Who wouldn’t love a holiday in “The Most Magical Place on Earth”? So imagine running a business where you can make someone’s dream come true and arrange their most wonderful, happy Disney vacation.
That’s what you’d be doing as a Disney Travel Planner. You will be the expert when it comes to sprinkling fairy dust on a magical vacation. You will have insider knowledge of events, resort offerings, and new attractions to help craft a tailor-made experience like no other for your clients.
But it’s not all about being a fan of fairy tales and happy endings; starting a Disney travel agency, as with any business, requires hard work, dedication, and a willingness to continuously learn and grow. This guide will provide you with an overview of the business, steps to get started, and answers to common questions so you can confidently start your own Disney travel agency..
A Disney travel agency specializes in planning and booking Disney vacations for clients. This involves putting together complete travel packages that include items like theme park tickets, hotel accommodations, dining reservations, ground transportation, and other add-ons like specialty tours or spa services. As an authorized Disney travel agent, you have access to discounts, perks, and insider knowledge that allows you to craft magical, seamless Disney vacations. Your income would come from commissions on the travel products and services you sell.
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The travel agency industry as a whole has declined in recent decades with the rise of online booking platforms. However, specialty travel agencies like those focused on Disney are thriving. Disney parks remain hugely popular travel destinations, with recent expansions and new offerings attracting visitors. And many travelers appreciate the expertise and value that comes from using a Disney-specific travel agent rather than booking a vacation on their own. As long as Disney parks and resorts continue innovating and expanding, the demand for knowledgeable Disney travel agents will remain strong.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently well over 53,000 travel agents in employment, with Florida being at the very top of that employment list. However, it is difficult to determine exactly how many authorized Disney Travel Planners operate within the US.
Steps To Start A Disney Travel Agency
Step 1: Research Disney Travel Agent Requirements
Before starting your Disney travel agent business, you need to know the requirements to become an authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
First off, you will need to become a certified travel agent. This will involve completing a travel agent training course to gain foundational knowledge about the travel industry, reservations systems, customer service, and selling skills. Popular programs are offered by The Travel Institute, International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN), and some community colleges.
Next, you need special certifications to sell Disney packages. Disney does not directly employ independent travel agents, but Disney has an official program for travel agents known as the Disney Travel Agents program. This includes the College of Disney Knowledge, an online course designed to educate travel agents on the ins and outs of Disney vacations.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
Starting a Disney travel agency presents an opportunity to turn your love for Disney into a thriving business, helping others create unforgettable Disney vacation experiences. However, as exhilarating as it may be, it’s important not to let the excitement cloud the realities of starting a business. This is where a business plan comes in.
A business plan isn’t required, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. It outlines your business goals, the strategies you’ll use to achieve them, and the resources you’ll need along the way. Here’s a few reasons why writing a business plan is so important:
- Reality check: The process of writing a business plan has you confront the realities of starting a Disney travel agency. It requires you to research the market, understand your competition, and identify your target customers. This helps you gauge whether your Disney travel agency idea is viable and profitable.
- Sets objectives: It allows you to set clear goals for your business. What do you hope to achieve in the first year, and what are your long-term aspirations? A business plan keeps you focused on these targets.
- Financial planning: One of the most practical aspects of a business plan is the financial section. It forces you to work out the numbers – startup costs, operating expenses, pricing strategies, and revenue projections. This serves as a reality check to your idea, ensuring that your passion for Disney can also be financially viable.
- Marketing: How will you reach your customers? A business plan helps you devise a marketing strategy to attract Disney-goers. It allows you to research your competition and determine how to position your agency uniquely.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Register the Business
Starting a Disney travel agency is an exciting proposition, but the business has to be properly registered and legal. Every state is different, but here are some steps you should take:
Decide on a business structure: The first step is deciding the structure of your agency. This can be a sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, or Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each has its own advantages:
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest structure and involves just one individual who owns and runs the business. It’s easy to start up and has the lowest costs. However, it does not separate personal and business liabilities.
- General partnership: This is when two or more people share ownership of a business. Like a sole proprietorship, it’s relatively easy to establish. However, all partners are personally liable for business debts.
- Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders. It offers the owners protection against personal liability but is more complex to set up and has higher costs.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC combines features of corporations and sole proprietorships/partnerships. Owners have limited personal liability for the company’s debts, and it’s easier to manage than a corporation.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Travel agent certification: In addition to becoming a certified travel agent, you will need to research if your state requires any licensing or registration to operate a travel agency. About half of U.S. states have some regulations. For instance, if you’re in California, you’ll need to register your agency with the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.
After certification as a travel agent, you’ll also need to register with Disney, complete a training program, and agree to certain terms and conditions.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general licenses or permits needed before opening a business. This could include a local business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Step 4: Set Up Office Space
Your travel agency can be located in a physical storefront or online from the comfort of your home. If you choose to have a physical location, make sure it is in a visible and easily accessible spot.
