Dear Tammy: I have been working for someone else for several years and I’m ready to open my own agency. However, I keep hearing that I need a host and that it’s not easy to fly solo. What are your thoughts?
Tammy: Boy, I’m glad I didn’t listen to anyone and what they thought was the right or wrong way to start my business. If I did, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I opened Elite Travel Agency at the worst time of my life, when I was $180,000 in debt from a failed jewelry business. If you’re not sure how I did that, please pick up my autobiography “Sink or Swim” and read my back story. I didn’t need a host agency and neither do you.
Hosts came around after the attacks on 9/11, when agencies were shutting down and agents needed a home. I call them “group” homes. Joking aside, host agencies are bonded, accredited agencies and the home-based agent makes their bookings through them. The host agency provides the same number for their agents to use during bookings. As a result, it looks like one agency.
Unfortunately, host agencies have taken over the industry, with some of them misleading agents about their future, advising them that they cannot open their own agencies without a host. This is so not true. Here is all you really need to get started in your own business:
1. A CLIA number: This is an ID number issued by the Cruise Lines International Association, so you can sell travel.
2. Insurance: Protect your business by having insurance, including errors & omissions – E&O – and liability insurance. Check the laws of the state you live in to make sure you have the required insurance.
3. Sellers of Travel Registration: Depending on your state you need a sellers of travel registration with the Department of Agriculture. For example, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture, sellers of travel law requires any person or business who is a seller or promoter of travel related services to register annually with the department, unless exempt. Sellers of travel are required to provide proof of assurance in the form of a performance bond, in an amount not to exceed $25,000, or $50,000 if they sell vacation certificates.
That's it. Then you need great training to get your brain reprogrammed on how the travel industry really works. My fellow agents, all you need to do is claim your independence! You can free yourself from the ball and chain that is a host agency if you understand that you can book your own deals, negotiate with your vendors and make a presence for yourself in the travel industry. All it takes is persistence and hard work. Once you figure out how to make your own decision, you will make the presence in the industry and your name and your brand will be number one.
The results will shock you when you realize how much more money there is to make on your own. I actually have a free webinar on this on my site.