There is an evolutionary trend in the travel industry by which increasing numbers of experienced agents are becoming independent consultants and more small travel agencies are working with host agencies, according to the National Association of Career Travel Agents and NACTA members.
Ann van Leeuwen (pictured), president of the association which represents independent, “career” or “home-based” travel consultants across Canada and the United States, says some of NACTA’s host agency members are adding and refining resources to help transition smaller agencies to new models of business and to keep experienced consultants in the industry.
“We are seeing an evolutionary trend in which some smaller brick and mortar agencies are turning all or some back office functions over to host agencies and focusing their attention on selling travel. Smaller agencies also are reducing their numbers of employed agents and opting to work with fully independent or hosted consultants,” says van Leeuwen.
She adds that some travel consultants are staying together as networked independent agents — some working with the same host agency — after their own storefront locations disappear.
“All this is good news because struggling smaller agencies have alternatives to parting with their valued agents and going out of business entirely while successful smaller agencies can increase commissions and lessen their workloads,” says van Leeuwen.
NACTA, itself, is adding independent consultant members as a result of this trend.
“We can expand on the resources provided by host agencies to their agents and deliver training, social and travel resources to independent consultants that don’t belong to host agency networks,” she explains.
NACTA host agency members are seeing the potential in servicing small travel agencies as well as individual, independent travel consultants. For example, Nexion Canada is working with a number of small agencies in transition.
“We supply accounting, ticketing support, commission collection and payment and so on, leaving the small agency free to sell, sell, sell,” said Mike Foster, president, Nexion Canada. “We enable higher commissions at less cost for our client agencies so the relationship with us should be revenue neutral or better and carry less risk than going it alone.”
Nexion Canada can help a small agency transition its consultants to independent agents working from home. Foster says this presents an alternative to franchising and saves small agencies the anguish and expense of closing their doors leaving agents with nowhere to go.
“These agencies have the heart of a successful business – the skills, knowledge, and relationships with clients – and with a host agency they can continue to own their own business and focus on what they do best,” says Foster.
NACTA’s van Leeuwen concludes, “With the reform of small agencies and transitioning of employed agents to independent consultants, experienced travel professionals are able to stay in the industry developing and selling highly customized travel with superior personal service.”