Will the "Real" Travel Agent Please Stand Up!

Uncategorized May 01, 2019

Last week, someone posted in an online group that she only wanted to share ideas with those she considered to be “legitimate” travel agents.  She had particularly strong feelings about who was real and those who didn’t make the cut – especially those affiliated with network marketing companies.

I found this interesting because the group members (including her) tend to be independent, home-based cruise focused professionals.

I love this industry. There are as many ways to sell travel as there are people selling it. For most suppliers, the travel agency channel is just one of many they utilize to sell inventory. 

Independent travel professionals representing a number of business models are the lifeblood of the distribution system, so in light of this individual’s ignorance, a short history lesson is in order.

Today, a focus on cruising is widely accepted, but this was not always the case.  Cruise agents were excluded from joining industry trade groups because they did not sell airline tickets and therefore were not considered to be “real” travel professionals.  Many hotel and tour companies would not accept their bookings because they did not have an IATA number.

Then in 1995, the major airlines stopped paying commission and many retail agencies closed their doors.  Suddenly, the cruise-only model became accepted as a legitimate business.  Agents, unable to find employment, either left the industry or began working independently from home. 

For many years, independent agents were not considered “real professionals” because they did not work in a retail office.  Many suppliers refused to recognize them, in large part because they didn’t know how to service them.  Enter the host agency model:  independent, mostly home-based agents operating under a single company which provided operational and marketing services for a portion of the commission. 

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that these models became widely accepted.  A growing number of suppliers now recognized the power of home-based agents, but still had not yet figured out how to provide support without fully disrupting their own antiquated business practices.

While you may fundamentally disagree with a business model, it does not mean it is illegal or unethical.  Legitimacy is ultimately determined by the suppliers based on how they choose to distribute their products. 

Remember, cruise-only and home-based agents were not always widely accepted as they are today.

Until the industry becomes government-regulated like real estate and insurance—which is highly unlikely and rather than complaining about who’s a legitimate or real travel professional, simply become a better choice for the consumer. 

Dan Chappelle is a sales performance coach, professional business advisor, and best-selling author.  His training and consulting firm help develop sales focused business leaders and entrepreneurs in the travel and tourism industry. His book, Get Your S.H.I.P. Together: The Wealthy Travel Agent Guide to Sales is available on Amazon.com.

For information on the Wealthy Travel Agent Academy’s business building programs, visit: www.DanChappelle.com

©2019 Dan Chappelle, CCI Inc.

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