Tips on How to Find the Best Host Travel Agency
Many agents starting up their home-based travel agency have one question on their mind when looking for a host agency, “Who is the best host travel agency?”
Wait, wait. Hold up. Rephrase that. Instead of asking who is the best host agency, it's. important to ask, "Who is the best host travel agency for me?" Host agencies aren't a one-size fits all scenario. Beyond reading which hosts have high (and current!) reviews on our site, this article will walk you through points on how to find a host agency that will work best for your specific needs. Here's what we'll cover (feel free to click on individual questions/ topics to choose your own adventure)!
- Finding the Best Host Travel Agency [+Webinar]
- Researching the Best Host Travel Agency [Free Download]
- Host Travel Agency Comparison Checklist (Free Download)
- 6 Questions to Ask to Find the Best Host Agency [+ Video Q&A answers!]
- Narrowing Down Your Host Travel Agency Options
- HAR's Course, "The Complete Guide to Starting a Travel Agency."
Finding the Best Host Travel Agency
Prepare yourself mentally that finding the best host travel agency requires research, lots of it.
Sadly, finding the best host agency isn't as simple as a Google search. Finding a good fit takes a lot of work. Prepare yourself mentally that finding the best host travel agency requires research, lots of it. You’ll probably get frustrated along the way as you hit information overload, but don't worry, it's normal. Going in with realistic expectations will save you a lot of heartache.
If the idea of a host agency is new to you and you're not sure what it entails or what questions to ask, watch this video to learn more:
Researching the Best Host Travel Agency
You have now accepted finding a host agency is no walk in the park. Congrats! Being realistic is the first step. Now let’s take another step towards your goal of finding the best host travel agency to begin your research.
To help you along, download our comparison chart to help you track your host research process! With this spreadsheet, you can easily document information about what you learn about the different hosts in your interview to help you compare. (Don't worry, we'll give you tips on how to narrow down your options, so read on after you download!)
Here's a look before you download it!:
When you start host shopping, it's helpful to understand more about host agencies and what they offer. A quick look at our Top 10 Benefits of Using a Host Agency article will help you get a pulse on things. This will help you compare hosts to find the best host agency for you.
Which Host Agency Is Best for You: 6 Questions to Ask [+Video Guides]
Home-based travel agents frequently ask me who I recommend as a host agency, and I rarely answer. This is because there are different hosts for different folks. I believe that you, the agency owner, are the best qualified to answer that question.
Since you’re new to the travel host agency business, you may not think you know what you need, or even what to expect from a host. But trust me, you do. You just need a little help getting started with your brainstorming. Here are some questions you can yourself to see what might be the best host agency.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to get you started!
1. Large or small host travel agency?
Hosts agencies range dramatically in size. Some have one or two independent contractors, and some have thousands. One isn't inherently better than the other. It's all about what's a good fit for YOU.
To help you decide which is a better fit for you, consider whether you want the host you work with to have a smaller company feel or larger company culture? You can easily find out the size of a host agency on our profiles! And don't forget, our spreadsheet of Host Agency Questions will help you compare host size alongside other qualities you value in a host agency so you can easily see which host checks more of your boxes!
Here's a little more detail on that!
2. Is it important to you that your host agency is local?
With the ability to do everything remotely, location doesn't play as strong of a factor as it used to. But, there are unique benefits of a local host travel agency that may be extremely important to you. Examples include getting more face time with your host, potential education and supplier advantages, and access to BDMs (Business Development Managers). Figure out how much weight location will have in your decision-making process.
Here's a little more detail on how hosts (near and far) can support advisor/BDM relationships!
3. What type of training do you need/expect?
Do you need step-by-step directions or do you learn better if given the tools and left to explore on your own? Be honest in your assessment of what you need since training is going to be a key part of your success. The best host agency is the one that offers training to fit your learning style.
Here's (yet another) Friday 15 clip where I discussed host agency training (in addition to other travel agent education options).
We also just happen to have a comprehensive article on host agency education, travel schools, and certification programs that is a must-read if you're looking for travel agent training options.
4. What marketing support do you need/expect?
Your phone isn't going to ring by itself, so think about how you're going to get clients. Many hosts have strong marketing programs including direct mail pieces, websites, mobile apps for your clients, and more. Ask them what they have and what most of their new agents use.
Hosts may offer marketing support in a lot of different ways, whether it be a travel agency website, social media marketing tools, direct mailings, e-mail marketing tools, opportunities to travel to destinations to learn how to market places and/or properties (these are called FAM trips), marketing conferences/events or more. But the thing is, you don't want to pay for what you don't want to use. It's a good idea to get a sense of what type of marketing tools you want/need to use host support, when you want to use a third-party tool, or when you want roll up your sleeves and DIY.
