Independent Agents Face Tough Choices
by Robin Amster

In today’s increasingly complex travel industry, independent agents are faced with a confusing array of business models. And the list of options is growing, according to Ann van Leeuwen, CTIE, vice president of the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA).

In a panel discussion yesterday at ASTA’s Global Convention in Miami, moderator Van Leeuwen said today’s independent contractors must choose from a set of “complex and overlapping options.”

“There are a lot of choices,” agreed panelist Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion. “The important thing is what’s  important to you, what kind of travel you sell, what kind of vendors you want to deal with.”

Panelists outlined the pros and cons of the choices for independent and home-based agents. These include: 1) affiliating as an agency with a traditional consortium or with a consortium like NEST, which focuses solely on home-based agents; 2) affiliating as an independent with a host agency, or 3) joining a franchise agency operation.

Home-based independent agents also might opt to join the staff of a traditional travel agency and continue working from home as agency employees

Consider your vendors
Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer of NEST, advised agents to look at who their top five vendors are when choosing an affiliation and business model. “Those vendors should be aligned with your host or consortium.”

Friedman said that host agencies and consortia give agents flexibility, while a franchise operation offers “branding in a box” but subjects agents to stricter contractual requirements.

Stephanie Lee, founder of Host Agency Reviews, a company she called the Yelp of host agencies, called the host agency option “a good fit for new agents.”

Independent agents also can opt to affiliate with several hosts for different aspects of their business. The beauty of this, Lee said, is that “you have an ala carte situation.” The “dark side” is that the arrangement might dilute the agent’s volume. “You’re not giving the host 100% of your bookings, so they won’t give you their all.”

Branding is critical
Regardless of their business model, all agents need a strong focus on education and branding, said Mazza.

Engaging with an industry association, as well as getting an industry certification, is a good move, but associations are not the same. “Find one that aligns with your business model,” she said.

Industry certification is also key and advantageous in several ways. Being listed as a specialist on a destination or tour op website is also a mechanism for lead generation, she added.

“Branding is everything,” Mazza added. An agent’s “brand” should be on everything agents send out and should be consistent in how it looks.

“It’s a reflection of who you are,” she said.



  0
  0
Comment:
You must be logged in to leave a comment Login | Register
Tip of the Day
In the rare event of a circumstance requiring attention, no matter the scale, we will keep them fully informed and agents can be confident that we are with their clients all the way, taking care of all the details and making certain they feel at ease.
 
Phil Cappelli
President, Insight
Daily Top List

Highest Ranked Airports for Getting to the Terminal (Large-Hub)

1. Salt Lake City International (87.8%)

2. Tampa International (82.1%)

3. Charlotte/Douglas International (78.9%)

4. Denver International (77%)

5. Orlando International (76.8%)

Source: Phoenix Marketing International 

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Travel Agents Go Back To School At Delta Vacations University
Travel Agents Go Back To School At Delta Vacations University

Millennials and romance are hot; independent agents are growing by ‘double and triple digits,’ say attendees at Delta Vacations’ biggest training session ever.

Signature’s Ignacio Maza Talks Hotel Trends, Cuba And Mergers
Signature’s Ignacio Maza Talks Hotel Trends, Cuba And Mergers

The head of Signature’s Hotel & Resorts program took some time at last week’s owner’s meeting in San Francisco to talk to TMR about trends in the marketplace.

Optimism Rules At Signature Meeting
Optimism Rules At Signature Meeting

Over 200 agency owners from the Signature Travel Network gathered in San Francisco last week. Here are some highlights.

Assessing Marriott Hotels’ Direct Discounts Program Six Months Later
Assessing Marriott Hotels’ Direct Discounts Program Six Months Later

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson will be center stage at ASTA Global next week.

Destination Wedding Company Shutdown Shines Light On Insurance
Destination Wedding Company Shutdown Shines Light On Insurance

With tens of thousands of dollars at risk, agency clients should consider destination wedding insurance.

In Signature’s 60th Year, The Travel Agent Business Is Booming
In Signature’s 60th Year, The Travel Agent Business Is Booming

In an ever-more-competitive market, the travel professional channel is strong.

News Briefs
Advertiser's Voice
Travel Market Report Spotlight: Celebrity Cocktails