Is it time to retire the term “home based agent?” | TravelResearchOnline


Is it time to retire the term “home based agent?”

Does anyone else find the term “Home Based Agent,” to be overused and insulting? Maybe I am getting old but I find the term derogatory. I know an attorney who works at home. He is not called a “Home Based Attorney.” Just an attorney. The same with an accountant. He is an accountant not a “home based accountant.” Same with a wedding planner, caterer, professional organizer or realtor who work at home. None of these professions have the word “Home Based” in front of them.

I understand the term was conceived to separate us from the brick and mortar agencies back in the day when agents started to move home. In 2010, we have moved past this designation. Agents are choosing to work at home and are very successful. We are ALL travel agents, consultants, advisors. Why lump those of us who happen to have a home office into a separate category? Aren’t we all just travel agents? The only difference being location?

I have attended industry events where traditional brick and mortrar agents still look down at those of us who work at home. Some feel we are hobbyists and in it for the perks. Unfortunately, without industry standards in place we are always going to have those types of agents. Agents working from home should not be lumped together and painted with the same brush. I work very hard. I have credentials, training, the latest technology and office equipment at my fingertips. I remain a professional and dedicated to the travel industry. Just because I happen to work at home should not brand me with a Scarlet A.

Let’s retire the term “home based agents.” We are all travel professionals. And, if anyone asks what I do– I am a travel consultant. If they ask me where I work — I tell them I have a home office. No further explanations needed.

  17 thoughts on “Is it time to retire the term “home based agent?”

  1. John Frenaye says:

    Good article Mary. One of the obstacles from true professionals (be they office or home based) is that a HUGE majority of the “home based” agents are indeed doing this as a hobby or for some other reason.

    Several years ago there was a NACTA (I believe) study that showed that the large majority of home based agents SOLD less than $15K a year in travel. I am not sure of the exact number, but I might put forth that $15K is perhaps a single trip for an upper middle class family.

    I would like to see an updated study on this, but I am afraid with the influence of the MLM crowd it will only be worse.

    This makes for a good argument for some sort of national accreditation.

  2. Greg says:

    Excellent perspective. Now it just needs to be talked up.

  3. Dean Greenhoe says:

    I guess I have the same attitude about the topic as Mary, probably because the vast majority of agents I know personally who work from home offices spent a lot of time in the B&M trenches before riding the wave home. And in recent years, many of the top agents I’ve come to know have always worked in a home based setting.

    Maybe it is time to drop the annoying “home based” moniker and move on, MLM and hobbyists be damned.

    In my own personal experience, none of my corporate or even leisure clients give my office situation a second thought. That’s probably because the majority of them now also do most of their work from an office in their homes. But I can’t think of a single one of those professionals who feels compelled to advertise or explain themselves as a home based anything.

    Here’s an example that comes to mind: one of my corporate clients who works from her home is now an inside sales representative for a major heath and beauty supply company, a very professional and successful person in that field. I’m sure she doesn’t feel compelled to identify herself as a home based professional to make a distinction between herself and all of the folks around her who are tinkering with Amway, Mary Kay, Avon, etc;

    Finally, I do sometimes detect a sneer of derision from other TAs still working a B&M location. All you can do is blow it off because they are probably just a wee bit jealous at times. 😉

  4. J Gaar says:

    Absolutely it is time to drop this distinction. I book over $200,000 in commissionable sales a year and work harder and longer hours than most people I know that drive to an office. The term definitely has a derogatory connotation and sounds like we only work after we get the laundry, shopping, cooking and cleaning done, when really the opposite is true. I hopefully get to those things AFTER my real work as an agent is done. I like the term “Independent Travel Consultant” much better! As long as I get the job done, no one should care or ask. Thanks for the article to bring attention to this! We are Travel Professionals!

  5. Linda Furlan, MCC says:

    As a travel professional with over 30 years experience (and in what is now the vast MINORITY of B&M agents), I agree with both John AND Dean’s comments: both have valid points. If it were all to end tomorrow for me (my career as I know it as a B&M agent), the
    next step would be for me to work out of my
    home, as well. No logistical or geographical
    location can ever take away the amount of
    expertise and professionalism I will continue
    to carry with me, regardless of my office’s
    locale – nor should it for anyone else with our level of knowledge. There will be no blanket-issued “Scarlet A” from me; I’ve met far too many fine Travel PROFESSIONALS that now work out of their homes (some due to post-9/11 fallout, some due to the economy, some because they simply CAN) to ever do that. However, I’ve also met more than my fair share of “Home Based Agents” who are NOT professionals, but rather people that assume this moniker as a hobby, sideline, or career “afterthought” simply for the sake of the “glamour” that our career still holds for many “outsiders.” For many of them, the term “Agent” or “Professional” is used loosely,
    I’m afraid. Rather than concern myself with the semantics, or any perceived “sneering” from B&M agents, I would be far more concerned with the proverbial “black eye” these (primarily MLM’s) give our industry. In the meantime, can/should “Home Based” be dropped from your title? Perhaps. With the “Home Based” sector clearly becoming the majority, you’d certainly be justified. As Shakespeare said: “A rose by any other name…” Keep the dialogue going; ALL Travel Professionals – “Home Based” or otherwise – deserve to have their voices heard. (As for me, am I one of those B&M agents that’s a “wee bit jealous?” You bet!)

