How to Find the Best Travel Agent Host Agency

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Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora Travel

    Excellent support, great partners, high-tech (but user-friendly) tools, commission splits, training and more…a lot of things go into a top-tier travel agent host agency. If you’re on your way to becoming an independent travel agent, one of the first things you’ll do is find a host agency to work with. This guide breaks down all the benefits and things to look for in the best travel agencies.

    What is a travel agent host agency?

    Travel agent host agencies — or simply, host agencies — are essentially a company that provides support and resources to support your business as a travel advisor. 

    Offerings differ from host agency to host agency, but you can expect training, administration resources, a commission split structure (learn how travel agent commissions work), preferred partner affiliation and more. 

    How do host travel agencies work? What exactly do they do?

    When you work with a host agency, think of them as a resource for your small business. As an independent travel advisor, you’ll still make your own schedule and manage most other aspects of your business. 

    The host agency is there to set you up with the resources, infrastructure and tools you need to run your business. This can range from providing access to an IATA number (saving you a lot of legal paperwork) down to commission tracking and payments (although it’s worth noting that not all host agencies provide this type of payment service… more on that below). 

    Host agencies offer independent travel advisors the support and scale of a larger business affiliation

    Working with a host agency means that your small business also has the scale of a larger business affiliation. Since host travel agencies are made up of a network of lots of travel advisors, travel partners will see bookings coming in from other advisors within your host agency network. This means that your clients will benefit from that booking volume and name recognition. 

    In addition, it means most travel agent host agencies have the resources and bargaining power to partner with top supplier brands around the world, helping to facilitate preferred partner programs and perks. Rather than having to create individual agreements with the thousands of hotel groups and other suppliers around the world, a travel advisor can work with a host agency to take advantage of its pre-existing partnerships. Many of these partnerships require a minimum amount of bookings, which are often only attainable with the scale a host agency can provide. 

    At Fora, we’re part of every major preferred partner program, ranging from Four Seasons Preferred to Virtuoso, as well as our own in-house program, Fora Reserve. 

    8 benefits of working with (& things to look for in) a host agency

    When looking for the best travel agency, consider the benefits and things to look for that we’ve listed below. 

    1. The travel agent host agency offers comprehensive training

    The best host agencies to work for provide in-depth travel agent classes that cover everything from the basics of booking a hotel to advanced itinerary planning and more. Especially if you’re new to the industry, you’ll want a host agency with a robust training curriculum. It’s worth noting that working as a travel advisor is an ongoing learning process (there are endless destinations to learn about, after all), so you’ll want to find a host agency that has ongoing training for every stage of your career. 

    At Fora, we offer a comprehensive, 30-day certification and travel agent training that is online and you can take at your own pace. The initial certification program sets you up with everything you need to kickstart your business. Then, we have ongoing destination and supplier spotlights each week, as well as an advanced certification program. We are also introducing badges to learn about specific subsets, such as marketing yourself, becoming a cruise travel agent and more. And every year, we host Live Forum, an in-person summit to help you level up your travel advisor business.  

    Read more: How to Become a Travel Agent Online: Fora's Full Guide

    2. It has the preferred partnerships you’re looking for

    If you have specific properties in mind that you want to book for clients, you’ll want to make sure that your host agency has the right partnerships to make those bookings. As a travel advisor, you’ll be able to book the same properties pretty much anywhere — but host agencies will be part of different preferred partner programs (or sometimes, not in those preferred partnerships). 

    For background, top-tier host travel agencies are typically partnered with dozens or hundreds of reputable suppliers around the world, from destination management companies to hotel groups and more. These partnerships are often invitation-only, and allow an agency’s travel advisors to offer an extensive variety of travel perks and other benefits. For example, if you have a client who wants to book at a Rosewood property, you’ll want an agency that is part of Rosewood Elite so that you can offer your clients perks like room upgrades, spa credits and more. 

    Preferred partnership programs also often come with increased commissions, so you’ll earn more by booking through an agency that is part of a preferred program. 

    Fora is part of every major preferred partnership program. We also have Fora Reserve, our in-house preferred partnership program. Fora Reserve is made up of many smaller and independent hotels, as well as a wider variety of lifestyle options you can offer your clients. 

    In addition to preferred partnership programs, you’ll also want to think about networking opportunities. Connecting with travel professionals at the brands you’re excited about is a great way to help build relationships so that you can VIP your clients. You’ll want to find a host agency that prioritizes networking opportunities, for example. 

    The best host agencies will set up meetings between travel advisors and suppliers. This grants advisors firsthand knowledge of partner programs and offerings, allowing them to better serve their clients. We facilitate both online and in real life connections for our network of advisors. 

    3. It has a fair commission split, and (ideally) offers commission tracking & payment 

    When you work with a host agency, you’ll split your commission with your agency. A host agency is able to offer the resources and framework of a host agency because of this business model that is a win/win for advisors & agencies. The gist of it is that by working with a host agency, you’ll share a small portion of your commission with your agency in exchange for all of the business tools that the agency offers you. (Learn more about how travel agents get paid).

    Different host agencies have different commission splits, depending on their business model. It’s tempting to compare a 60/40 split or 70/30 split on the surface, but keep in mind that there’s more that meets the eye. For example, if the host agency is part of a preferred partnership program that offers higher commissions, then your earnings as an advisor could still be higher (even if you technically have a lower commission split than at another agency). 

