How To Establish A Travel Agency

How To Establish A Travel Agency



  A travel agent sells either individual parts of, or complete holiday packages to the customer. The main function of the travel agency is to sell  the temporary use of transport (air, rail, coach, car), accommodation (hotel, motel, lodge), tours (packages) and other associated services  (insurance, foreign exchange). This means that they are involved in the planning, booking, organisation and documentation of travel  arrangements for their clients. Often, this also involves advising, reassuring, explaining and encouraging the customer. However, they  generally do not operate vehicles or accompany tourists themselves.


Travel consultants (the people in a travel agency who deal with the public) are expected to gather information on travel destinations and be capable of providing advice on travel products. Travel consultants require good interpersonal and organisational skills and the ability to deal with unexpected situations.



Experience in the travel industry and a love of travel are some of the best training grounds for individuals wishing to enter the travel agency business. There is a clear distinction between those travel agents who sell air tickets and those who do not, and this choice is influenced by the qualifications of the travel agency consultants and the availability of start-up funds.

If you do not wish to be involved in the sale of air tickets, but wish to make arrangements for clients in terms of accommodation, transport and excursions, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) Diploma is not compulsory. However, it has become a benchmark for quality training in the travel industry and would provide the travel agency with a mark of integrity and credibility, which is critical in the early years. You should also read the “How to” brochure entitled ‘How to establish a Tour Operating Business’, available from TKZN.

If you wish to be involved in the sale of air tickets, you must be registered with IATA, which requires the completion of an IATA/UFTAA (universal air travel) Standard Diploma. You will need to register with a recognised educational institution (e.g.: Damelin) in order to complete this diploma. The course is offered on a part-time basis to individuals with a Grade 12 (Standard 10) education, preferably with travel industry experience. The IATA/UFTAA Diploma will

provide a broad understanding of travel agency and airline operations and enable the student to advise clients, make appropriate travel arrangements and reservations, calculate airfares and complete international travel documents in accordance with IATA rules and procedures.

In addition, every IATA Travel Agency is required to have a qualified Billings and Settlement Plan Southern Africa (BSPSA) consultant in the office at all times. BSP is the standardised accounting function for IATA accredited travel agents, controlled by IATA. All travel agents should understand the BSP function in terms of ticketing and airline accounting, including information on cancellations, refunds and the like.

There are a number of other useful travel related courses (e.g.: Galileo certificate, SAA Fares and Ticketing, British Airways Level 1 and the like) available at various educational institutions (e.g.: Damelin, Varsity College, DUT), which should be explored according to your needs. These are available on a part-time basis, or as part of a one-year, full-time diploma in Travel and Tourism.



The Business Practices Committee, which is part of the Consumer Council, has published a Consumer Code for travel agencies which governs the conduct of travel agencies and protects the consumers. When complaints are directed to it, the Business Practices Committee assesses whether harmful business practices were conducted, irrespective of whether the travel agent is a member of the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA). In this respect, the code is more than a voluntary code of conduct, although membership of ASATA is voluntary (see section on Voluntary Requirements).

The Code has Three Main Benefits:

•  Firstly, it informs customers about what standard of service to expect, what recourse there is in the event of dissatisfaction and what their      legal standing is when dealing with travel agencies, whether the latter are members of ASATA or not;

•  Secondly, it assists travel agents, whether they are members of ASATA or not, to meet desirable levels of business

   practice by providing the criteria that are broadly acceptable within the industry;

•  Thirdly, it sets a standard of service, professionalism and business practice for all travel agencies in South Africa.

   Copies of the Consumer Code for Travel Agencies can be obtained from ASATA or the Business Practices Committee.



•  Space and Infrastructure – Sufficient space is needed where the public can sit and discuss their needs with the travel consultant. Access to basic office infrastructure is needed, including access to electricity, telephones, fax and email. Access to quite expensive computer equipment and software is required if the travel consultant is to be involved in the booking of air tickets.

Registration with IATA will allow the keeping of airline ticket stock and the use of a ticket printer (see also Licensing and Registration). The operational costs of an IATA registered travel agency are therefore likely to be higher than a business which is not registered.


The Local Municipality’s town planners can advise you on the parking required.


Amenity Value

An attractive or appealing tourism office environment may be created with posters and maps and will be supported

by being located in attractive, clean and well-kept surroundings.



Is the site easy to find for those people using their own or public transport?

The Local Municipality has controls for the erection of any signs. If new access onto streets is needed, the Local Municipality will usually construct them, at the cost of the developer. Permission must be obtained from the Provincial Department of Transport to construct new access points onto main roads outside of Local Municipality areas.


•  Land Use Zoning – Approach the Local Municipality to establish whether the Town Planning Scheme permits the activity on the site you      have chosen;

•  Licensing and Registration – Approach the Local Municipality in order to register your business. You will also need to register with the         District Municipality;

•  Regulations and By-Laws – Your application for a trading licence will be circulated by the Local Municipality to the health, fire and             building inspectors, the Town Planning Department, and in some cases uMsekeli (previously the Development Services Board (DSB)).    These bodies will ensure that your plans comply with their regulations before the application can be approved;

•  Other Legal Requirements – If you wish to erect a road sign in the road reserve (as distinct from on your own property) for the purpose of advertising your business then you need approval from:

•  Department of Transport in the case of national roads;

•  The Facility Signs Committee in the Provincial Department of Transport in the case of secondary roads;

•  The Local Municipal Engineer in the case of local roads within a Local Municipality area;

•  Policy – TKZN and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism should be consulted for updates on policy affecting the tourism sector. If you have queries arising from the changes in District and Local Municipality boundaries, you should approach your Local or District Municipality for assistance.



•  ASATA (Association of South African Travel Agents):

(011) 484 0580

•  Business Advice Centres:

Durban: (031) 308 9920

Pietermaritzburg: (033) 264 3100

•  Business Partners Limited:

Durban: (031) 240 7700

Richards Bay: (035) 789 7301

•  Business Practices Committee:

(012) 310 9791

•  Department of Economic Development and Tourism

(DEDT): (033) 264 2500

•  Department of Trade and Industry: (dti)

(012) 394 9500

KZN Regional office: (031) 305 3389

•  Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry

(031) 335 1000

•  Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and

Rural Development(DAERD): (033) 355 9690

•  International Air Travel Association (IATA):

(011) 844 6015

•  Ithala Development Finance Corporation:

(031) 907 8911

•  Provincial Planning and Development Commission:

(033) 395 3066

•  South African Tourism:

(011) 895 3000

•  Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA):

086 127 2872/(011) 866 9996

•  Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN):

(031) 366 7500

•  Trade Associations:

AFRITOUR: (012) 782 6979/(023) 626 5841