How to Find Your Perfect Host Travel Agency!

By now you should have a well defined basis to begin searching for a host agency. And, the objective is to find the perfect host agency for your business. With well over 250 different host agencies listed on currently, you can see how challenging this might become.

You should have established your core business concept, your business structure and name, UVP, logo and stationery. Based on this information you should start a shopping list of features a host agency may be able to provide you that would be beneficial to your specific business. Here are some of the elements you may want to include

What products are you going to sell?
What market level are you going to sell to?
What suppliers, niches or destinations are you going to sell?
What training and support do you need or want?
What technology do you need or want?
What kind of backroom support do you need or want?
Is a consumer website important to your business plan?

The more definitive that you can be in describing the various elements that you will need for your business, the more successful you will be at finding your perfect host agency.

Types of Host Agencies
While the term “host agency” conjures up a rather generalized image of a business that supports independent travel agents, there are really several different types of host agencies.

Local Host Agency
A local host agency is just that. It could be a brick and mortar agency, or home based that works with independent agents, or a regional host agency that just happens to be located locally. There are many benefits to working with a local host agency including access to the office to facilitate client meetings, operational issues, an established local relationship with your community and many other benefits. The drawbacks might be that the local agency may not have relationships with the suppliers that you want to sell and there would not be any synergy to motivate a supplier to help you individually sell their products.

Regional Host Agencies
Regional host agencies may specialize in a regional market that is also consistent with a regional cooperative, consortia or supplier marketing area. A supplier who markets in only the 11 Western states may find a regional host agency with the same reach much more attractive than a national host agency and would reward them with high commissions, overrides and marketing support. If you intend on working with a regional supplier, be sure to ask them if there is a host agency they would recommend that they support. The drawbacks of working with a regional host is that they might not garner the same amount of attention from national suppliers as a national host agency would.

National Host Agency
National host agencies tend to be the largest of the hosts and may generate a large volume of sales for national suppliers. Large cruise lines, tour operators, all inclusive resort chains and others find national host agencies a viable marketing partner. Of course, the national host agencies generally receive large commissions and overrides from national suppliers making them the best choice if that is going to be your market. The drawback of aligning your business with a national host agency might be that you could get lost among the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other independent agencies that they work with.

Small Host Agencies
Generally, hosts with revenues that fall below $5 million are considered small host agencies.  Small agencies may, or may not be a bad thing. Again, it is all in what you are looking for. A smaller agency may be in a better position to support your business if it is consistent with theirs. While $5 million in annual sales isn’t going to light the world on fire, if it is focused on a few niche suppliers, it may be very important to them. One drawback with working through a small host agency may be their financial stability or overall clout in the industry.

Cruise Oriented Host Agencies
If you plan on selling cruises primarily, a cruise oriented host agency may be your hot ticket to success. There are both cruise oriented franchise opportunities, such as Cruise Planners and cruise oriented host agencies and both will offer high commissions, overrides, knowledge and support. You should explore both as viable solutions. Once referred to as “cruise only” hosts, virtually all cruise oriented host agencies also do a tremendous amount of tour sales, as well.

Niche Host Agencies
If your focus is on selling a rather narrow travel niche, there is probably a host agency that lives right up your alley. Destination weddings, river cruises, high-end all inclusive resorts are all examples of travel niches that host agencies specialize in. Working with a niche host agency is a fast track to developing the niche expertise and presence that you need to succeed. A drawback might be that outside of their niche that they offer little in the way of industry presence.

Corporate Host Agencies
If you intend to specialize in selling business travel to corporations, then you will probably want a host agency that specializes in business and commercial travel. GDS access, back room support, reporting and quality control are all features that a corporate host agency will offer to support you in your business. One drawback may be the lack of a presence in leisure markets.

Leisure Oriented Host Agencies
Most large host agencies focus on the leisure side of the business. They offer high commissions, overrides and promotional support. This isn’t to say that they do not also offer support for commercial business, but their focus is primarily selling leisure products. They may belong to a consortium and also have there own direct supplier relationships. Most leisure oriented host agencies offer some sort of marketing program that my include leads, like Avoya Travel. One drawback with working for a leisure oriented host agency is that they may work with thousands of independent agencies and have little operational flexibility and support.

As you can see, the more you understand your unique needs for your business, the easier it will be to find the perfect host agency for you. Be sure to read the next article and watch the video on “Interviewing a Host Agency” to help you along your way.


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