How to Become a Travel Agent: Picking a Host Agency
So you’ve decided to become a travel agent. You’ve done the research, and you’ve picked a travel niche to focus on. You know you want to work through a host agency, but how to do you choose one? This important decision will determine how you operate and grow your business.
As you sift through your research on picking a host agency that meets your needs, here are a few questions to help guide your decision.
1. What is your niche?
Your niche may play a role in the kind of host agency that fits you best. You may want to find one that is focused on your specific market, such as cruises or romantic getaways. Or you might prefer to look for a larger agency that supports a wide variety of travel specialists and niches.
2. What is the “culture” like?
This might sound like a weird one, but it matters! When reading the website, contracts and other material provided, try to get a feel for the agency’s goals and values. Will their relationship with you be more of a “boss and manager” or “partner and support system”? Get to know your potential support person. In a small host agency that might be the owner herself. Do you connect with them well? Are they enthusiastic and helpful?
3. Will they assist with problems or let you work it out alone?
This one fits right in with understanding the host agency’s “culture.” How hands-on is the host agency when it comes to the day-to-day operations of their travel agents or travel advisors? Will they get involved with an issue involving a client or a supplier? Will they leave you to work it out on your own? There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to a host agency’s involvement. This is a matter of your personal preference. If possible, try to get feedback from other agents within the host agency.
4. Does the host agency offer any agent training?
If you’re completely new to the travel industry, you might want a host agency that offers a lot of support and training resources. If they do offer resources, what kind do they offer? Will they pay for your training? Will they invest in continued education? If you’re confident in your ability to understand and sell travel, you might just be looking for the network and protection a host agency offers rather than the training. If this is the case, look for a host agency that offers resources if and when you want them, but without a long learning curve.
5. What accreditations do they have?
Do they have an IATA or CLIA number? While industry affiliations like these are not required, they do help provide recognition and prestige with suppliers and vendors. Working under a host agency with such accreditation also gives agents the opportunity to access benefits and discounts that might be associated with the accreditation.
6. How does commission work?
What portion of your sales commission will go to your host agency and what do you get to keep? How long does it take to get your commission checks? The typical trade-off is that more commission for you generally means you pay a higher membership fee. Some host agencies let you keep 100% of your commissions but you must pay a significantly higher monthly membership fee.
7. What does the contract say about leaving?
After a time, you may find out that the host agency you started out with no longer fits your goals or skill set. Perhaps you want to branch out into a new niche or work more independently. Before you ever join a host agency, you should know what their contract says regarding leaving or switching. Will you need to give an advanced notice? Are there any non-compete clauses? How will your commission be handled?
While the idea of one day leaving your host agency will not be top of mind when you start, it is definitely important to consider. If your career takes a different trajectory than you planned, you need to know what to expect.