The decision to affiliate with three host agencies has proven to be a successful business model for independent travel agent Carol Rodgers.
Rodgers, ACC, of Fort Lauderdale-based Carol Rodgers Travel, is aware of the potential downsides of multiple affiliations cited by host agencies. But she believes the positives far outweigh the negatives for her business.
Unlike some independents, who ally with multiple hosts in order to chase higher commissions, Rogers views the arrangement as the best way to serve her clients’ varied needs.
Ironically, this sometimes means she earns lower commissions, she said.
Rodgers has been a travel agent since 1991, first with Certified Vacations in Fort Lauderdale and later with a small Florida agency that was affiliated with the now bankrupt host agency Joystar.
She launched Carol Rodgers Travel in 2006. Her first host agency was Cruise.com, which is a member of the Vacation.com consortium. About two years ago, she affiliated with Oasis, a host agency that belongs to Signature Travel Network.
A few months ago, Rodgers joined a third host: World View Travel in Coral Springs, Fla., a Virtuoso member agency.
Different hosts for different needs
“Each of the hosts serves a different market overall,” said Rodgers.
Cruise.com and Vacation.com offer her “probably the most robust group cruise program, but not a lot of high-end [options],” she said.
In order to fill the gap for up-market product, Rodgers joined Oasis and World View which gives her access to the Signature and Virtuoso programs.
“I believe if I keep clients’ interests at the forefront I’ll be okay,” said Rodgers. “So I’ll shop things. If someone wants XYZ cruise, I’ll take a look at all three hosts for the best deal for my client.”
Having multiple hosts, “enables me to be as competitive as possible,” Rodgers said. “That doesn’t always work out the best for me personally in terms of commissions but chasing commissions goes against my grain.”
As it is, Rodgers earns a healthy $100,000 a year in commissions.
Rodgers gave an example of choosing her client over the commission.
She said she would have earned a higher commission if she had booked a client on a Silversea cruise through Cruise.com. However, Signature was offering an attractive onboard credit on the particular sailing the couple wanted, so she booked the trip through Oasis, her host affiliated with the Signature consortium.
“You want that client to come back to you,” said Rodgers.
Rodgers doesn’t advertise; she tired that that a few years ago, with little result. “I overlook commissions in favor of what’s good for the client – I look at that as my advertising budget.
“I do get results from referrals and I work 100% from referrals,” she said.
Keeping it all straight
Rodgers knows of the potential for problems when an agent has multiple hosts.
“I think people are always amazed when I say I have a few hosts; their first response is how do you keep everything straight,” she said.
“Part of my recordkeeping is always who I booked with,” she said.
She pointed out that every host has a different means of reporting business, different passwords and other differences of that kind. “It slows me down a little but I think it’s worth it,” she said.
Spreading her business among three host agencies – and their preferred suppliers – is a concern, Rodgers acknowledged.
“One concern is that none of my hosts thinks I’m a big producer,” she said, although she did once land on Oasis’ list of top 10 ICs, as measured by overall volume.
“If I put all of my business with one host, I’d probably be treated a little bit more royally by that particular host,” Rodgers said. “But I do well enough with them that I get listened to.”