It’s been estimated that approximately 40 to 45% of all travel professionals in business today are independent, many of whom are working from home. Coming up from single digits just a generation ago, the upward trend is expected to continue in the years ahead.
Some of these “new” entrants have actually been in the travel industry for years, and are either now establishing their own businesses or simply moving away from brick-and-mortar environments to ones that are virtual. Others are newcomers looking at either starting their professional careers or transitioning into a new one. Regardless of whether an agent is new or experienced, today’s host agencies are providing solid foundations on which any of the aforementioned travel professionals can build and grow their businesses.
It’s with that premise that I respond to an article published last week that almost seems like it was caught in a time warp from a generation ago when there were some dubious players among host agencies. The article titled “Host agencies and an inconvenient truth” painted all host agencies with a very negative broad, antiquated brush. It claimed that host agencies were only interested in their own success and not that of the agents they host. If the author, Kelly Monaghan, had only had the opportunity to look under the hood of today’s host agency, he certainly would have been surprised – pleasantly – by what he saw.
This year, Nexion is celebrating its 20th anniversary. We were born in the wake of the very first airline commission caps – cuts that left travel agency owners questioning their business models. Initially, Nexion’s main focus was to offer agencies an alternative to managing their own ARC fulfillment and GDS contracts. Like many other reputable host agencies, Nexion provided a solution that gave agents new options for their business and gave them the flexibility to work wherever and whenever they wanted to better serve their clientele. In this spirit, the host agency model has continued to evolve as we’ve anticipated where the marketplace and travel industry is headed. Most importantly, we’ve always been incredibly receptive to change in order to ensure the success of our agents.
Over the last two decades, we’ve worked to transform the way the independent travel professional is defined and viewed among both industry professionals and suppliers. In that time, the professionalism among independent travel agents has trended upward, quite significantly. Much of this can be attributed to the technology training, events and marketing offered by host agencies like Nexion, which work hard to build the skills and expertise of hosted agents so they can continue to grow their businesses.
An example of an innovative and convenient tool Nexion offers is a program called SNAP! (Simple Nexion Air Program) that was launched in 2011. SNAP! offers agents a dynamic and easy to use, non-GDS booking platform for air, car, hotel and rail reservations. However, our agents can also easily service their corporate and leisure customers through any of the GDS systems.
Among the most substantial benefits for hosted agents are the strong relationships the top host agencies bring to the table. Thanks to the more than 3,400 agents who are part of Nexion, we’ve not only been able to build a true community of agents who readily share their expertise and best practices with one another, but we’ve also been able to forge close relationships with supplier partners around the world. That, in turn, leads to higher commissions for our agents. Because of our size, strength and industry relationships, we are able to advocate on behalf of our agents. Truly, their success is our success.
In rebutting the antiquated notion that host agencies are some kind of get rich quick scheme, agent Greg Reese, ACC, Picture Rocks Travel, stated, “Nexion does a great job of educating travel professional hopefuls on the realities of when you can expect commission checks, the amount of work you’ll need to put in to your business to be successful and that you aren’t going to start earning millions in your first year. Our business has doubled and we are on our way to tripling this year since we signed up with Nexion.”
To Greg’s point, selling travel takes time. Just like any business decision, independent travel professionals looking for a host agency should do their homework, ask questions and make sure they get the information they need to make the right decision for their business.
Supporting our agents and their businesses is why we’re in business – and yes, we are a business. While the writer of last week’s article dismissed host agencies as “profit making enterprises,” can you imagine anything less in today’s business world? Our agents rely on our rock solid foundation as the basis for operating more profitably and efficiently. Our agents are only successful if we are. So yes, it is our goal to be profitable. As business professionals, that should be all of our goals.
As we have our eyes on the next twenty years and beyond, host agencies will continue providing industry-leading training opportunities, chances to network with each other as well as industry leaders, and marketing programs that allow every hosted travel agent the opportunity to grow their business. What Nexion provides are the tools and resources to allow you to focus on the business of selling travel to be successful.
Jackie Friedman, CTC, CTIE, is the president of Nexion®, a fully licensed, bonded and accredited host agency with operations in both the United States and Canada. She oversees an operation that supports more than 3,400 independent, leisure and corporate travel professionals. Nexion® is a branch of Tzell Travel Group, a Travel Leaders Group company.