How to Start a Disney Travel Agency
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. And that will help craft a tailor-made experience like no other for your clients.
As a Disney Travel Agent, you will exclusively promote, advertise, and sell Disney vacations and related products and services. Very likely, you’ll be a big Disney fan yourself!
All agents wanting to sell Disney vacations and access its exclusive booking system need to successfully complete the College of Disney Knowledge specialized training for agents and gain in-depth knowledge and expertise in all things “Disney”.
You can also be awarded a Platinum Level Producer or Earmarked Authorized Disney Vacation Planner status within the company’s system. Both levels recognize the volume of sales you have achieved within a specific timeframe as a Disney agent.
According to a 2021 IBISWorld report, the Walt Disney Company holds one of the most significant market shares in the US tourism industry, alongside companies such as American Airlines Group Inc., Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., and Delta Air Lines Inc.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently well over 37,000 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.
Although many Disney agents are independent contractors able to work from home, they will typically be affiliated with a more prominent, general travel agency. So it is perhaps also helpful to understand which Disney agencies are rated very highly within the company’s system and what this rating is based on.
According to IBISWorld, travel agencies in the US were a 32.1 bn industry in 2021. Just over a quarter of this revenue alone was achieved with tour and packaged travel arrangements.
Tourism and travel have been coping with a considerable downturn in the past 2 years. In fact, the number of travel agencies declined by 2.1% in 2021. But the market has recovered very well, and its annual revenue growth to 2026 is expected to be 10.9%.
Your target market will be the ultimate Disney fan, regardless of age or cultural background. You will likely organize family vacations, wedding and engagement parties or hen’s weekends, cruises, group travel, and Disney couple getaways. Outstanding service may well result in repeat clients!
All your customers have in common the desire to experience a day or three of magic and create unforgettable memories.
Checklist for Starting a Disney Travel Agency
If you’re thinking about starting a Disney travel agency business, it’s important to do your research first. Here is a checklist to help you get started.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
A detailed business plan is essential for any new business, and a travel agency is no different. You’ll need to include an analysis of the potential market for your services, an overview of the competition, and an overview of your operating costs and income projections.
Not only would a bank require you to have one if financing were necessary, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Name the Business
You’ll need to choose a name for your travel agency, which will be used on all of your marketing materials and correspondence. Choose something that is memorable and easy to spell. You may also want to consider including the word “travel” in your business name to make it easier for potential customers to remember what you do.
Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Step 3: Form a Business Entity
A business entity (also referred to as a business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a Disney travel agency business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is that the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
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!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Select Your Location
Your travel agency can be located either 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.
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 that doesn’t approve of your venture.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Like any business, a Disney travel agency business owner will likely need to obtain a variety of business licenses and permits in order to operate. Some local governments also require that carpet cleaners hold specific cleaning business licenses due to wastewater disposal; however, that is not common.
Step 6: Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a Disney travel agency is another. Fortunately, the cost to start a new travel agency is relatively low; however, if funding is needed, banks are typically going to want the borrower to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Marketing expenses for Disney travel agency businesses can vary depending on the method and whether the marketing is kept in-house or hire a professional marketer. A quality website with before and after photos of a business’ work can be a powerful marketing tool and doesn’t require too much money to establish. Word-of-mouth marketing is key to getting new clients but takes a while to show the quality of your work to customers. Other marketing methods include social media, online sites like Yelp and Google Reviews, targeted direct mail, and print advertising.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a Disney travel agency. A few of these include:
– Travel agency bond – required in some states, but is insurance worth considering as it guarantees the client’s money is safe should the travel agent go out of business.
– Errors and omissions insurance offers additional coverage to help protect an agency if a client ever claims the agency overlooked or admitted important information in booking a trip, leading to damages.
– Worker’s compensation insurance can help to cover expenses like lost wages and medical bills that could arise if an employee is ever hurt while on the job.
The cost to insure a disney travel agency business will differ according to factors like a business’ location, the value of the equipment to be insured, and the number of employees on staff. To get a more accurate idea of potential insurance costs, request quotes from multiple insurance companies. Compare the policies and consider factors like deductibles and coverage limits to find the policy that’s best for a business.
Related: Types of insurance your business may need
Step 10: Hire Employees
If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to post job descriptions and conduct interviews. You’ll also need to provide training on the booking software and customer service standards.
Every state has several steps for registering and hiring an employee to be aware of.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system for your Disney travel agency is critical to your business’s long-term success.
Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government, but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does it cost to start a Disney travel agency?
Start-up costs vary greatly depending on whether you start your own brick-and-mortar agency or work as an independent contractor with a larger travel agency. Many Disney Travel Planners actually independently work from home.
So taking the set-up costs of a travel agency out of the equation, your initial outlay will be in the medium range; barriers to entry into this industry are considered low in the US.
You don’t need a degree or previous experience as a travel agent to become a Disney Travel Planner. But you will need to train in using all transport booking and ticketing systems, and you will have to complete the College of Disney Knowledge training. This will allow you to access all Disney-related resources and systems.
By far, the most significant outlay is likely an in-person visit and familiarization with an actual Disney Park – or two – and with the Disney resorts or going on a Disney cruise. But perhaps you’ve already done that because you are a die-hard Disney fan!
How much can a Disney travel agency business owner make?
According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a Disney Travel agent in 2021 was $43,000. And that is what you make – on average – on commissions.
When clients book through an agency, the company will typically pay between 10 – 12 % commission. If you are a Disney travel planner contracted to a travel agency, you will commonly get 8% of that commission. For example, you would receive $800 for a $10,000 travel booking made through you. If you are working independently, then you have just made $1,000.
Are there grants to start a Disney travel agency business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a Disney travel agency. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
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 services 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.
If you are a Disney enthusiast and are ready to help others enjoy a bit of magic, then this is the business opportunity for you. Keeping up to date with business trends means you may have to visit a Disney theme park every now and then – that really doesn’t sound too bad.
Apart from that, make sure you keep very organized with all trends, booking systems, and services, and you will have a truly magical business.