touring packges on standby. Once we can get Travel Consortums to invest the capital to make these touring packages, everything will trickle down to local Coal Country economies. Please read this blog on the subject.
5. The internet has disrupted this dynamic, however Travel Agents are present and can be a huge help to improving the tourism potential for your neck of the woods. Time is the most precious thing now, and Travel Agents can save you a lot of that.
6. Travel Agent need a license in the state of VA, because they are in the business of selling travel.
B2C (Business to Consumers)
You market directly to the potential tourists. Here you can offer packages with little flexibility, or you can start with a blank slate that takes months of collaboration to create.
For example, you can offer to charge a flat fee in exchange for your local information and connections. You may spend 1-2 hours on a project. The comparative advantage is knowing things that are not on the internet, and having excellent networking.
B2B (Business to Business)
Not competing with a Travel Agent allows you to work together. You do not book Flights, Hotels, or set up travel insurance. Instead refer a Client to a Travel Agent who can get you a great deal on a specific airline or hotel.
Create specific, yet adaptable collaborative vacations for local and distant tourists, which are carried out with professional and hospitable 24/7 logistical support.
Your value innovation allows your clients to have VIP treatment in Coal Country, but not necessarily with a high price tag.
Is there a model already out there?
Please see our Travel Specialists page to see a list we've gathered. The vast majority are Travel Agents. They were picked because their offices are within our 112 county service area. At the bottom of the page we have global Travel Agents who make trips from scratch.
High attention to detail. Excellent Communication skills. Good interpersonal skills. Enjoy helping others Travel (Hospitality). Networking. Research.
Branding and Marketing
Typically, you are attracting tourists who want more than just entertainment, so you will need a great mission and vision, and a set of values in the initial value exchange. See our blog on the 4 phases of the Tourism Experience.
Website! This is a must, and will be the first impressions for nearly everyone.
ASTC recommends a strong social media campaign and a press release before you get started.
It is critical that potential tourists learn about your organization.
Get on LinkedIn and create a great profile. This shows up really well on Google searches. You will be able to network with organizations that are designed to support tourism.
Go to Outfitters and other sites that tourists will visit and begin making connections and start bringing down contraints for potential tourists.
From what we researched, there are no licenses or permits to be a TS. Just do not sell travel (receive commissions from a principal). However, be sure to call up your state/s small business development center to find out.
You should like to connect with people and really like to be hospitable to others. A great understanding of the tourism events and opportunities in your localized area is paramount.
This model is not like meeting folks at the trail head as a guide, or taking them down a river on a raft, but instead a holistic experience that your clients are expecting. See our 4 phases of the tourism experience blog.
ASTC recommends starting a single Member LLC.
Start up costs are highly variable. You may just need a laptop and a phone, and the start up costs of starting a LLC.
This is not known. There are many variables. It all depends on how much you research to discover the demand, and how much you promise to deliver. The idea is to carve out a niche that you are happy with.
Your sales pitch will be to your customers, so your first impression requires you to have a great website. Your potential Clients will need to see great attention to detail here. Within a couple of minutes they need to gain confidence in your services. Here you should have a fair billing procedure, forms that can be downloaded, and most importantly you must offer them an interface that allows collaboration with the trip planning process. You can use the cloud to edit documents, slides, and spreadsheets.
Find a niche or field of expertise. This helps clients identify who you are and what you provide. This may attract vendors and other organizations to collaborate with you early on.
Before completing the paperwork on loans and grants, first have your website and social media accounts running, have package plans, and standard operating procedures already well drafted and ready to go.
Have a free 30 minute zoom consultation for potential Clients. Be sure to have something to go on before the meeting.
Create a title that focuses on the specific area and the type of experiences you offer. Know what is not on the Internet!
Offer connections to stakeholders that your Clients will want to interact with. Know what is not on the Internet!
Day to Day Routine
Social Media marketing and branding.
Network with vendors and Travel Agents to create relationships to help make better tourism experiences.
Advising your Clients on the fly when they are touring.
Go on “fam” trips to meet new vendors and experience the events and activities.
Meet Chamber of Commerce members and other stakeholders who benefit from tourism and learn about the events and activities they would like promoted, or not promoted (demarketing).
Networking with Guides and other third parties who can provide better guided services that you can. For example, historians or highly skilled outdoor guides.
Advertising and getting your name out there will take time, so don’t quit your day job.
You really need to know your area well. This could take time. The more things you know that are not on the internet the better.
It will take a while for more tourism opportunities to be capitilized upon by Travel Agents, so prepare to become a pioneer.
Some stakeholders don't understand that your neck of the woods is considered exotic to people on the other side of the planet. Furthermore, they may not understand that some tourists want to see the good with bad when touring. These stakeholders will shy away from voluntourism, or any other venues where bad things are seen by tourists.
Environment. You have the potential to link up tourists with great Guides and provocate future changes in behavior that is positive to the environment. Your value innovation allows access to specified environmental stakeholders. Also, the lifelong impression you leave on tourists may create careers in preservation or resource conservation.
Economy. Your efforts will help organizations work more efficiently at attracting, onboarding, and providing tourism services. The tourism experience will be improved which will create positive reviews and return visits. Most of your cliental will be from outside the state, which is the best type of cash to inject into an economy.
Society. You will help rural Appalachia diversify their economies with tourism, and create more local jobs and connect tourists to the culture and landscape. You have a great opportunity to expand and create jobs yourself.
You will be removing social, financial, time, and intrapersonal constraints, and help others make connections with the land and people. These connections may motivate your Clients to join organizations that have taken on social responsibilities.
How ASTC can help you with your new organization (no cost)
We can help you with general questions on starting up a LLC, and specific questions and concerns about this model.
Explore our Twitter Lists to find stakeholders who can help you create VIP hospitality tourism experiences.
We have a General trip planning list for you to look over to network with local organizations.
We have a Global Travel Networking list to help you find travel agents to work with.
We have a list of Tourism Consulting that can help you with marketing and branding.
We have an Entrepreneur Incubator list of regional organizations that can help you get started.
We have a Gear Rentals list to help trip planners.
We have a Travel Specialists list.
We have a Shuttle list.
We have a Guides list.
You can interact and help trip planners on ASTC’s Tourist sub-forum.
We can start your own group on ASTC to better market yourself.
You can promote your organization with several of our blog topics.
You can put the trip packets on our Tours page.
We even have a Travel Specialists page for you to have a listing.
We can put up job offerings that you need filled.
You can also look for loan and grant opportunities
We have an Entrepreneur Incubator Information and Calendar page to look over.
There is potential as a Travel Specialist in the Coal Country area of our general 5 state service region, but you will need patience and hard work to get started.
Create a niche service area and a niche type of traveling experience for your potential Clients is while also helping the general tourists is a great model. Networking and collaborating with vendors and Travel Agents who can help you along the way is parimount.
Please offer us any feedback and join our Entrepreneur Incubator thread to discuss this blog.
Thank you for reading.
Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration