Simply stated, providing travel planning services is a very competitive business. Host agencies and consortiums are two business options for travel advisors looking to grow their business.
What is the difference between a host agency and a consortium?
Host agencies and consortiums are groups comprised of independent travel planners working together to increase negotiating power with suppliers. The main difference between the two, is that host agencies provide travel credentials (IATA, CLIA, ARC) to the group while members of a consortium have their own unique accreditations.
What are the benefits of joining a host agency or a consortium?
First and foremost, host agencies and consortiums advocate on behalf of a group with suppliers, which leverages higher commissions and improved amenities for clients. Additionally, the host agency or consortium does the leg work of vetting vendors, providing peace of mind and saving time.
Another advantage of being part of a larger group is the ability to learn from each other’s business practices. Host agencies and consortiums help travel advisors by providing a variety of professional services. Members may benefit from marketing assistance such as direct mailers, hosted websites and social media content; technological support through online booking or customer relation management systems; or training and educational programs.
What are the challenges of being a member of host agencies and consortiums?
Being part of a group, while being a strong benefit, also is a challenge. Decision making may become less autonomous, planners may find that they are yielding to the group or organization-controlled decisions.
In an effort to provide higher commissions to members, consortiums and host agencies create relationships with preferred vendors. Independent travel advisors may be required to reach a certain sales threshold with preferred suppliers or pay a fee for using vendors who are not on the preferred vendors list. Additionally, working through a host agency means using their accreditation numbers, consequently suppliers are less likely to know unique member’s business names.
How do I determine if joining a host agency or consortium is right for me?
Know your strengths to determine what fits your business needs. A host agency might be the right fit for you if the expense of pursuing accreditation for your own business is daunting. Conversely, membership to a consortium might be your next investment if you already have accreditation in place but want to expand your market. Look for host agencies or consortiums with the same goals you have for your travel planning business. Find organization offering a satisfactory ratio of annual sales volume to the number of members as this impacts your commission amount. It is easy to learn about a host agency or consortium’s reputation and business practices by interviewing members or conducting research using online tools such as Host Agency Reviews, or Find a Host Travel Agency.