There is a TV show that I occasionally watch called “House Hunters,” which is a reality-style national television series about finding and purchasing a new home. The show takes viewers behind the scenes as individuals, couples and families learn what to look for and decide whether or not a home is meant for them. Focusing on the “emotional experience” of finding and purchasing a new home, each episode shows the process as the buyers go through the search.
The same emotions and decision factors can be similar when looking for a good home (host) to place your business.
COST – I see a lot of agents make a basic mistake, especially those who are new to our industry. When deciding to get into selling travel, it can be a decision that is driven more by emotion rather than logic. I hear many times “I want to get into this business because I’m passionate about travel.” It’s much less often that I hear someone say, “I want to sell travel so that I can create a career and earn a living.” Although passion is a necessary component for success, purchasing on emotion only may leave you “upside down” financially.
To make an honest comparison of the hosts on your list, you must consider all the costs you’ll be facing. Real estate is similar, as you should take into consideration items such as start up fees (down payment), monthly maintenance costs, association fees, insurance, etc. Based on your own projected potential earnings you will need to take into consideration how much travel you must book before your total outlay will be recovered.
WEIGH THE PRICE – A host agency can actually save you money. I recommend that you create a worksheet and list all of the costs of running the business on your own – versus aligning with a host agency. Factor in the costs of bookkeeping, back office support, seller of travel requirements, technology, E&O insurance, database management services and others. Many of these expenses may possibly be covered when you sign with a host agency.
SIZE – Just like moving into a new house, how important is the size of a host agency? This could be very important to your bottom line since commission splits are (or should be) based on the percentage amount that a host agency earns from the supplier. For example, if your agreement says that you will earn 75% commission, you will want to make sure that you are paid that split from whatever the agency is earning.
When you sign with an agency factor in all of the features, but also find out what their commission structure is. Large volume host agencies earn commissions at the top level tiers. When you factor in all of the benefits of a host, you may find that as a one person sales force it could take you a very long time before earning more than 10 percent with the major suppliers.
FEATURES – There are a whole “host” of benefits that most of the reputable agencies offer. Things to consider are: Is there some type of ongoing training? Do they have staff dedicated just to the needs and training of someone brand new to the industry? Do they have a mentoring program? What does the agency offer seasoned or experienced agents? What type of overall support is available? Is there an agent-to-agent information exchange? Is someone available only during normal business hours, or 24 hours a day? Do you have direct access to the owner or manager?
LIFESTYLE – Take into consideration your client database when doing your search. Are your clients mostly leisure, corporate, or honeymooners? If your clients are mainly leisure, maybe a GDS system is not necessary.
LOCATION – Does it really matter now that most everything has gone electronic? It is more important to find an agency that gives you that “neighborly” feel. Do they “water your plants and pick up your mail” while you are gone, thus supporting your business and clients while you are away?
GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD – A host agency should be in good standing with most of the top associations in the industry that are geared to the needs of home-based agents and host agencies, namely OSSN, NACTA, ASTA, and PATH. PATH (Professional Association of Travel Hosts) is an excellent resource for agents looking for a credible host as they require their members to go through a rigorous business and personal background check. Host agencies must adhere to a strict code of ethics, and are only admitted to PATH if they qualify under the membership requirements. (www.PATH4Hosts.com)
The investment of a good host agency should improve the quality of your business life while living there and increase your overall equity. Just like the participants in the TV show, if you do your research well, you will eventually find the perfect home!
Anita Pagliasso is the author of “How I Made A Small Fortune as a Home-Based Travel Agent” “From Home-Based to POWERHOUSE” and “Anita’s Toolbox for Home-Based Agents CD”(www.redticketproductions.com), President, Host Agency Ticket To Travel (www.travelagentathome.com), Travel Agent Forum Conference Director, and PATH President & Executive Board Member. Finally Anita is also a professional educator with The Travel Institute, www.thetravelinstitute.com.