Insight Agent Issues Insight Choosing the right host agency By Laura Del Rosso / February 28, 2016 Share 1 -- Deciding which host travel agency is the right fit is one of the most critical decisions an independent agent has to make, and there are steps to take to avoid making a bad choice, said Joanie Ogg, a travel industry veteran who owns the Ogg Marketing Group with her husband, Tom. The company operates the sites homebasedtravelagent.com, findahosttravelagency.com and travelprofessionalcommunity.com.Not all independent agents join host agencies, but the vast majority do because affiliation with a host provides ease of entry into the industry and many benefits, particularly override commissions, back-room accounting support, technology, networking and marketing help, Ogg said.“There are hundreds and hundreds of host agencies,” Ogg said during a webinar for the Travel Institute. “There has been a proliferation of different business models, and there is no regulation. Anyone can call themselves a host agency.”Ogg warned of “unsavory” people who have created “scam” host agencies, such as card mills that profit by selling memberships rather than travel products.“It makes it difficult to find your way,” she said. Be wary of companies offering 100% commission for an upfront payment or anyone who claims you'll “travel like a travel agent.”However, there are plenty of quality host agencies that are financially stable and professional, Ogg said. Agents need to research and conduct a careful interview with prospective hosts before signing a contract.First, determine what kind of support you'd like from a host, the specialties you'll focus on and whether you'd like specific services such as consumer leads or a certain type of technology.Narrow your candidates to three to five and create a spreadsheet with key elements that you're looking for. Then, conduct interviews of prospective host agencies.Ogg suggested agents ask those hosts the following questions before coming to a decision:How long have you been in business, and how many agents do you have? What is your staffing-to-agent ratio?What are the ideal characteristics of your agents?What is the average sales volume per agent? This figure can reflect how serious the company and its agents are about selling travel.What are your preferred suppliers? This will show if the company is a match for your specialties.What consortium do you belong to? Each has its own value proposition to agents. Make sure it's the right fit for you.What technology do you use? This could be a huge factor if you're looking for a particular GDS, CRM tool or accounting system.What training do you offer? Most hosts offer ongoing training, webinars, conventions and other types of education and networking opportunities. If you're a veteran agent and the company is geared to newcomers, it might not be a good fit.If you're a new agent, do they offer a mentoring program to help you?Does the company offer consumer leads? Decide whether it's something you'd like.What does the company offer you that will help you sell your specialty?Are there any additional benefits for me?What is the total cost to get involved with the host agency? Hosts should disclose all their costs.When you've completed the interviews, analyze the results and determine who seemed the most interested in you, who has the most compatible features and benefits for your specialties and who had the synergies that motivated you, Ogg said.“Host agencies come in all shapes and sizes, and it's important to choose wisely,” she said.