My Biz

Submit content

My Account


Travel South Africa

Travel agent to travelpreneur: How industry experts can build their own travel business

The travel sector is experiencing a significant transformation, as experienced travel agents trade their desks for the independence of working as freelance travel agents or owning their own agencies. This shift mirrors a larger trend in the workforce – a desire for increased autonomy, flexibility, and personal satisfaction.
Source: tonodiaz via
Source: tonodiaz via Freepik

According to the 2023 Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Survey on Entrepreneurship in South Africa, a considerable number (26.6%) of entrepreneurs highlighted 'seizing an opportunity' as a key motivator. Likewise, many travel professionals see the chance to become their own bosses and transform their love for travel into a successful venture.

Here, discover the rise of the ‘travelpreneur’ and how passionate, experienced agents are seizing the opportunity to redefine their careers within this dynamic new landscape.

The travel-preneur mindset

The transition from a traditional travel agent role to an independent travel consultant marks a shift towards a more entrepreneurial approach.

"As a travelpreneur, you become the master of your schedule – setting your hours and choosing your work environment becomes the norm. Plus, with an independent business model, your income is no longer capped by a fixed salary.

"Your earning potential becomes directly tied to your effort and success. The harder you work and the more value you provide to clients, the greater your financial rewards," explains Chantal Gouws, general manager at Flight Centre Independent (FCI) – a powerful backing company for over 200 independent travel agents in South Africa.

"Of course, you can also prioritise family commitments, spontaneous adventures, or long-term travel goals without sacrificing your career aspirations."

In a world of impersonal algorithms and DIY online booking tools, the travelpreneur offers an irreplaceable human touch, crafting deeply personalised experiences that no website can replicate.

"By leveraging your passion and deep knowledge of destinations, you can design itineraries that cater to your clients’ unique interests and travel styles. This level of customisation makes you an indispensable resource for discerning travellers," adds Gouws.

Real-life success stories

According to an FCI survey, 100% of the company’s travel agents are pleased with their decision to become travelpreneurs. Furthermore, 100% rate flexibility and freedom as ‘better’ and 91% rate remuneration as ‘better’ since becoming independent. More than 92% intend to continue as independent travel agents.

Seasoned travel agent Michelle Page reflects on her career journey, stating, "It's been a fulfilling experience evolving alongside the travel industry. When I transitioned in 2011 after starting a family, flexibility became my priority. Partnering with reputable global brands like FCI has allowed me to plan around family commitments while enjoying a successful career."

Marga du Toit shares a similar sentiment, expressing satisfaction with her decision to pursue an independent route. "Having access to robust systems, supportive networks, and comprehensive tools exemplifies the perks of partnering with industry resources. The support system is phenomenal, and the company's knowledge and transparency are a huge plus—you are never in the dark."

Navigating the shift

The transition from travel agent to travelpreneur is empowering, but it also requires careful planning and a willingness to adapt. Here are a few key tips:

Understanding your goals: Before making the leap, assess your motivations honestly. Are you seeking greater flexibility, higher income potential, or the desire to create something uniquely your own? Ensuring your goals align with the realities of entrepreneurship is crucial for long-term success.

Capitalise on existing skills: Don’t underestimate the value of your industry experience. Your knowledge and relationships form a powerful foundation for your independent business.

Seeking support and resources: While the path of a travelpreneur is a solo one, it doesn’t have to be lonely. Explore online community training programs and find a mentor to help you navigate the business side.

Embracing flexibility and change: Adaptability is vital in the evolving travel landscape. To maintain your competitive edge, be open to learning new technologies and marketing strategies and staying current on the latest travel trends.

Becoming an independent travel agent offers a compelling alternative for experienced travel professionals seeking a more fulfilling and entrepreneurial career path. It allows you to leverage your expertise, create a business that reflects your values, and achieve success on your own terms.

If you have the passion, the drive, and a willingness to embrace change, the world of travel entrepreneurship could be the perfect fit.

The journey towards becoming a travelpreneur starts with research and exploration. Seek online resources and communities dedicated to independent travel agents to begin mapping your exciting new career path.

Let's do Biz