Oh the pain! Why must there be so many acronyms for our travel agency identification numbers? We’ve got the ARC, IATA, and CLIA numbers as the main players, what’s the difference? Why not just one number and call it the TAID (Travel Agent ID) Number? That folks, I cannot tell you. But I can tell you what is a CLIA number, what it does, and what type of agents would benefit most from it.
A Short History:
In the good ol’ days, a travel agency’s main bread and butter was its airline ticket sales and an ARC number was an absolute necessity for any travel agency. When travel agent commissions were cut in the late 1990s and the internet came around, many travel agencies started focusing on sources of income beyond airline tickets. (Learn more about how much travel agents make and how travel agencies make money.)
With the rise of of this new type of travel agency—an agency where ARC or IATA numbers weren’t needed—agents began looking for a less expensive way to be recognized by vendors. Cruise lines, tour operators and the like were still paying commissions, but having an ARC accreditation after they stopped issuing airline tickets was throwing money out the window. (In my ‘What is an ARC Number?’ post, I go over the costs, and more, of obtaining an ARC number. While ARC numbers have their place, they will most definitely put a large hole in your pocket.)
Enter the star of this post: the CLIA number. CLIA numbers began issuing accreditation numbers in 2000. Agents could transition their old ARC/IATA number into a CLIA number or (like keeping your same phone number but switching to a new carrier). Or, for agents without an ARC/IATA number, CLIA would issue a them a brand-spanking-new CLIA number. Same holds true today.
What is a CLIA Number?
The CLIA Number is an ID number issued by none other than the Cruise Lines International Association (hence, the acronym). In a nutshell, it’s a way for vendors to identify you as a seller of travel. You can call (or go online) to book; the vendor asks you for your ID number, and then they can pull you up in the system and see all sorts of things about your agency. It serves the same purpose as the ARC or IATA number, it’s just issued by another organization and has different barriers of entry and costs associated with it. The next paragraph will cover another important difference between CLIA and ARC/IATA numbers.
Who Accepts CLIA Numbers?
The one thing to remember about the CLIA number is that, while it is accepted nearly everywhere, it’s NOT accepted by the airlines.
CLIA vs. ARC/IATA Number
There are benefits of each but bottom line is, if you aren’t issuing airline tickets, CLIA is a viable alternative.
ARC and IATA are must-haves if you’re ticketing air-only reservation. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to get your own CLIA number—you can always go under an umbrella organization like a host agency. If you’re working with a host agency, you will be using their identification number and won’t incur the costs associated with obtaining your own CLIA number. This is beneficial for travel agents (both home based agents and store front agencies) because your revenue is combined with that of other agents under that host agency’s identification number. Typically, this leads to higher commissions than you could get on your own. You can always get your own CLIA number but if you can make more in commission with a host agency, it usually doesn’t make sense.
If joining a host interests you, check out our list of over 120 host agencies and their reviews. If you’re completely new to the industry, you’ll also want to check out our resources page as you get started.
CLIA Number Requirements:
CLIA is an organization that is focused on training and educating its members. There are 2 types of membership: Agency and Agent. For those home based agents aligned with a CLIA-accredited host agency or those that are an employee of a CLIA-accredited storefront, the agent membership is going to be the best option. You must be part of an organization that has a CLIA agency membership in order to utilize the agent membership.
If you are an umbrella organization such as a host agency or a storefront with employees, you’ll have to choose the agency membership option.
Current costs for CLIA’s most basic Agency Membership is an annual $339 membership fee (and goes up from there). Current costs of CLIA’s Individual Agent Membership (IAM) is an annual membership fee ranges from $49 — $109. This depends on the level of the agency’s membership—your travel agency must be a CLIA Agency Membership in order to qualify for IAM prices.
What Is an EMBARC ID (Formerly CLIA Card)?
Issued by the same organization, the EMBARC ID (formerly, “CLIA card”) is exactly that, an ID. It’s a way for you to physically identify yourself to vendors as an agent of a CLIA agency. In easy to understand terms, it’s a widely accepted (and respected) travel agent ID card.
To be eligible for an EMBARC ID, your agency must be affiliated with CLIA. All non-management EMBARC ID holders must take specified classes and exams. Agents have 2 years to achieve their Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC) accreditation, or their EMBARC ID card may be revoked for a minimum of 1 year.
Cost for the card ranges from $49-109/yr per agent depending on the number of agents under your CLIA number and the type of membership you have. EMBARC IDs are most often used for proof that you’re a seller of travel for industry events such as trainings, seminars at sea, or FAM (familiarization) trips.
Things still unclear? No worries, drop your questions (or feedback) in the comments below. For those social fanatics, here’s where you can find me online to chat things over: Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. I’ve worked in the industry for quite a few years and specialized in helping agents start and grow their home based travel agencies. If you’re one of them, I’m here to help out!
Editor’s Note on What Is a CLIA Number?: This post was originally published March 23, 2012 and was completely updated and revamped on Jan. 26, 2016 to make sure we’re giving you up-to-date info. Enjoy!
Photo credits: prc1333
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Hi, I’m Steph! I specialize in working with people looking to start and/or grow their travel agencies. I’ve worked with thousands of agents and helped them learn more about the travel industry… and I’m happy to help you out too. If you’ve found this article helpful, please help give it some love via like/tweet/share or drop us a comment! Learn More About Steph>>