  6. Thank you Mary for your comments regarding Home Based Agents. I totally agree with you. I’m afraid, that phrase conjures up to the public – someone sitting at their kitchen table with a bathrobe on doing, a little travel business for the perks. Which as we all know, is far from the truth. I think we as an industry need to regard ourselves as the experts that we are and come up with a term that reflects that. I belong to an organization in Northern California, of fellow travel consultants who have all been in the business for an average of 25 years +. We call ourselves the North Bay Travel Professionals. Perhaps on a national basis we need to come up with a new term. I hate being called a travel agent. It is demeaning and does not define my skills as much as consultant.

    Thanks for letting me shar my thoughts, Nanette Garner

  7. Jornah Davis says:

    I asked several people in my office. They think it’s an accurate description and that you do have less resources. I am really tired of seeing everyone be so touchy about everything… being insulted by being called a travel agent? Good grief.

  8. I somewhat agree- as for me, I always state that I am “home located.”

    Perhaps the term should be changed to “host agents”?

  9. Susan Schaefer says:

    I’m not home based, I’m a travel professional with a home office. 😉 My realtor has a home office, as does my CPA, my financial advisor, etc.

    When a client or supplier wants to meet at my office, I simply tell them truthfully that city laws prohibit me from having clients/suppliers in my home office, and I offer to meet them at their home, their office, or another location of their choice (often it ends up being Panera Bread, Starbucksk or other local eatery).

    I agree with Mary 110% – I see no reason to differentiate ourselves as “home based” versus B&M or store front.

  10. Sounds good to me. Several perspective clients have called to find out info on vacations. When I give them the info they decide to go with a store front agency or book the vacation themselves. They think because we are not store front they we are incompetent or something.

  11. Most of the other “home” careers that were mentioned have MANDATORY certification requirements and minimum CEU’s per year. I also have clients that work from home but they are backed up by MEGA companies (investment, pharma and banks) and were allowed to work from home to save commute time or keep employees. That is not the case for most home agents except Amex or similar employees. Most are self-employed and this is the ONLY business that someone is allowed to handle thousands of dollars with no mandatory licensing, credentials or minimum financial standards. We need standardized testing and licensing that will be recognized across state lines (similar to insurance) and this will create real professionalism and more importantly, a safety net for the consumer.

  12. John Frenaye says:

    Lucy–I think you nailed it. But we are too fractured and incohesive as an industry.

    Deborah–I chuckled. I wonder how many of these “fraidy cats” don’t go to a storefront, but actually go to the Internet?

  13. Gary Fee says:

    The terms, “Home Based Agent” or “Brick and Mortar” are industry jargon. They are internal trade labels. I do not find these labels being used in any consumer advertising by the retail travel sector. Both labels are respected by our supplier community. The term “Outside Sales Travel Agent” or “Independent Contractor” are some other examples of internal industry labels that are also not used in retail sales marketing/advertising. I don’t think our industry will ditch these labels anytime soon. Agents may pride themselves on any label they feel that would reflect their niche. Respect and recognition come from your clients and suppliers, label or no label.

    Gary Fee

  14. I have found the term “HBTA” offensive from the first time I heard it many moons ago! Like it has been dutifully pointed out, there are many professions that do not have “offices”. [Why pay thousands of dollars rent?] Professionals can work anywhere! My clients do not care where I work! Just as long as they get professional service! Airlines have res agents at home! AMEX has corp res agents at home. [“Hearth” agents]. Their clients do not have a clue they are talking to someone in their home. With modern technology what it is today, one can work from any venue on the planet. SmartPhone and/or laptop and I’m “at the office”. The swing is away from internet purchases back to Professional Travel Consultants. If one is investing thousands of dollars in a vacation, or a business trip, they want to deal with a real live human being, and the same one over and over. It is called customer service!

  15. To Jess…again, the “professionals” you are writing about are either employed, with a big corporation behind them, or are certified/licensed/bonded by professional associations or states that mandate the requirements. In the travel industry all you need is a check and a “heartbeat”, you are issued a 7 digit number and you’re a travel agent? How does that qualify you to handle thousands of consumer dollars?

  16. Rick A says:

    I find it amusing that so many agents have a hang-up about terminology. I have always referred to myself as a travel agent. I do not need to boost my self-esteem by calling myself a travel counselor or travel consultant. Customers generally don’t care about my title. My job is not to counsel travelers or have them consult with me. My job is to sell travel.

    One of the postings indicated that when people think of home-based agents the image of people in a bathrobe at the kitchen table comes to mind. For many home-based agents, this is an accurate picture. There are of course many professional agents who work from home.

    A simple way to appear more professional would be a home office with a distinct separate entrance that has a sign. I’ve never been to home office of a doctor or dentist where I had to walk through the living room, dining room or kitchen to get to the exam room.

    Lucy has a great point about licensing. There are many people who get into this industry for the wrong reasons. Often these people are ill-equipped to provide good customer service. If a travel agent is competent, he or she should not be afraid for being licensed. Professional conduct is far more important than what we call ourselves.

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