Last updated November 28, 2023
If you’ve been a travel advisor for any length of time, or even if you’re just starting out but did a bit of research before you took the plunge, you’ve probably heard that you need to identify your travel agency niche.
“The riches are in the niches!”
“You have to know who you’re talking to and identify your niche before you’ll be successful!”
“If you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.”
I’ve said similar things myself, but I'v also come to understand that, with those words, comes a lot of unneeded stress. Especially for new travel advisors.
Then I realized something important.
There’s a difference between your macro-niche, or specialization, and your micro-niche, or expertise. One you should know right away. The other takes time, sometimes years, to develop.
AKA, your big picture. What type of travel, generally speaking, do you sell?
Do you have a passion for Europe, wine, cruises, or luxury travel? Those are all things you can specialize in.
You can’t know every destination, supplier, and style of travel. It's important to identify what you sell, or at least what you don’t sell. Especially when you're first starting out and the training opportunities and learning seem endless.
Your specialization can be a specific company, like Disney, Universal, Sandals or Royal Caribbean. You know the ins and outs of everything that company offers, and your clients are people looking for the experience that brand provides.
Or maybe it’s a specific destination or type of destination that you love. Think of something like all-inclusive resorts, cruises, or a specific region like Asia or Europe. A single country can also be a specialization, like Italy.
Your specialization could also be a certain type of travel, like luxury, ultra-luxe, wine tours, or multi-generational travel.
A specialization allows you to spend your time wisely, learning the suppliers and products that you’re most likely to sell to your customers. It also gives you direction, so you can be confident in the trainings you choose to spend your time on and the ones you choose not to take advantage of.
If you don’t know what type of travel you want to specialize in it’s easy to become overwhelmed. You also end up with a messy brand message that most people won’t pay attention to.
Without a specialization your “about us” reads something like this:
At XYZ travel we sell all kinds of vacations. Whether you’re looking for a luxury safari, a family trip to Disney, a Caribbean cruise, or a budget-friendly European vacation, we’re the experts who can make it happen.
You just got the attention of… absolutely no one who read that. What you said, in effect, is “we know a little about a lot, and a lot about nothing, so please hire us to do something.”
And that, my friend, is a total and complete marketing fail.
You must have a specialty, and the sooner you decide what it is the better.
Without a specialty you have to start from scratch on every single trip. You have to learn about a destination, a type of travel, and hotel or cruise brands that you’ve never sold before. Either each trip will take you dozens of hours, or you’ll end up simply Googling the same things your client would if they were booking on their own.
With a specialty your “about us” can read more like this:
At XYZ Travel we specialize in family vacations to the Caribbean. We know life with kids is stressful enough, and it can be hard to keep them entertained so you can get some needed relaxation time.
That’s why we only work with resorts who have dedicated kids programs, with staff whose entire focus is keeping your kids happy, entertained, and safe. Happy kids, happy parents, and you all come home rested and refreshed.
When someone comes to you asking for something outside of your specialty, you have two options. You can take it on in spite of it not being your main focus, or you can refer them to an advisor who specializes in what they’re looking for.
Your expertise, or micro-niche, is more specific than your speciality.
If you specialize in wine tours, your expertise could be in Italian wine tours, or ancient-world wine tours in Romania, Georgia and the Balkans.
If you specialize in family travel in the Caribbean, your expertise could be trips with children under 10.
Suddenly your “about us” gets even more enticing to the right reader. Imaging a mom, trying to find the right beach vacation in the Caribbean, reading this on your website:
Have you ever hesitated to book a trip because you weren’t sure if your kids would like it? At XYZ Travel, we know happy kids will make or break a vacation. That’s why we specialize in vacations to the Caribbean for families with kids under 10.
When we select a resort you can rest assured that their kids program is the best, with staff who are specially trained to keep your kids safe, happy, and entertained.
From water parks to movie nights, sandcastle contests to belly flop competitions, your kids will have so much fun you just might want to join them. That is, if you aren’t too busy enjoying the child-free hours at the pool with a tropical drink and that book you’ve been wanting to read.
That mom who has hesitated to book a trip? She just clicked your “start planning” button. You have exactly the expertise she needs, and she can’t wait to get started.
Knowing your speciality vs. developing your expertise
Your specialty is something you should know when you get started. It gives direction to your training, your marketing, and your sales.
Your expertise, on the other hand, will most likely develop over time.
You may start out specializing in Italy. You take supplier trainings from companies who work in Italy, cruise lines who have Italy itineraries, and you focus on learning all about the various cities, towns and regions so you can create amazing itineraries for your clients.
Over time, as you start to book more trips to Italy, you find that certain types of trips light you up. Maybe it’s wine tours, or you take a fam trip and fall in love with the Tuscan countryside.
That’s when your expertise starts to develop.
Without some experience, your expertise is difficult to develop. Most people don’t start selling travel thinking “I want to sell villa vacations in Tuscany.”
But then you sell a few, and you find that those trips are so much more fun to plan than others. They allow your clients to go in-depth into a location you love. So you start selling more, and you develop an expertise.
That’s when your “about us” changes again.
When you had a specialty your website said:
At XYZ Travel we specialize in creating your dream vacation to Italy. Whether you’re looking to cruise around the boot and get a taste of the different regions, or you want to dive deep into the historic sites of Venice, Florence and Rome, we can help you plan the vacation you’ve been dreaming of.
But now, you have both a specialty and an expertise. You can narrow your description even further.
At XYZ travel we specialize in finding the perfect Tuscan home-away-from-home. Whether you’re looking for an apartment for two in the heart of Florence or a villa that sleeps 30 for a destination wedding, we can make your “Under the Tuscan Sun” dreams a reality, at least for a little while.
Not only will you have the perfect place to stay, we also know all the best tour guides and have access to the most sought-after locations. We'll create the trip you thought was only possible in your dreams.
The Bottom Line: Discovering your travel agency niche
You should know what you want to specialize in, or your macro-niche, as soon as possible after you start working as a travel advisor.
Your expertise, or micro-niche, on the other hand, is something you’ll develop over time.
Are you ready to attract more of the clients you want to work with so you can run a profitable, successful travel business? If so you’ll want to get our free, weekly tips for running and marketing your travel agency.