Many Disney travel agents operate from home-based offices to keep overhead costs low. This approach provides flexibility and convenience but requires careful planning to create an effective workspace. Your home office should be a dedicated space free from distractions where you can focus on your work. If you are planning to operate out of your home and plan to have customers come to your residence, be sure to check zoning and covenants in case you have a neighbor who complains to the city about your venture.
Step 5: Create a Marketing Strategy
With the legal requirements out of the way and an office ready, it’s time to start marketing the business.
First, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your target market. Disney vacations appeal to a wide range of demographics, from families with young children to adults who are young at heart. Tailor your marketing messages to resonate with these different audiences, highlighting the unique experiences that a Disney vacation offers.
Setting up an online presence with a user-friendly website that showcases your services, provides helpful information about Disney vacations, and allows visitors to contact you easily is a likely first task. Ensure your website is optimized for search engines to increase its visibility. Regular blog posts on topics like Disney travel tips, park updates, and vacation planning guides can attract visitors to your website and encourage them to consider your services.
Social media is another powerful tool for getting the word out about your agency. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow you to engage with potential clients, share updates, and promote special offers. You can also consider leveraging influencers or running contests to boost your reach.
Email marketing can also be effective for keeping your agency top-of-mind among potential clients. By collecting email addresses and sending out regular newsletters with valuable content and exclusive deals, you can nurture leads and encourage repeat business.
Last, don’t underestimate the power of personal relationships. Word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied clients can be incredibly valuable. Providing excellent service and creating unforgettable Disney experiences for your clients will encourage them to recommend your agency to their friends and family.
Step 6: Prepare to Launch!
Common Questions When Starting A Disney Travel Agency
How much does it cost to start a Disney travel agency?
Starting a Disney travel agency will cost an estimated $3,500 to $10,000 for initial expenses, though many of the items you may already have. These costs include:
Business registration: Costs vary by state but typically $50 to $500 for licenses and permits.
Training and certifications: $1,000-$5,000 for travel agent training, Disney program, and ongoing education
Office setup: Expect around $500 to $2,000 for basic office furniture and supplies.
Technology: A computer, software, phone, and website will likely cost $1,000 to $2,000.
Marketing: Brochures, business cards, and initial online ads may range from $500 to $1,000.
Insurance: General liability and professional liability insurance coverage can start around $500 per year.
How much can a Disney travel agency business owner make?
The profitability of a Disney travel agency can vary significantly based on several factors, such as the number of clients, types of vacation packages sold, and the operational efficiency of the business.
On the revenue side, travel agents typically earn their income through commissions. The commission rate for Disney travel agents can range from about 10% to 15%. So, if an agent sells a Disney vacation package worth $4,000, they could earn around $400 to $600 in commission.
Some of the main costs associated with running a Disney travel agency include business registration, agent ID card, training and technology fees, insurance, and marketing, which can amount to around $500 per month.
Assuming the agency sells 100 vacation packages per year at an average price of $4,000, the monthly revenue would be $400,000. At a commission rate of 10%, the agency would earn $40,000 in monthly commissions. Subtracting the overhead expenses of $6,000, the business’s profit would be $36,000.
However, it’s important to remember that this is a simplified calculation, and actual profits can vary greatly. Also, the number of vacation packages sold can fluctuate based on factors like seasonality and economic conditions.
What skills are needed to run a Disney travel agency?
In-depth knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Disney: If you haven’t already done so, we highly recommend you familiarize yourself and keep updated with the Disney resorts and parks and all their services. After all, you will be recommending special events, fast passes, souvenirs to look out for, parks to go to, shows to see, or additional help where needed.
Understanding and explaining the layout and amenities of resorts and parks will be particularly helpful to families with young children, older persons, or people with disabilities.
Excellent organizational skills: You will be juggling inquiries, quotes, and travel arrangements from your clients, often simultaneously. Then there are the invoicing, commissions, and marketing of your own business. You will be booking flights, bus transfers or car rentals, park passes, and hotels. You might even help organize a special occasion.
No matter how big or small the task is, everything has to be booked correctly and arranged so that each one of your clients can enjoy a hassle-free vacation.
Be prepared to deal with changes, cancellations of flights, bad weather, or the closure of a popular ride.
Outstanding people and customer service skills: Knowing the ins and outs of all the Disney rides and the resorts’ amenities is one thing, but you will also need to be an attentive listener and a good communicator. You will need to be able to paint a picture of that holiday experience for your clients while hearing and understanding their needs and wishes.
Outstanding customer service and a can-do, positive attitude will go a very long way in this industry and will ensure you attract customers through word-of-mouth and can count on repeat business.