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Travel agents get some of the best travel discounts in the business. Thanks to the rise of the virtual travel agency, it's easier than ever to qualify for these discounts for yourself and your family. You no longer need extensive education or experience, you can become a virtual travel agent almost instantly by becoming an affiliate of a host travel agency.
If you have little or no experience as a travel agent, partner with a host travel agency when starting your home-based business. Generally, only experienced agents with solid client lists and plenty of industry knowledge start home-based agencies without affiliating with a host agency. Forming a partnership with a large travel agency is the simplest and fastest way to start your virtual travel agency and get access to travel agent discounts.
Pay the host agency a start up fee. Host agencies typically charge a start up fee (usually a few hundred dollars) and collect a cut of your commissions on any travel sales you make. Some host agencies focus on home-based travel agents who want to make a career in the industry. These agencies charge lower start up fees but may require more experience or set minimum sales goals. Other host agencies (known in the industry as "card mills") specialize in serving those who are more interested in travel discounts than a full-time career as a travel agent. These agencies charge higher up-front costs
Use the tools your host agency gives you to set up your travel agency. Host agencies provide training, access to booking systems and general support. Most host agencies will also set up a Web site for your home-based travel agency. These tools are useful even if you don't plan to do much business as a travel agent.
Obtain travel agent accreditation through your host agency. Industry groups, such as the International Airlines Travel Agent Network and the Cruise Lines Industry Association, offer accreditation to travel agents. Full-time travel agents use accreditation to make deals with suppliers and bolster their credibility with clients. Accreditation also gives agents access to travel discounts. Ordinarily, to qualify for these certifications, you need several years of experience as a travel agent. If you are affiliated with a host agency, however, you can obtain professional accreditation without experience.
Sell travel! Some suppliers do not look kindly on "card mills" and part-time travel agents who are more interested in travel discounts than in selling travel. Be aware that your credentials may be questioned if you use professional accreditation to obtain travel discounts for which you may not technically qualify. To ensure that you are not denied travel discounts, devote some time to selling travel products such as cruises and tour packages.
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Elizabeth DeHoff has been a writer and editor since 2000. She has been published in "The Washington Examiner," "Transitions Abroad" and About.com. She is currently a business editor at SmartBrief.com, where she covers finance and real estate. DeHoff has a Bachelor of Arts in film studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder.