One of the most difficult decisions a new travel agent entering the industry can make is whether they should go it alone, join a consortium, join an organization or affiliate with a Host Agency. I will try to help you with my usual straight forward recommendations from my experiences with travel agents over the years.
Everyone would like to go it alone or to be totally independent as that is the "American way". We all think we are entrepreneurs and can do it all by ourselves. However, prudent thinking says otherwise. 95% of all new travel agents who totally go it alone will fail in the first year. The remaining 5% are those in a very specific niche or special circumstance. If you insist on going it alone, here are some suggestions to give yourself a fighting chance.
First you must be legal. Obtain a local business license and register with your State's Seller of Travel program if it has one. Open up that business checking account and purchase E&O insurance.
You must be in a position to be accredited by both IATAN as a TSI (Non-ARC) and CLIA. This is absolutely essential. There are some that say that obtaining a TRUE ID will work. It will work only minimally and over the long run will prove insufficient. Don't waste your money. In addition to IATAN and CLIA you may want to join a Consortium for their marketing and commission levels. Many Consortiums won't accept you until you are selling a specific dollar amount of travel. Another "catch 22" situation. You should try the NEST, for home-based travel agents, Vacation.Com or one of the many consortia.
I wouldn't join one of the travel agent membership organizations at first until you know more of what you are doing. They are different from each other and you should know your needs before joining. They might argue that their membership provides all kinds of training and other benefits. The truth is you can obtain the same information elsewhere free without paying a membership fee. Join one of the free social travel agent networks to communicate and ask questions of your peers.
Affiliating with a Host Agency is really the prudent thing to do for all "newbees". However this can be another confusing experience. You won't need to deal directly with IATAN, CLIA, membership organizations and/or consortia. You will receive access to all of these through your Host, saving you probably more than $2000 in startup costs. When you get on your feet and are selling volume then look again at going it alone. A few can accomplish this in a year while others prefer to remain affiliated with their Host Agency.
The next obvious problem is, " How do I choose a Host?"
- Choose a Host you have researched and that makes you feel comfortable with their program.
- Stay away from the MLMs and "card mills" which I write about all the time.
- Go to www.myhomebasedtravelagentsonline.com and read the many articles that have been written on this subject
- Visit www.path4hosts.com and see a list of Host Agency Members that adhere to a strict code of ethics and subscribe to rules of conduct.
Peter Stilphen, MCC