If you're curious about how to get started with grassroots marketing, check out the resources below.
5. What type of travel are you going to sell?
You may want a host agency that specializes in your main niche (e.g. group travel, cruise, luxury travel etc.). Just keep in mind that when you're considering more specific niches (multi-generation SCUBA and watersports trips), you're not going to find a host that is that focused.
Most importantly, if you get a sense of what niche you want and the products you'd like to sell you can ask hosts how they can support you in your focus. Even if they market to your niche, in particular, they might surprise you! In this Friday 15 episode, I chatted a bit on the pros and cons of developing a niche
Want to start out on your own niche odyssey? Check our resources below:
6. What is Your Budget?
When choosing a host agency, your budget is critical. How do you ensure your host is offering you the best value for your budget and your hosting needs? Here are a few things to consider:
- Working out your finances and having a number in mind from the start helps keep you on target. You can always adjust the number, but not having a limit makes things harder on you. Keep in mind the savings a host offers you.
- One thing to mention; make sure your boundaries are realistic. You are investing in your future. While it would be nice if everything were free, you should expect to put out some money as you start your travel agency. I have heard people say be wary of a host agency that charges you. I say, be wary of the host agency that doesn’t charge. How are they making money and investing in their company?
- Also, remember that you're starting a business when you figure out your budget—it's more than just the cost of a host agency. While starting a home-based travel agency is inexpensive compared to most businesses, you'll be spending money on registering your name, business cards, talking with your tax advisor/lawyer about your business, marketing, etc. Make sure you're thinking big picture and taking being an entrepreneur seriously!
Below, I chat on whether or not expensive hosts equal better hosts in a Friday 15 episode:
I know that these questions are just the beginning. Check out our Friday 15 series where we answer big questions in a small amount of time!
Narrowing Down the Your Best Host Travel Agency Options
Even with the reviews, how do you start to narrow your choices down with a number that large?!? Here are some pointers on how to narrow down your list:
1. Read the reviews on Host Agency Reviews for your prospective host agencies.
While you need to take some reviews with a grain of salt, it’s safe to say that peer reviews can give you insight into what you can expect. We have a host travel agency list where you can find peer reviews.
2. Check out HAR's Luminary Awards
HAR's Luminary Awards were an invention I came up with back in 2019. They celebrate the host's engagement with advisors on our site. They recognize hosts not only for high reviews but also for being responsive to site users and participating in our survey. The beauty of the Luminary Awards is that any listed host can win one regardless of size.
3. Contact the prospective host agencies
You'll be getting a LOT of information so make sure to download our Host Agency Search Comparison Chart to help you keep track of important information. If you have more than a few host agencies you’re thinking of, they may start blurring together so take careful notes!
Connecting with host agencies can't be easier! You can go directly to their profile to write them via Host Agency Reviews' Q&A feature. The beauty of this is that tons of agents will also get to learn from your question too!
4. Watch our video to help find a host travel agency
You may not think you know what you want, but grab a seat and we'll walk you through how to figure it out in the video below:
5. Join our 7-Day SEtup Facebook Group
HAR's 7-Day Setup Facebook Group is a goldmine when it comes to getting firsthand host experiences directly from advisors. All you need to do is join the 7-Day Setup and search for your hosts of choice in the search box to see what advisors have said about them. Their thoughts are candid and unfiltered, so an endorsement goes a long way.
Need More Help Choosing a Host? We've Got You Covered.
The most important thing you can do to find the best host travel agency? Know what you want before you start looking. You may also find our starting a travel agency or choosing travel agency names articles helpful as you get your home travel business started.
And lastly, it is a big decision but it shouldn't be keeping you up at night if you're doing your due diligence. While you may think there is one best host agency for you, the reality is there are many great host agencies out there. If you do the proper research, chances are there are quite a few host agencies that you'd be very happy with!
If you're wanting more help finding your forever host and getting your agency off the ground, check out our new course, "The Complete Guide to Starting a Travel Agency."
Check out HAR's 3 different 7 Day Setup course options. The courses are written and facilitated by yours truly (Steph!) and Bridget Lee, a professional educator with deep roots in the travel industry. Maybe you notice a last name similarity? We happen to be sisters! We had a blast teaching the course, we think you'll love taking it too. With a free mini course and/or free trial of HAR's Accelerator All-Access Pass, there's a little something for everyone! Check out your options here!
Our week of daily emails will walk you through the steps you need to take before signing on with a host agency!
I've worked with thousands (honestly, tens of thousands) of people looking for the best host travel agency for their needs, and hope this article has helped shed a little light on things.
If you like what you read, drop by our home-based travel agent resources page for more tips and tricks!