The travel industry offers opportunities to start a home-based business. The best way to get started is to affiliate with a host travel agency. Independent travel agents, those not affiliated with any host agency, retain 100 per cent of their travel booking commissions, but are also responsible for tracking those commissions and handling all the accounting and establishing relationships with suppliers. It is recommended that only experienced travel agents attempt to start their business fully independent of a travel host.
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Align with a host travel agency. These agencies provide independent contractors with the support of an established business. This usually includes your initial travel agent training, back-office accounting, commission tracking, and a booking engine. A host agency, due to its sales volume, can negotiate higher commissions than an individual with little to no sales volume. Other benefits include access to the host agency's consortium, which offers great travel deals for your clients, and use of its worldwide industry-recognised travel agency credentials (CLIA, IATAN, TRUE, ARC), which allow you to book travel products and services directly with travel suppliers and receive travel supplier training (provided you meet the qualifications).
Find a host travel agency. Network with individuals who are working in the home-based travel agent market and obtain referrals so you can make an informed decision. Visit the host's website, find out what type of support is available and what benefits are offered, and ask about the firm's affiliations, licenses and other credentials. Contact the Better Business Bureau to check the host's credentials. For a list of host agencies from around the country, visit the Home Based Travel Agency Network online (see Resources).
Compare fees and benefits. Host travel agencies vary widely in terms of the benefits they offer, the percentage of commissions they pay, the type of training you receive, the support available, and whether supplemental income is paid for other activities, such as referring new business to the host agency. For example, one agency might not charge a "start-up fee," while another might charge as much as £487 (2009 prices). Some agencies charge monthly fees to pay for the cost of shipping supplies to their agents. Balance costs and revenues. Agencies that offer higher commissions often charge higher monthly fees.
Inquire about tracking. Some host agencies require you to submit tracking forms to verify your commission. The better agencies will track sales and commissions for you.
Purchase error and omissions insurance if it is not already included in the host agency's travel agent agreement. Many host agencies include this coverage as one of their benefits, but you also can purchase it through sites such as Travel Agent Protect or The Berkely Group (see Resources).
Ask about ongoing education. Agencies that offer free seminars give you the opportunity to learn from other agents who successfully run businesses out of their homes. Check whether the company offers online courses and interactive training.
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