A Guide to Host Agency and Consortia Education [+Comparison Chart]
Host agency and consortia education are one of ten gillion travel agent education opportunities. (Yep. I counted.) Why are there so many to choose from? Well, in the past decade, hosts and consortia educational opportunities have really developed to respond to the needs of an ever-growing segment of independent travel agents.
What are some examples of their educational programs? How about a crash course in running a home-based agency? Or a master’s course in Instagram marketing? Do you fancy a Seminar at Sea to help you develop your group cruise business? Or a FAM trip to Negril, Jamaica? How about a one on one coach or mentor who will walk you through your first six months of business?
Chances are if you can imagine it, it exists.
Hurray! You have choices! Shucks. How do you wade through all the choices if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for? Read this article and check out the voluminous information in our infographic. That's how! Here's what we have in store:
⭐️ HAR Article Highlights: ⭐️
- Sneak Preview: Steph Lee Chats Travel Host Education [Video]
- What the Heck Is a Host Agency & Consortium? (The crib notes.)
- A Closer Look at Host/ Consortia Education
- How Do I Narrow Down My Options? An Exercise
- Comparison Chart: An Overview of Host/Consortia Education
- Other Travel Agent Training Options
Before we really dive in, I have a theatrical trailer for this article brought to you by Stephanie Lee. She recently chatted on travel agent education during Friday 15 offering some pearls of wisdom to help frame this article:
What the Heck Is a Host Agency and a Consortium?
Now, you're about to get fire-hosed with TONS of information on host education so I want to avoid going down any vocabulary rabbit holes. But here's what I think is important for you to know about host agencies and consortia in regards to travel agent training:
Host agencies provide independent travel advisors with the infrastructure to own and operate their own travel agency business. Some of the biggies they provide are access to an accreditation number, a ton of backend/ accounting support, software and tools to help run operations, and robust relationships with suppliers (aka higher commissions for their pool of independent agents due to their higher aggregate sales volume).
A travel consortium is a collective of host agencies, travel agencies, and/or travel advisors that join forces to combine resources in order to increase their industry footprint. This offers the agencies under their umbrella more buying potential, benefits, and commission levels.
To make things more confusing, since hosts are members of consortia, they may use that particular consortium’s education program and/or tools.
A Closer Look at Host/ Consortia Education
With all the options out there, distilling host and consortia education options are almost impossible. But guess what, we’re bonkers and we did it anyway.
Host, franchise, and consortia education opportunities run the gamut: Some organizations run all their education in-house. Others might outsource the education to existing 3rd party programs based on your specific educational goals. Others do a combo. Some are more structured, and some cater to independent learning.
Let's take a look at what you might expect.
1. Education Modalities
Most programs cater to diverse learning styles, including a mix of webinars, online classes, vendor training, conference calls, coaching or mentoring, conventions, FAMs (familiarization trips), in-house training, destination education, and more.
These opportunities may vary depending on how much industry experience you have. If you prize a certain type of education modality, check the list to ensure the host offers it. Ask them how much of their programming is focused on that event/modality. (More questions to come!)
2. is a host, Franchise, or consortia education program right for you?
Your experience level as an agent may help you narrow down choices for you. (Check out our chart to see which programs are available to new agents and which are available to experienced agents.)
Some organizations will require some education or comparable travel agent experience before you sign on with them. Others may require a sales threshold for more advanced levels of training.
Do already know you want some kind of travel agent education, and you know you want to join a host, franchise, or consortia? If you answered yes to both of these questions, going with this type of education might be a great fit for you. Why? Because it will also give you a good feel for their company's culture and familiarize you with their specific tools and technology.
If you don't need or want an education at this time, but you do want to join a host or consortia, then you'll want to find a host that will allow you to opt-out of their education program. Good news? all these details are listed on our chart.
3. What are a host/consortia's educational objectives?
The objectives of a host/consortia education will depend on the program. It might be very focused (e.g. familiarizing yourself with a specific product update or software program.) Or its goal might have broader objectives (e.g. boosting your marketing skills so you can increase your client base by 10%).
A good way to think of it is like this: What are two or three of your personal educational objectives? Do you want to increase your knowledge of booking groups? Do you want a dive deep into a specific destination? Do you want to learn how to use a customer relationship management system?
Take the mini list of your educational objectives and use it to whittle your options. If you have more specific questions for a host, go ahead and ask them in the Q&A section on their HAR profile!