    Another factor to consider is how the host agency handles commission tracking and payments. Many host agencies expect their travel advisors to do this on their own. This is a lot of paperwork, invoicing, and often, follow-ups. At Fora, we handle all of the commission tracking and payments for our advisors, so you can focus on more of the fun stuff: travel planning. 

    4. The host travel agency provides the tools you need

    As a small business owner, there are a lot of tools you’ll need to run your day-to-day business. Some host agencies offer a lot of resources, and some are very hands-off. 

    These are also business expenses to keep in mind... (Get more in our guide: How much does it cost to become a travel agent?). As with any business, there are many things you’ll need to invest in to start and maintain a travel agent career. Look at the full costs of your business and what you’ll need to run it. Make a plan before you start shopping for a host agency so you have an idea of what you want to prioritize. Then, look at the full package of everything you get. You don’t want to piecemeal a bunch of different things (and expenses) together to launch your business.

    The best travel agencies to work for provide a significant amount of assistance in this regard. The tools they provide don’t just save you time; they save you money, too.

    We offer a one-stop shop of everything you’ll need to run your travel advisor business as part of a flat monthly fee. When you join, you’ll have access to your Advisor Portal — an all-in-one platform experience with bookings & client data management, marketing tools and templates, our entire training curriculum and more. Plus, we know that as a travel advisor, you’re often on-the-go, so Fora’s Portal is designed to work just as well from your smartphone as it does from your laptop. 

    Some of our favorite tech tools include an easy and secure way to store client information, and our  integrated booking platform.

    Find a host agency that has comprehensive offerings of everything you’ll want in your business suite.

    6. It fits your lifestyle

    Look for an agency that aligns with your business goals and lifestyle. If you’re looking to work part-time or you are just starting out and ramping up your business, a host agency with a high booking minimum likely isn’t right for you. If you’re looking to learn on-the-go, you’ll also want one with a flexible training program that you can take online. 

    We do not have booking quotas or sales minimums at Fora. We have both in-person and online training programs that you can take at your own pace. 

    7. The agency will help you grow your business 

    The best travel agencies to work with are there to help you build your business. They are available for ongoing career development, mentorship opportunities and offer the support and resources you need. 

    Marketing is a big part of how a host agency can support their advisors. Whether it’s providing marketing assets to make it easier to promote your business or a professional landing page online, there are a lot of ways that a host agency can support your business growth. Learn more about how Fora helps our advisors build their book of business.

    8. The host agency has an inclusive & collaborative culture

    Being an 'IC' (independent contractor) at a host agency can be a pretty lonely experience. As a travel advisor, you’re often working remotely, and this means it can be easy to miss the social aspect of work. The best agencies facilitate a welcoming atmosphere built around cooperation, with advisors sharing tips and intel in a way that benefits everyone.

    We have a highly collaborative and community-driven approach at Fora, but don’t just take our word for it… 

    "I chose Fora because it's an inclusive community,” Fora Advisor Alexandra Vigilante Chamberlin said. “Fora fosters and nurtures its newest agents and provides mentorship that encourages growth and meeting your maximum potential as an advisor.” 

    “I showed up with no previous travel industry experience, but a commitment to learning everything I could,” Alexandra continued.“ Fora gave me the tools that empower me to create my own unique travel business, and enables me to share my point of view with my clients while also continuously learning from all the members of its diverse community."

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    When you join Fora, you’ll get access to Forum, our community app. You’ll immediately be able to connect with fellow travel lovers and advisors who are there to cheer you along every step of the way. We also have local Chapters for in-person connections.

    What makes Fora one of the best travel agencies to work with?

    In addition to offering all of the benefits mentioned above, read more about the reasons to become a Fora Advisor from our advisors themselves.

    Connect with Fora to join a travel agent host agency that sets you up for success

    Ready to start your travel advisor career? Apply to become a Fora Advisor today.

    Travel agent host agency FAQs

    Read on for answers to a few general questions about travel agent host agencies.

    Do host travel agencies cost money?

    It depends on the host agency. It is not uncommon to have fees associated with joining a host agency, and the framework will differ from agency to agency. Some do not charge a fee to join, but they do have strict sales quotas that you must meet annually in order to stay affiliated with the host agency. Others are technically free but they have costly training programs that are required. Each host agency is different.

    At Fora, we have a membership fee with an approachable monthly cost to provide you with everything you need to run your travel advisor business. There are no booking or sales quotas. 

    Does a travel agent need a host agency?

    You don’t need a host agency, but having one makes the life of a travel advisor much easier. (Otherwise, you might ask if being a travel agent is worth it.) Most independent travel advisors work with a host agency.

    As a travel agent, how do I join a host agency?

    Find a host agency that you like, and then take the next steps to join that agency. 

    Some host agencies may require prior travel agent education. But this is increasingly uncommon, and most offer in-house training of some sort.

    At Fora, to get started, you apply to become a Fora Advisor. The process is relatively straightforward: you’ll submit your email and complete our application to share more about yourself. Once your application is accepted, sign up for one of our membership plans.

    More travel advisor resources

    Looking for more travel advisor resources? Check out these guides, too:


    Author - Fora Travel
    Fora Travel

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