Finally Taking The Plunge

So, pretty much since I got in to the travel business in 2007, I have known I wanted to be a Host Agency someday.  Back then, I thought maybe 3 years as a front line agent.  But this never ending recession has put a lot of plans on hold.  I just never quite felt like I had the cushion, financially, to take the leap of faith that starting a new business requires.  Having started many businesses in my lifetime, I knew what I needed.

And finally - I got there.  Yay, me?!

To give you a little background (because most of you know how I came to be a home-based travel agent in the first place, and if you don't, READ THE BIO) - I have worked, now, under 3 different Hosts.  The first, Coral Sands, is a 500 agent or so operation out of LaBelle, Florida, run by one Peter Stilphen.  I settled on Coral Sands after a couple months of research.  I liked that he maintains a casual, personal touch in his business.  I like that he is an outspoken smartass who is constantly goading other segments of the industry with his blogs and newsletters.  I like that he doesn't step over the Independent Contractor line and try to act like his agents have to do everything thru him.  I also like his fee/commission structure.  So, I was rolling merrily along, running most of my business thru Coral Sands, and working some side deals with other Hosts and Suppliers.  I was perfectly content there, and really had no complaints about my Host.  I would have continued for a few more years, and then branched out on my own.

But then, one day, Peter woke up with a bad case of stupid, and decided to merge his company with Expedia CruiseShipCenters/OVC.  Now, I am guessing he will read this at some point, and won't even be bothered at what I just said.  Because, skipping forward a couple years, almost immediately AFTER I plunged in and spent 100's of hours and thousands of dollars getting everything lined up to open my new Host Agency, I got an email from Peter.  He has pulled back out of ECSC and is restarting Coral Sands.  Had he come to that decision just a few months earlier, I would be back with him, no doubt.  The funny thing is that all his reasons for leaving are exactly the reasons I left ECSC a year ago.

Corporations just can't be Host Agencies.  They just can't.  And Expedia is just too big.  Which means they have huge overhead, as all Corporacracies do.  And all that overhead, deadweight, bloated and non-productive staff has to be paid for.  No way to do that but to charge high fees and pay low commissions.  And, of course, all those corporacrats have to justify their positions by constantly getting in the way of the front line agents trying to make a living selling travel.  So you are bombarded with useless information.  In their proprietary, fee-based email system.  And you have to try to use their proprietary, fee-based booking and CRM programs, which, again, are designed for bloat, and not for work.  And they get in the way of the agents relationships with the suppliers.  Peter never had a problem with his independent contractors reaching out to supplier sales reps to ask questions or favors or get things done.  About a week into my time with Expedia, I sent an email and asked who my business development person was with a cruise line.  The reply, 5 hours later was "Why do you want to know?".  That was followed up by a phone call telling me that "they preferred" I sent requests to the office and the office would coordinate with the suppliers.  Needlessly inserting themselves and slowing everything down.  Right then I knew I had a problem.  And when I asked him in that same phone call how they felt about me working with agents from other companies on large groups, I could hear his sphincter tighten all the way from Florida to California.  That is something I have done routinely.  I know agents all over the place, and we've been able to put groups together, let one or the other run it thru their host, and split the commission out.  Never had a problem.  But that day, I knew I had a problem.  So, within just a couple months of joining Expedia, I was plotting my escape.  Moving bookings to friends, waiting til I had next to nothing on the books for them to screw me out of, and went on my merry way.

THAT is why, I don't care what you say, Corporations CANNOT be good Hosts.  I know some of you are saying you found the exception, but you are wrong.  You are paying too much, getting lousy service, and not receiving ANY benefit that a "mom and pop" Host can't give you, by way of consortiums and affiliations.  All that wonderful tech they talk about and try to convince you is unique?  Everyone has access to it, or something like it.  Free.  And where it's not completely free, a good Host can get it and share it, so it's free TO YOU.  Why would you pay $29/month for CRM when you can get that identical CRM for free?  You wouldn't.  But the corporation has convinced you it's wonderful and unobtainable without paying them the $29 every month.  They're lying.


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