How to Obtain Travel Agent Discounts

The myth of a simple and easy discount for anyone who gets their hands on a travel agent number is exactly that—a myth. Companies often dupe consumers who purchase memberships in a travel club or designation as an outside salesperson. To get real discounts as a travel agent, you typically need to become a full-fledged travel agent. Once you fulfil the various regulations of one of the many accrediting agencies or build your own relationships, you can then get minor discounts and commissions directly through participating hotels, cruise lines, car-rental agencies and tour companies.

Become an accredited travel agent or consultant. Although anyone can become a travel agent without being officially accredited, many hotels, car-rental companies and other companies require you to have official accreditation to sign up for their discount programs. The list of official accrediting agencies includes the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Becoming a fully accredited agent entails being bonded, agreeing to maintain proper records and paying an application fee that can be as high as £1,040. You might want to consider becoming an accredited travel consultant instead. Consultants can't issue tickets, but they still enjoy the same discounts. Refer to the exact requirements of the accrediting agencies, as fees and programs vary.

To apply, you'll generally be given a background and credit check, have to submit a tax ID and any required state licenses, and establish a bank account with the accrediting agency.

You can also become part of a host agency in which you receive many of the same discounts but work through the agency. These agencies include American Express Travel, AAA Vacations and many others. Each of these agencies has its own list of requirements and discounts, but joining a host agency is probably the easiest way for a part-time travel agent to get discounts. The National Association of Career Travel Agents provides a full list of reliable agents.

Register with desired companies. While airlines no longer provide discounts and commissions to travel agents, most hotels, car-rental agencies, cruise lines and tour operators do. Each company typically has a travel agency program that requires you to register with your official IATA/ARC/CLIA number. Once registered, you're eligible for various discounts and commissions.

Major hotel chains include Starwood Hotels, Choice Hotels, InterContinental HG, Marriott and Hilton. Major car-rental agencies include Budget, Alamo, Enterprise, National, Hertz, Thrifty, Dollar and Advantage. Major cruise lines include Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America.

Work directly with independent hotels and tour operators. Whether you're an accredited agent or not, many companies and privately owned hotels will give you a discount if you bring them business. Establish a relationship with individual companies to which you can refer travellers. Especially during slow seasons and downturns in the economy, many hotel operators are willing to negotiate.

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