Young woman working on a laptop while her daughter is drawing.

Why Independent Travel Advisors affiliate with Host Agencies

Adding more detail to the last post, you may wonder why an Independent travel advisor would want to affiliate themselves with a host travel agency? In the days before travel agencies “hosted” travel advisors, those that worked on commission were commonly called “outside agents”. The term Independent Contractor did a better job of classifying them as non-employees to avoid managers crossing the line between what they could ask and expect of an employee versus their outside agent or contractor. While the common term is Independent Contractor, or I.C., lately I hear them also referred to as Independent Agents or I.A.

As an independent agent, I highly recommend researching the option of becoming affiliated with a host or hybrid agency. You can likely get your new business off the ground with less initial investment of your time and money. By affiliating as an I.C. with a host agency, you are not required to get your own agency credentials, you get to use the agency’s credentials. To your clients, you are Travel by Tracy, but when you contact a supplier, such as a cruise line or hotel, you are Tracy, an agent with your host travel agency. This is sometimes referred to as a dual identity.

There are advantages to affiliating with a host travel agency when starting as an independent agent.

  • Often you are paid higher commission percentages. You qualify for the commission level your agency has negotiated, even if this is your 1st booking.
  • Access to the affiliate agency’s booking tools, advertising and marketing initiatives.
  • Commission tracking is usually done for you and the agency simply deposits your portion into your business bank account.
  • Support, a sense of belonging to a larger organization and the ability to network with a professional community.

As an independent agent working as a contractor, you will fill out a W-9. Each year, you will get a 1099 from your affiliated agency stating the amount of commission they paid to you and this is submitted with your tax return.

In return for the services and relationship with your affiliated agency, there will usually be a monthly fee and/or commission split. These costs will vary between agencies.

If you are interested in being an independent contractor, consider interviewing several host agencies. Look for reputation, culture, support, solid financials and good terms. They are interviewing you, but you are also interviewing them. When selecting a host agency, you want to choose one that offers the “total package”. What are their booking and marketing tools, you’re your access to training and support.

If you are brand new to travel, consider what specific new agent training they offer, beyond a database of recorded webinars. Most will not have training for a new travel agent, so you may want to consider investing in a travel agent training program.

Ultimately your success is their success and you want to be affiliated with an agency that understands and supports that culture.