Many people who take my Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course are immigrants to the United States. Many of these immigrant travel agents want to service their own community. That’s a worthy goal. But is it a sound basis for a business plan?
What we are talking about here is something known in the travel trade as “the ethnic market.” The good news is that it is a large market. The bad news is that the competition is fierce and the margins are slim.
Most of the business is in international airline tickets for people visiting relatives back home and they are looking for the absolute lowest price. Bottom line: There’s not a lot of money to be made.
That’s why I encourage immigrant travel agents who find themselves in this situation to think outside the ethnic box.
As ethnic enclaves mature and prosper, people begin to have different priorities. The ties to the “home country” inevitably weaken and as immigrants prosper they have more and more disposable income.
Sure they might want to go back to the home country once a year, but there’s nothing to prevent them from taking a second vacation somewhere else. You have an opportunity to be something of a “success ambassador” to the community, offering people a chance to reward themselves and their families.
Why not promote the idea of having family in India or Vietnam or Taiwan, meet their American relatives in Australia, or New Zealand, or Hawaii for a cruise or a resort vacation? What a great way to show off how well you’re doing in your adopted home!
Remember, too, that the “home country” has a lot more to offer visiting immigrants than grandparents and cousins.
On a trip to Greece some years back, I was struck by how many Greek-Americans I met who were touring their homeland for the first time, a luxury they couldn’t enjoy when they lived there. These people are excellent candidates for escorted tours or a fly-drive vacation.
Another possibility is to suggest that folks extend their trip “back home” to take in nearby sights. Family in India? Why not visit Nepal and the Royal Chitwan National Park? Family in Vietnam? Why not visit Angkor Wat in neighboring Cambodia? Family in the Philippines? Why not visit Taiwan or Hong Kong or Hawaii?
You can sell a lot more than an airline ticket.
Target members of the second-generation and their families. Their memories of “home” may not be as powerful as those of their parents; and they may have kids who are completely “Americanized.” For what it would cost that second- generation family to visit grandmom, they could take the kids to Disney World.
And who says you can only sell to your own ethnic group? If you know your home country well, you should be able to establish yourself as the “go-to guy” for anyone, regardless of their ethnic or cultural heritage, who wants first-rate guidance on tours to your homeland.
And who says you can’t sell anything to anyone? Who says a Pakistani can’t sell Kelly Monaghan an escorted tour to Ireland?
The more we reach out to each other across ethnic boundaries (which really aren’t “boundaries” at all), the stronger this country will be and the better human beings we will all be.
So I would encourage anyone who finds themselves caught in an ethnic box to spread their wings.
Remember that one of the secrets to success as a home-based travel agent is not to do exactly what the storefront agencies are doing.
If people in your ethnic neighborhood are not talking about cruising, maybe it’s because no one is offering cruises to them. You might be surprised at how much “pent up demand” there is in your community for travel opportunities above and beyond a cheap ticket to the “Old Country.”