How I Built A Niche Travel Agency That Pulls In $300K/Year [Sri Lanka]

Published: December 26th, 2022
Nishan Rajakaruna
Total Travel Solu...
from Colombo, Sri Lanka
started September 2011
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
business model
best tools
Google Drive, Canva, Stripe
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
11 Tips
Discover what tools Nishan recommends to grow your business!
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, My name is Nishan Rajakaruna and I’m the CEO & Founder of Total Travel Solution in Sri Lanka. I’ve been featured in 3 world-class magazines: Bucknell, LMD, and the CEO Sri Lanka as one of the leading “young” entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka!

At Total Travel Solution (TTS), we sell the best quality Sri Lanka & Maldives tour packages to tourists from all over the world! I formed this company on 23rd September 2011 and for 7 years my company was ranked in the top 10 in Sri Lanka in the Spanish market. From 2012 to 2018 we’ve done roughly 800 bookings making almost 2000 clients happy while touring Sri Lanka or Maldives. Through these 800 bookings, we generated a sales revenue of about USD 2 million.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I came back to my motherland, Sri Lanka in December 2009 because I couldn’t get a good job as a Chemical Engineer in the United States of America following the massive economic crisis that took place in 2008.

Extreme left person is me

At this stage, my dream was shattered and I was crying for months with my mother. So, I (Coach Carter) started from 0 and became a self-made millionaire at the young age of 30 after building (from scratch) TTS at the young age of 25.

How I got the idea is a funny story. While working at a leading tea-export company, I was reading their official brochure and came across the sentence “we are your total tea solution”. That was the “light-bulb” moment for me when I thought to myself “Why don’t I create a company called Total Travel Solution?”. So I legally registered a company called Total Travel Solution (Pvt) Ltd. in September 2011 and started emailing foreign travel agents. Luckily, a leading travel agent in Spain was happy to partner with TTS and that is what changed my life and made TTS a truly successful company!

This is an amazing story of courage, determination, & revival. After creating a net worth of 100 million LKR (USD 1 million) plus, I “unofficially” retired from the material world to live a spiritual life where I now meditate for 2-3 hrs per day and study Lord Buddha’s teachings because I have realized that true happiness lies in Nirvana, not in money.

Take us through the process of designing your services.

After returning to Sri Lanka from the U.S., my very first job was in a small travel agency owned by one of my father’s friends. It is here I learned how to do costings for new inquiries, how to book rooms with hotels based on travel agent rates, how to book entrance tickets at sites, as well as how to book vehicles & guides.

During my 3 months there I learned the basics of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry. So this knowledge along with my father’s experience (working as a French-speaking National Tour Guide for leading travel agencies for more than 30 years) was combined to create the best Sri Lanka tour packages in the world. Advanced knowledge about running a travel agency I learned on the spot, day by day from experience. That was the hardest part, and looking back I’m happy that I was able to overcome the hardest part of the business.

Then with time, I was able to figure out which hotels gave the best service to my clients and which guides gave the best service to my clients as well as a honest service to me. When doing business, the most important aspect is trust so based on that I was able to identify & select the most trustworthy 2 or 3 guides and then give them back-to-back bookings. So now the business is stress-free because the “testing” phase is over!


Describe the process of launching the business.

The funny story is that I did not have a launch strategy because my academic qualifications were not in the field of business management or marketing. I have a BSc. in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University, USA. All I did was I legally registered the company, then using that business registration (BR) I opened a company bank account. Finally, I created a website for marketing purposes and started emailing foreign travel agents hoping/praying that one of them would partner with me.

My prayers worked, and one of them partnered with TTS as mentioned in my previous response, and by January 2012 I got my first booking from Spain. As a result of my excellent service to their clients, they ended up giving TTS hundreds of bookings from 2012-2018. By the end of 2010, I got a good job at a leading tea-export company in Sri Lanka and there I started saving little by little. By September 2011 I had saved up about LKR 200,000 (USD 1,000) and this money only helped me “bootstrap” TTS without any external funding from parents or investors!

The most important lesson I learned is that when forming a company, one must follow this 3-step process: first, do the business registration, then open the company bank account, then create a world-class website. My advice to entrepreneurs who are starting a travel agency is: to keep your overheads at a minimum to maximize your profits. Do not start with a big office and big staff. That’s what I did, and therefore my travel agency survived the coronavirus pandemic when even some of the biggest travel agencies in the world (like Thomas Cook) had to close.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

As I said I got lucky and for 7 years most of my business came from one agent in Spain. So this is proof that one great client or business partner can change your life and make you rich. You don’t necessarily need to have many clients. So from 2012-2018, I was so busy with 3 foreign agents making good money that I didn’t need to invest in social media marketing or SEO.

Then from 2019 up to now Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has been badly hit because in 2019 we had the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, then in 2020 the coronavirus pandemic, again in 2021 the coronavirus pandemic, and finally this year 2022 we had / still experiencing a massive economic crisis so there was no point investing in the social media marketing or SEO.

I plan to go big with social media marketing & SEO at the beginning of the next year 2023 so I’m hoping & praying for the tourism industry to pick up again by next year! In today’s world, the most important form of marketing is social media marketing so we are focusing heavily on Facebook & Instagram and our goal is to reach direct clients as opposed to travel agents. Our secret to retaining customers has been providing honest, trustworthy, and high-quality services. It’s as simple as that!

The top 3 secrets of success I teach are hard work, discipline & financial planning!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

As I mentioned in my last response, the last 4 years have been terrible for the tourism industry in Sri Lanka but luckily before 2019 during the 7 best years of business, I saved up well so my savings enabled me to get through those 4 years smoothly and keep the company open while many travel agencies in Sri Lanka closed down.

Today TTS is a 6-figure (USD) company in terms of the total profit generated before 2019 and one of the leading “inbound” travel agencies in Sri Lanka. Hopefully, the future will be better than the present and we are hoping & praying for the economic crisis to be resolved by next year by our politicians. Things are improving slowly so we can see progress and the future looks good.

So I invite everyone reading this article to come to visit Sri Lanka now! :-) Wondering why? Well because Lonely Planet ranked Sri Lanka the #1 travel destination in 2019 so I think I don’t need to say more about this beautiful island of paradise!

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I’ve learned the best secrets of success through starting and running this company. So using these secrets, I created a success course which is probably the best success course in Sri Lanka and this course comes under my “Coach Carter” brand. For more details, please visit this Website.

This is my passion now and I love coaching youngsters in Sri Lanka and all over the world about how to start a business from 0 (bootstrap) and make it truly successful. The top 3 secrets of success I teach are hard work, discipline & financial planning!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I mostly use social media marketing on Facebook and Instagram but in the tourism field, I still believe that the best marketing technique is email marketing.

That’s the most effective, I speak from experience!

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I love reading “success” books and the most influential books in my life have been “Millionaire success habits by Dean Graziosi”, “Think & grow rich by Napolean Hill” and “The underdog advantage by Dean Grazosi”.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Work hard & smart, be disciplined with your lifestyle, and plan your finances daily.

Last but not least, please visit and enroll in my success course which will teach you the best secrets of success enabling you to make your dream a reality!

Where can we go to learn more?

For more details, please visit our official Website.

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Nishan Rajakaruna, Founder of Total Travel Solution
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