Travel Influencer

Startup Costs: Under $2,000
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? No
Online Operation? No

Quitting your job to travel the world: It’s a reality for some, a pipe dream for others, says Entrepreneur's Hayden Field in a recent article. Still others flip the cliché on its head to turn travel, or the business of travel, into their jobs. Influencers in that sector visit cities and explore hotels, restaurants and sights, and post images to their Instagram accounts.

Sound a little too close to perfect? Maybe, but building and maintaining status as an Instagram influencer does require a lot of work. After all, your ability to achieve high engagement rates, find new followers and get your posts sponsored by brands depends on an ability to provide engaging content day after day from the most interesting (and photo-worthy) locales.

Ask the Expert: Jen Ruiz, Founder of Jen on a Jet Plane, and David Castain, Founder and CEO of David Castain Destinations

What is the first step to getting started in the travel influencer Industry?

Ruiz: A vital early step is securing your domain name through a site like Google Domains or GoDaddy. This is the name of your website and the URL that people will enter to reach your blog. Then you'll need to find a hosting company. I started with Web Hosting Hub before switching to Siteground, and am now with Big Scoots. Whichever host you choose, they will have an introductory price for the first year, so the investment should be minimal. You'll want to seriously consider a WordPress site, as that makes it easier to monetize with ad revenue in the future. Next, you need a theme to make the site aesthetically pleasing. You can pay for one or get one for free. Beyond that, it's a matter of creating content to live on the site, from blog posts to photos to videos.

Related: Want to Be Your Own Boss? Learn How to Launch Your Side Hustle Fast.

Is the industry growing?

Ruiz: Yes. Ten years ago, being a blogger wasn't considered a career. Now everyone wants this job.

Castain: The Covid-19 pandemic slowed down the growth of the travel and vacation industry, but recent data shared by Statista projects that the overall generated revenue by businesses in this sector will increase at an annual rate of 10.47%, and that nearly 74% of total revenue will be generated through online sales. This bears out why David Castain Destinations continues to forge new opportunities in business. The potential of experiencing growth is high.

What are the current trends in travel influencing and what type of person is a great fit to try this?

Castain: 1. Personalized services: Most clients who liaise with my company envision getting tailored services that are centered on their needs, wants, expectations and interests.

2. Increased emphasis on leisure: The pandemic has been hard on people, and many are desperate for a vacation, especially considering that many were forced to work from home for extended periods. This has also led to a switch in focus to leisure travel.

3. Solo traveling: An increasing number of people are seeking to travel alone… to more privately experience what life has to offer and make memories of places around the world. My company customizes services to this kind of tourist.

An entrepreneur establishing a business in the travel and tourism industry should have an inherent passion, along with drive and determination. Focus is what helps channel this passion to the right strategic plan, and put vision and ideas into practice. This kind of entrepreneur also needs strong networks, also referred to as “social capital.” This is how I have grown my business — by connecting with people from diverse cultures, racial groups and various identities to inform my business practices.

Ruiz: You must also be self-driven. A blogger wears all the hats; they're the marketing team, manager, photographer, editor, on-camera talent, writer, SEO specialist, and so much more, all in one. It's a job for creative people who enjoy a challenge and who like to see growth as a direct result of sustained efforts. It’s not, however, for people who want to make money quickly, and as a result most bloggers quit within the first two years. In terms of trends, solo female travel, culinary travel and bucket list post-pandemic “revenge” travel are very popular.

How much money can a person expect to make in the first year and in five years?

Castain: Within the first year, approximately $80,000 is possible. After five years, as much as $500,000.

Keep in mind that during the first year of any business, all the wrong things that an entrepreneur envisions might happen will probably happen, and growth in this profession is not entirely consistent, but once you establish a base and generate a good reputation, every set objective becomes realistically achievable year over year.

Ruiz: If it is your first time setting up a blog, the learning curve is steep, and it can take several years to monetize. I make six figures now after eight years, three of which I worked full-time on the business. If I were to start a new blog now with the benefit of that experience, I would expect to see similar results but exponentially quicker, within three years. In the travel space, this will depend on your niche and the value and quality of content. In the first two years of a new site, you can expect to get a lot of free product and affiliate offers. Once you pass 10,000 views per month, you can begin monetizing with ad revenue. Once you have a few successful partnerships under your belt, you can start being paid for brand collaborations.

Related: Need One-on-One Help? Book a Session with an Entrepreneur Expert.

What kind of experience/training do you need?

Ruiz: As a blogger, you are constantly learning. Whenever there's a new Google algorithm change or social media channel that emerges, you'll need to learn quickly to be a first adopter in order to reap the benefits. As a beginner, you'll need to learn about social media marketing, search engine optimization, brand deals and negotiations, pitching and outreach, writing and editing and other basics of running a website.

Castain: A travel and vacation entrepreneur sporting credentials like a Bachelor’s of Tourism Management, Bachelor’s of Communication and Media or Bachelor’s of Events and Tourism Management can have an advantage. However, they are definitely not required, as this industry is flexible. One should, however, be able to adapt to new ideologies, trends and practices on the go. More than anything, experience traveling the world and an open mindset that appreciates learning and mentorship from others is needed.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

Castain: That this sector is extremely competitive. You have to compete with huge companies, along with small ones, plus startups and technology companies. I wish I’d known how to leverage my marketing skills earlier in order to solidify my reputation. I am also a business psychologist, and have learned important cues that startup establishments can implement to increase their competitiveness. With this knowledge and experience, I would have dealt with specific challenges better. The advice I would share with a new entrepreneur venturing into this industry is to be patient with themselves, be open to learning, get a mentor, and finally… honestly assess your strengths and competencies as soon as possible.

Ruiz: Also, email is king. There is no point in going viral or having a blog post on page one of Google if you don't capture those leads.

Who are your customers?

Ruiz: They are my followers and readers. If I do my job correctly, they find me through my content on social media, my blog via a Google search, from speaking engagements or from my books.

Castain: Solo travelers, group travelers and couples make up a large segment of my customer base. Most of them simply want tips on how to travel better and affordably, or are seeking discounts on flights, hotels and activities. Others want suggestions on tour destinations, and I also offer opportunities to have trips planned depending on their budget. Many of my customers come from referrals; I rely on previous clients whom I have interacted with to market my services. Aside from this, I use social media platforms to showcase my experiences and stories. Some people reach out to me through these sites, and I work hard to put them within my clientele network.

Related: Get the No.1 Guide to Starting Your Own Business

Are there any resources you recommend that were extremely valuable in getting your business off the ground?

Castain: Social capital is the most valuable resource that my company possesses. I would not trade it for anything at the moment. It’s through my network that I’m able to get new clients and insights from other entrepreneurs on how to make my business better. Utilizing social media can also help get your enterprise off the ground in regard to marketing activities, and while you’re at it, carry out entry-level research by identifying the growth, size, major segments and leading players in the industry.


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