Travel Weekly's Home-based Agent E-letter: August 15, 2005

CARD MILL UPDATE: ASTA distributed a white paper about card mills to consumer-protection agencies and Better Business Bureaus across the U.S. as part of an effort to educate the public on how such outfits differ from legitimate travel agencies. Card mills typically sell what they purport to be travel agent credentials to consumers, promising they will be eligible for travel discounts and other industry perks. Many home-based agents are likely to have had experiences with card mills -- it's how some entered the business and, in some cases, were able to learn the ropes and
eventually expand beyond the card mills reach.

ONE SUCH agent is Patricia Bannister, who owns Bannister Travel in Memphis and is the director of the Outside Sales Support Networks (OSSN) Memphis chapter. While Bannister credits a card mill with helping launch her career, she strongly cautions others to beware. Understand that I wouldnt be a travel agent today if it werent for my membership in a card mill. The work that I put into the industry led me and others like me to become owners of our own agencies, she told I won't say who the card mill was that I began with, but I will say that they are still in business. I got a good education from them. They had a very good training program and teachers for those like me, who really love travel and wanted to help others to get the quality travel that is to be had."

TRAINING aside, Bannister's experience with her card mill host agency was disappointing. The firm she dealt with comes into an area, saturates the market with what they call home-based agents, giving each one a membership card with their picture on it -- that includes members of their families, also. They offer training until the market is saturated, and then they close the local office and disappear back to their home base, where you cannot get in touch with anyone by phone and if you do, you cannot get them to help you.

HER ADVICE? Anyone wanting to get into the business needs to find a host agency with a solid track record in the industry. Would-be agents should know that it is going to cost them a bit of money to get the education they will need to become a real agent. However, it wont be as much money as a card mill is going to ask them to invest. Bannister said she now gets her training online and through OSSN. ASTA President and CEO Kathryn Sudeikis said a copy of the white paper can be downloaded in PDF format, at



Dates valid: Through Dec. 15 for overnight stays.

Sponsor: AMResorts, Philadelphia.

Cost: Nightly, from $55 at Sunscape Resorts & Spas properties or from $79 at Secrets Resorts & Spas or Dreams Resorts & Spas properties for all-inclusive accommodations. Rates are per person, double.

Trip: Properties are located in the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Noteworthy: Companions are eligible at the same rate.

Contact: (866) GO-SECRETS, (866) 2-DREAMS or (866) SUNSCAPE.


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