New PATH board's advice: Do homework before signing with host

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With its new board of directors in place, the Professional Association for Travel Hosts is setting goals and planning business objectives for the remainder of the year. One of the priorities will be educating independent retailers about how to choose a host agency.

"The unfortunate situation with Joystar and YTB demonstrates the need for agents to be knowledgeable before they sign with a host," said Mike Neidhardt of Cruises-N-More, who earlier this year was elected board director and co-chair of PATH's Supplier Relations Committee. "We need to be proactive and provide them with the necessary tools to evaluate host agencies."

CLIA, he said, "needs to do a cursory background check before issuing a number. Presently, anyone with $390 can sell travel. Unless this changes, our industry will continue to attract bottom feeders that reinvent themselves under different names after being placed on a stop-sell."

Another of the group's goals is to increase membership. According to Anita Pagliasso, owner of Ticket to Travel and board director and co-chair of PATH's Public Relations/Communications Committee, the association will "continue to demonstrate the value of membership by setting the highest standards for host agencies."

Due to "strict membership criteria, background and credit checks required for membership, PATH wants the industry to look at our members as if they have obtained the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," said Pagliasso.

It's PATH'S job, she said, "to provide a clear definition to both agents and the industry to the resurging question: 'What is a legitimate host agency?' "

It's a challenge, said Jackie Friedman, general manager of Nexion and a PATH vice president and co-chairman of its Host Agency Symposium/Trade Show Committee, to navigate the various host agency models.

"No two hosts are the same, and now more than ever, it is critical that agents take the time to do their homework to find a financially secure host that has their best interests in mind," said Friedman, who refers agents to the PATH website (www.path4hosts.com) as "a great place to start."

"Our member agencies must subscribe to a strict code of ethics, and they only qualify for PATH if they meet those requirements that protect the interests of independent home-based agents," said Friedman.

Hosts should do due diligence on agents, and agents should so the same on any agency they look at to host them, added Betsy Geiser, director of administration and sales for Uniglobe Travel.

PATH is the only travel trade association governed for and by host agencies.

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