Long Distance Relationships

Posted on by in Arrival Gate

Dear Stephanie,

I saw on your site that you don’t need to live in the same state as your host, but is that helpful?

-Kim R.

Hi Kim,

For some agents, it can be very helpful to live in the same state as their host. The problem is, for others, a host in another region may be a better option! Every agent has different needs and, depending on those needs, a local host may or may not be the best fit.

I’d recommend doing some soul-searching on what you need and want from your host and figuring out what are sticking points and what are not. Newer agents may not know what’s important or even how a local host could be helpful. If that’s you, here’s a list of what I view as some advantages of local hosts:

    1. Face TimeIn my eyes, this is the biggest advantage. Nothing beats face-to-face meetings. Being able to meet the support staff and the other local agents in the network not only creates deeper relationships but it can give you a sense of community.While I had great relationships with our hosted agents across the US, I naturally had stronger relationships with agents I saw more often. And our Florida agents certainly weren’t coming up to Minnesota during the winter! Compare that to our local agent Kathy who always stopped by the office and brought home-made ice cream sandwiches, even when it was snowing out. *sigh* She still has a special place in my heart! :) Flip side: Many national hosts have conventions, FAM trips, and even regional meetings where agents can get face time with staff and other agents in the network. In terms of community, many hosts have Facebook groups or online forums where agents can connect.
    2. Local Travel KnowledgeWhile not always the case, your local host is most likely going to have strong sales with the same vendors and destinations that you sell. Having support staff that know the products and vendors you use proves useful in many ways.The staff most likely knows more about travel out of your local airport than they do travel patterns in other cities. They may even know some tricks of the trade specific to your location they’ve picked up over the years. If the host staff is setting up a vendor FAM trip exclusively for their agency, if air is included, it will most likely be from an airport near the host (and you!).
    3. BDMsVendor BDMs are usually territory-based. Being in the same vicinity as your host means you’ll have more opportunities for in-person meetings, allowing you to build stronger relationships with your BDM. Flip side: Many vendors have created secondary phone fields to help agents have local representation when their host/BDM is in another territory. Other vendors have BDMs that are only assigned host agencies, meaning their territory isn’t restricted by region. And let’s be honest, if you’re selling a lot, you could be located in Antarctica and your BDM will be checking in with you.

I can’t definitively recommend local hosts over any other because there are so many different factors that come into play. I don’t know if a robust online forum is one of the most important things for you or if all you really care about is earning top commission on three specific vendors.

In the end, create your list of needs/wants and choose the host that is the best fit. Fifteen years ago, you had no choice; you needed to be aligned with a local host agency. Today, you’ve got so much more freedom! Location may still be a factor for you, just remember that it doesn’t have to be a defining factor.

For the rest of you, if you have any questions on host agencies, getting started in the travel industry, growing your home-based agency, etc. drop me a line: Stephanie@hostagencyreviews.com

Until next time,
Steph

 

After a 6 year stretch as director of a national host agency, Stephanie Lee started Host Agency Reviews – a resource website with host reviews and articles to help travel agents start and grow their travel agencies. She was awarded the ASTA’s Young Professional of the Year and Travel Agent Magazine’s 30 under 30 award. As time marches on, the dates of the awards have been surreptitiously left out to avoid drawing attention to the fact she’s aging. She’s not.

You can connect with Steph on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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