4. What's the damage?
We did a little math: 65% of hosts and consortia who filled our questionnaire reported that their education program is free. YAY!
Among those that cost some moolah, fees ranged from a low average of $2,135 to and a high average of $2,475. Wow, that's a pretty narrow range! But be sure to check out our infographic for all the information on cost.
65% of hosts and consortia who filled our questionnaire reported that their education program is free.
Education is an investment! What factors impacted the cost? One factor is modality. Is it intensive coaching or in-person training? That's going to cost you. Is it a few one-off webinars? That's probably going to cost less.
If the cost of education is wrapped into an organization's start-up fee, then a host with a higher education fee may have a lower startup cost. So don't forget to consider all the factors!
How Do I Narrow Down My Options? An Exercise
Okay, so maybe you're thinking, "Mary, this is wonderful. But even with the massive chart, I'm still basically drowning in choices. They all start to look the same after a while."
I hear you. If you're still feeling overwhelmed, try this brief exercise (it's like the compass that will help you navigate your options).
Part 1: Questions to ask yourself
Short of a crystal ball, this chart offers a few strategies to help you decide. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How does a host and/or consortium's education align with my niche? Consider your niche. This will be important when you dig for more info, especially for vendor training.
- What topics do I desire in a host and/or consortium's education? Check out some of the options that the host and/or consortium listed. Which ones stick out to you the most? Don't see specific topics you're looking for? Ask on the company's site profile if their education targets your desired subjects.
- What are some of my favored learning styles? How does the program structure meet my needs? Do you prefer online courses at your own pace? Do you need a classroom environment? Do you benefit from one-to-one mentorship? Do you prefer the intensity of a conference? What learning style works best for you?
- How much hand-holding do I need? It’s okay if you need or want a lot of support. It really is. On our message boards (and in some reviews), I’ve heard from agents who’ve been disappointed to learn that professional development programs haven’t been as intensive as they wanted. For newbies, it’s good to tell a host agency up front how much support you expect so you're all on the same page.
- How quickly do I want to complete this education? Do you have time to take it slow, or do you have a group of 50 people clamoring to get booked on a cruise yesterday? What kind of turnaround are you looking for?
Part 2: Questions to ask the hosts/consortia
Once you’ve completed part I, you’re all set for part II. Part II is a table of questions you can adapt and ask host agencies and/or consortia about their education programs.
These are probably questions you want to reserve for your “shortlist” of about 2-5 hosts and/or consortia.
- What examples of vendor training on [niche] have you had in the past year? Is that a topic you anticipate covering in the next few months?
- [Your hot topic] is particularly important to me. Can you give me an idea of what kind of education you’ve had on these topics in the last year or what facilitators/programs you have lined up to address this topic in the year to come?
- (If they have the one-on-one training/ mentoring) What is the frequency of contact do agents typically have with their mentor?
- May I have the contact of an agent or agents who have recently completed your education program?
- (If not explicitly listed) Based on what kind of education I want, what is the overall cost? Do you have any payment plans for that level of education?
- Do you have any data on your education outcomes?
Of course, we made a cheat sheet you can use to fill out when you chat with your shortlist of hosts and/or consortia about their travel agent education programs.
Lo and Behold! HAR's Glorious Host/Consortia Education Comparison Chart
Ready to dive in and find some amazing information? We reached out to host agencies and consortia and charted the information they provided on cost, requirements, educational format, topics, and length of program. It's important to note that just because a host may not be listed doesn't mean they don't have an education program. (It just means they didn't fill out our questionnaire.)
Look. I'm going to give it to you straight, this resource is epic. In fact, it's so comprehensive, that it's possible you'll feel like you're scrolling down to the earth's molten core.
You can find host/consortia/franchises listed in alphabetical order in the infographic!
Phew! You made it! Still, have unanswered questions? You can reach out to any of these organizations via their site profiles. Added bonus? For every question you post on a company's Q&A page, you'll be entered to win $200. Yup. I'm serious. One entry for every question.
Other Options for Travel Agent Education
Want to see what other kinds of travel agent training programs are out there? You’re in luck because this article is part of a series on travel agent education. What more could there possibly be, you ask? Oh. Plenty . . .
⭐️ Don't Miss HAR's Travel Agent Training & Education Series! ⭐️
- Travel Agent Training and Education: This is the motherboard for all travel agent training options.
- Travel Agent Certification: Want to read up on what certification options are out there? This is for you.
- Travel Agent Schools, A Complete Guide: Want to look into a degree program or a professional certificate? Go here!