Host agencies come in all different sizes and business models, but their issues are generally the same: Working more effectively with suppliers and trying to eliminate fraudulent airline ticket purchases often top their lists of concerns.
Those topics are expected to be discussed at the Professional Association of Travel Hosts’ (PATH) annual symposium, this year scheduled for May 16 to 17 at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
“We’re working on the roster of speakers who can discuss important issues, but we find that what people really enjoy is the camaraderie and the networking among the host agencies,” said Anita Pagliasso, PATH president and owner of Ticket to Travel, an agency based in San Jose, Calif.
The symposium is open to members and nonmembers of PATH, an organization comprising 23 host agencies across the country. Membership is restricted to host agencies with a minimum of 25 independent contractors.
Pagliasso said PATH’s mission is getting more recognition for home-based agents and their hosts.
“Suppliers have recognized that we exist and some, such as Globus and Celebrity Cruises, have created departments serving us,” she said. “It’s a big turnaround from when I started in 1992, when I was called a “kitchen table Mabel.’”
PATH hopes to encourage more suppliers to reach out to independent contractors, many of whom work with host agencies located in a different region of the country. “One of the issues that we have is that there may be a host agency in San Jose, for example, and an independent contractor in North Carolina, but the supplier doesn’t recognize that North Carolina agent, who doesn’t get support or invitations to training and events in her area from the local [district sales manager].”
Some suppliers are starting to recognize this issue and providing national training calendars so that independent contractors have more access to information. Suppliers’ educational webinars help, but sometimes agents need face-to-face contact, Pagliasso said.
“For anyone who works from home, there are times you want to go and network with people and have hands-on training in a more personal setting. Webinars are easy to access, but you’ll find agents want to get to local events. And they sometimes don’t get the information.”
The PATH symposium will include opportunities to discuss host needs with suppliers. PATH will also have speakers to discuss best practices, seller-of-travel laws and other legal issues. For more, see www.path4hosts.com