As a startup tour operator, I have searched the internet high and low as to how I can buy airline tickets at the bare minimum cost. My idea was to become a travel agency. This way I can buy my supplies at cost while making money on the side selling other travel products. For those of you who don’t know, becoming a travel agent can be a lengthy, expensive, and extremely difficult task. The requirements for gaining an IATA and ARC number are enough to turn most people away from the prospects of being a travel agent. These requirements include lengthy applications, taking a class to become a certified Arc rep, 3+ years experience in the industry, proof of errors and omissions insurance, a 200 lb safe, an inspection of your commercial property, a surety bond, and the list goes on.
If you do the research however, there is a way to get around this. A Host Travel Agency is one that will partner with you for a small fee or a piece of the commission. What you get in return is the use of their booking engine, their ticketing service, and an Iata and/or Arc number.
The host engine I really like is http://www.nexion.com. For a monthly fee you get full commissions and 24 hour support, although they’re booking engine is a little…well…rough. Nexion.com makes sense. They offer different plans (80% commission for $199 one time fee) but at least they offer a plan for 100% commission for $200 a month. Basically you are paying them a fee to rent their arc and Iata number. Not a bad deal if you’re going to take this seriously.
http://www.mtravel.com is another popular solution but I feel that they’re cut of my commission and they’re fees are extreme. They want you to pay $200-400 in annual subscription fees and take about 50% of your commission. Although they’re booking engine is more sophisticated it’s still a poor business model compared to Nexions 80% for a one time $199 fee.
Go ahead and start googling “host travel agency” and see what comes up and begin comparing solutions. Until you have the necessary experience and resources this will be your best bet at becoming a travel agent! Also, don’t forget to ask about if you are in a state that requires a seller’s of travel license and how to apply for exemption! You wont be able to do business without it.