It seems nothing can stop or slow down the global travel industry trend towards home-based travel agents. Each year the numbers keep growing. Four years ago roughly 25% of travel agents in Canada worked from home. Today that number is about 37% and climbing. That means that one in three travel agents works from home!
In the U.S. the number is now over 70% and it was 50% four years ago. In the UK, the numbers are similar to the U.S. That translates to every other travel agent working from home.
That is a seismic shift in the landscape. We’ve gone from travel agencies having the occasional ‘outside sales rep’ – remember those? – to agencies disappearing or going virtual and being replaced by ‘host agencies’.
So how did all this start? It helps to look south of the border and across the Atlantic for at least part of the reason. When the economy tanked in the U.S. in 2008, many travel agencies closed and this left a lot of agents with nowhere to work. But many of them had a good client list and years of experience. So they attached themselves to host agencies and worked from home. Voila! A new business model was born. Much the same happened in the UK.
But not all home-based agents are alike. Some are employees of their agency but just work from home. This is more likely in the corporate agency world. When it comes to leisure travel, home-based agents are independent contractors who are supported by host agencies who take care of all their needs.
Many of them are experienced agents who worked in agencies for many years – but some are new travel agents who have never worked in an agency. This latter group is either Millennials who have chosen travel as a career and train to be an agent, or Gen Xers who have chosen to become travel agents as a second career.
This has given rise to the host agency. Some host agencies have always been host agencies, some are hybrids that have established agencies with employees but also operate a division that caters to home-based agents.
For these agencies, it can be an easy way to increase your sales without adding the cost of employees.
So what’s in it for the agents and why is this trend so popular? Well, running your own business and being your own boss has many rewards, especially if someone else is taking care of all, or most, of the back-end tasks.
Home-based agents will tell you that they like the control it gives them over everything from what hours they work, to what to sell and how to service their customers. They like selecting their own marketing strategies. They love not having to commute to work! They can earn more and keep more of their earnings. They have tax advantages.
Most of all, they all have a great sense of accomplishment in their own success, knowing they are fully responsible for their results and feeling huge pride of ownership.