Identifying Your Best Travel Agent Consortium Partner

When choosing a travel agent consortium, it’s important for not to surrender all of your independence By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2016 TravelAge West

Our goal is to publish stories that help agents grow their businesses. In the past, we’ve covered subjects such as marketing, technology, database management, sales strategies and more. This issue’s cover story, “Join the Club,” is one of our most important articles yet, because an agent’s choice of consortium partner has a major impact on all those other topics.

These days, a consortium (or “co-op,” “franchise” or “marketing organization”) is really the center hub of many successful agencies. The spokes that radiate from this consortium hub will affect decisions big and small. Simply put, finding the right partner is crucial.

“We were looking for a true home where we could be valued,” says Ken Gagliano, president of Maitland, Fla.-based host agency Travel Planners International, in the story. “If you’re doing business with a company, it has to be a win-win for both companies. This membership is about sharing ideas and best practices and benefiting everyone as a whole.”

As agents are shopping around for the right advisor network, they should be careful not to trade away their independence. There are certainly huge benefits to using a consortium’s preferred partners, but agents also need to feel comfortable choosing outside suppliers as they see fit. As travelers look for customization and authentic experiences, sometimes smaller companies can provide those unique options, even if the companies are too boutique to be preferred suppliers.

As valuable as the preferred-partner relationship is, an agent’s biggest asset is the trust they establish with their customers. If a client thinks an agent has a conflict of interest and is not providing honest advice, then the agent will certainly lose out.

Most, if not all, consortia understand and acknowledge the value of an agent maintaining his or her flexibility. It’s up to the individual agent to hold a consortium to this ideal — not just in word, but in deed. Make sure whatever consortium you work with provides the right support-to-freedom ratio for your business. That will be the basis for a partnership that benefits all parties.

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