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. What I can answer is 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 in airline tickets 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 an ARC or IATA number weren’t needed- agents looked for a less expensive way to be recognized by vendors. Cruise lines, tour operators, and the like were still paying commissions but having ARC accreditation when you weren’t 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 being issued in 2000. Agents could transition their old ARC/IATA number into a CLIA number or, for agents without an ARC/IATA number, CLIA would issue a them a 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 (CLIA). In a nutshell, it’s a way for vendors to identify you as a seller of travel. You 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 number or CLIA vs. 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. 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 have 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 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 80 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 it’s 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 organizations such as a host agency or a storefront with employees, you’ll have to choose the agency membership option.
Current costs for CLIA’s Agency membership is a one-time $80 application fee and then an annual membership fee of $329. Current costs of CLIA’s Agent membership is an annual membership fee of $109.
What is a CLIA Card?
Issued by the same organization, the CLIA card is exactly that, a card. 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 a CLIA card your agency must be affiliated with CLIA. All non-management CLIA card holders must take specified classes and exams. Agents have 2 years to achieve their Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC) accreditation or their CLIA card may be revoked for a minimum of 1 year.
Cost for the card ranges from $29-49/yr per agent depending on the number of agents under your CLIA number and the type of membership you have. CLIA cards 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.
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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!
Photo credits: prc1333