It's very confusing for home-based/independent travel agents to determine when and why they should join a Host Agency and/or a Consortia. I hope to make this decision a little easier for you but, in the end you will need to decide for yourself.
Let's Begin with Host Agencies. Host Agencies are simply, fully licensed and bonded travel agencies who will loan you their credentials so that you may use them to book travel. Some of them may also be a retail travel agency. Unless the Host Agency maintains the hosting separately from the retail portion, they may be in competition with you as well as providing lesser support. Most of these agencies are generally retail operations with outside travel agents and would not be a good choice for a Host Agency, in my opinion.
While we are discussing the wrong side of Host Agencies, you should be aware that there are "so-called" Host Agencies that sell other products such as business opportunities, network selling, selling websites and non-related travel products. Most of these are known as MLMs or Multi-Level-Marketing agencies. It's wise to stay away from these MLMs if you want to be a serious travel agent. Many of these agencies do a good job in hiding what they really are, so please, do your homework.
One final word with Host Agencies that you may want to stay away from. There has been a rash of new Host Agencies that are offering 100% commission levels to agents in exchange for a monthly fee. I guess this is a prelude to the 110% commission Host Agency perhaps coming in the future. Seriously, you may want to take a good look at these Host Agency models, as it has been shown from past experience, (Remember JoyStar?) that when you "give away the store" so to speak, you will inevitably fail possibly leaving travel agents without a commission.
There are several reasons why you should join a reputable Host Agency. Many excellent articles have been written by others listing the reasons to join and what you should look for in selecting a Host Agency. We have included many of their suggestions at the site mentioned below. All new people entering the travel industry, agents who prefer just to sell travel and not be concerned with the back office part of operating a business including part-time or full-time agents who just don't have the time to keep abreast of the industry's technology and marketing advancements should be working with a Host Agency. A good Host Agency should provide all the back-office support and keep you up to date with the travel industry. For a great site to visit to see the details of why you should join a Host Agency, please go to Http://www.choosingahostagency.com.
When joining a Host Agency be sure they also belong to a Consortium. When you join a Host that also belongs to one of the major Consortia, you really receive a double benefit as well as reduced costs. The franchise Host Agencies usually have their own Consortia built into their model. Some of them have excellent marketing, technology and Customer Relationship Management software however, the costs of joining a franchise may be a little expensive with lower commission tiers.
There are some independent travel agents that feel they don't need a Host Agency because they do much of their own back-office work and don't have a need for higher commission levels. Joining a Corsortium does have its fees as opposed to possibly paying those same fees to a Host Agency who is already a member of that Consortia. The affiliated agents with a Host will most likely not need to pay additional fees. A two for one deal, if you will.
Consortia are basicly marketing companies which is why most Host Agencies are members. Consortia derive the bulk of their revenue from preferred supplier overrides, incentives and marketing dollars as well as member fees, etc. Host Agencies derive the bulk of their revenue from their portion of the commission split, booking fees membership fees, etc.
A Consortium provides the ability to email or to direct professional mailings to your client-base. Most also provide special booking engines for cruises, air, hotels and car rentals. Training and education is a major component of Consortia. Generally, the agents who join just a Consortia are truly independent travel agents who prefer to control 100% of their agency. We'll get more into this when I discuss the differences in going solo as compared to joining a Host Agency. The main Consortia memberships are Travel Savers, who owns the NEST, Virtuoso, Ensemble and Vacation.Com. In regards to Vacation.com, please keep in mind that they are owned now by Travel Leaders, who also owns a couple of Host Agencies. Many feel that this is a conflict of interest which is why I mention it here.
BEING 100% INDEPENDENT VS JOINING A HOST AGENCY
Most industry professionals will tell you that all new and relatively new travel agents must join a Host Agency. The costs and the time involved to go it alone is just too prohibitive. The right Host Agency will simply save you time and money in the early years of your business. If you are one of those individuals that insists on being 100% independent, go for it. Just expect higher costs, inability to stay current with the industry and daily frustration. Frustration in this business is high enough without shooting yourself in the foot by maintaining your total freedom from a good Host.
WHEN SHOULD YOU GO SOLO OR BE 100% INDEPENDENT?<P> As I mentioned above, there are those hardliners that want and remain 100% independent from the beginning. I don't have a problem with that as I probably would be one of those agents myself. However, for most of you joining a Host Agency from the beginning, you may ask, how long should you remain and when should you leave a Host Agency?That depends on your individual situation. There are those agents who will always remain with a Host Agency. That's because they like working with a Host plus, they receive adequate support and prefer just to build their client-base and sell travel.
Generally speaking, when an agent has built his/her clientbase sufficiently and their sales in their specialty achieve the higher commission rates from the suppliers, then it may be a consideration. The down side, for example. If you are a Sandals agent selling at the top of their commission tier and now you want to book a cruise which will provide you a 10% commission, you are stuck. Maintaining your relationship with the Host will provide, let's say 80% of a 16% commission or 12.8% in your pocket.
The bottom line is you need to do your "due diligence" before selecting a Host Agency. You should be rewarded with a great relationship by your choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Stilphen, ECC is the CEO of Heritage Resorts Management, LLC doing business as Coral Sands Travel, a well know, National Host Agency a/k/a America's Host Agency, World Cruising Society and America's Cruise Centers. Mr Stilphen was also a Founder of PATH and its first President, a host agency organization.
Mr Stilphen is known for his controversial articles and blogs concerning the wrong side of the travel agent distribution system including the so called Multi-Level-Marketing (MLM) agencies.