Finding a host agency that offers the tools and support
level an agent needs can be a daunting task considering the number of hosts
that exist today, but some agents are turning to online search and review sites
to help whittle down their choices.
Rachel Mooney, owner of Birmingham, Ala.-based Avoya Travel
affiliate Changing Your Latitude Travel, was one of them. New to the industry,
she didn't know where to turn for guidance, so she started doing research on
"Online review sites such as FindaHostTravelAgency.com
[are] where I learned about reputable host agencies and found the feedback I
needed on issues that mattered most to me," she said.
Sites such as FindaHostTravelAgency.com, operated by the Ogg
Marketing Group, and HostAgencyReviews.com, operated by founder Stephanie Lee,
have become valuable resources for agents, offering about 1,600 reviews each
with informational articles, host-agency profiles and more.
Scott Koepf, Avoya's senior vice president of sales, said
research is key for an agent finding the right host. "Online resources ...
make this process significantly [easier] by allowing travel agents to examine
all of their options in one place," he said.
Lee, meanwhile, started her site five years ago after
building up the host-agency side of her parents' business, Travel Quest. She
found herself answering the same questions about host agencies almost every
"I was really frustrated that there wasn't
comprehensive information online for people looking to enter the industry,"
Lee's site now offer articles as well as a listing of 104
host agencies. Lee works with the hosts to gather information for the free
listing. Site users have the opportunity to review hosts with which they have
been or are currently affiliated.
Ogg Marketing started FindaHostTravelAgency.com in early 2015, according to sales and
marketing director Andy Ogg. The site now has 182 host agencies listed with
1,636 reviews as well as articles and an archive of press releases from the
host agencies. Like Lee's site, host-agency listings are free, as are reviews
Last week, FindaHostTravelAgency.com announced several new
features. In addition to enabling users to mark reviews as helpful or not
helpful, the site also introduced the ability to search host agencies by
criteria. Agents can narrow their search by categories such as new-agent
training programs, lead-sharing options and more.
Ogg said the search update will help agents significantly
reduce time spent looking for a host, then use the site's reviews in their
"I think that the review function is probably the No. 1
asset to the site that people really get to enjoy," he said. "When
people use that new filtration system and are able to find a few hosts that
they're interested in and that hit their criteria, they can read those reviews
from ... real travel agents."
When it comes to differentiating the hosts, Ogg said that is
up to the agents and their particular needs. For example, an agent with an
existing book of business would not need a host with a lead-generating program,
but that function would be useful for agents who are new to the trade.
"I think every host agency out there has a really
great, unique value proposition" he said. "But to have a fit, it
needs to be something they can work with for the long term."
In addition to their value for agents, host-agency locator
sites offer useful advertising and marketing platforms for hosts.
Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion, called partnering with
the sites "one of those things that you can't afford not to do." She
said that about 15% to 20% of Nexion's advertising spend is spread between Lee's
and Ogg's sites.
"If you're an agent, you're looking for a host agency
and you really know very little about who you should consider, prospects are
finding themselves on one of these sites," she said. "They are paying
attention to reviews, and obviously, if you're not there, then folks aren't
going to see you."