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Employee or Independent Travel Agent

In this post I will dive into the differences between an employee and an independent travel agent, or contractor, sometimes called an IA or IC .

Most independent agents focus on leisure travel, but they can be either leisure or corporate. In becoming a travel agent, a question to ask yourself is “do you want to be an employee or be a travel agency owner?” You may know exactly what you want, or you might be leaning one way or the other and need more information.

As an independent travel agent, you will need a strong business acumen.  You will be a business owner and a travel counselor.  With some exceptions, you will get to name your travel  agency, design a logo and create an internet presence so people can find you. The independent travel agent has some definite positive points. You get to set own work schedule, you get “unlimited” time off, you can be mobile and you “own” your clientele, which is a perfect fit for some.

There are also some challenges in becoming a travel agent that works independently, such as no human office-mates, no paid vacation, an unsteady paycheck, and benefits are on your own. Depending on where you are in your life, your goals and maybe even your personality, being an independent travel agent may be exactly what you are looking for.

As a new agent you might think that you should start as an employee and learn as much as you can and then once you’re ready, you will venture out and start your own independent travel agency.

There can be great perks to being with an agency; such as mentoring, clients and not to mention a regular paycheck. However, there are a few things to consider before going the route of starting with a travel agency with the intention of going out on your own.

  • The travel agency owner is making an investment in you, especially in the early years when your bookings will likely not cover your salary.
  • While you are an asset, you are also a cost to the travel agency.
  • When and if you decide to venture out on your own, the clientele you have built a relationship with, belongs to the travel agency.
  • As you start your new travel agency, you will be starting from scratch without a salary and building a new clientele.
  • You may also be working in the same town as your previous travel agency, which means now you are competitors.

If you think you want to be an independent travel agent, take the plunge and start there, because guess what? If you don’t like it and later you want to apply for that agency job, you will have experience and a clientele, which makes you a great candidate.

If you decide that you want to be an independent travel agent, you are setting up a small business and you will have to fulfill whatever licensing your state, county or city requires. Usually you get to pick a company name, build your own brand and be in charge of the marketing. Travel agency credentials are required by most suppliers in order to make reservations on behalf of a client, track your bookings and to get paid a commission. The main entities that provide these are ARC, IATA and CLIA. Did I mention that we turn acronyms into words in the travel industry?

All of these have requirements and there are costs involved to obtain them. Once you have all of your ducks in a row, you can begin to make bookings on behalf of your clients.