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 the internet.

"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.

Scott Koepf
Scott Koepf

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 day.

"I was really frustrated that there wasn't comprehensive information online for people looking to enter the industry," she said.

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.

Stephanie Lee
Stephanie Lee

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 from users.

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 decision-making process.

"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.

Andy Ogg
Andy Ogg

"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."

Comments

From Our Partners


From Our Partners

2021 WOL Webinar
The World of Luxury for 2022
Register Now
Los Cabos dining district
Los Cabos' 23400 District
Read More
2021 Silversea Webinar
The Silversea Way - Two New Fares, One Incredible Experience Aboard Our Ultra-Luxury Ships
Register Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI