How is Working with a Host Agency Different from Starting Your Own Travel Agency?

Ultimately, the decision between working with a host agency or starting your own travel agency depends on your goals, resources, and preferences. Consider advantages and challenges, and choose the path that aligns best with the vision you have for your travel agency business.

Starting a travel agency is an exciting venture that allows you to turn your passion for travel into a thriving business. As you venture out on this journey, you will be faced with many important decisions that shape the trajectory of your agency. One crucial choice is whether to work with a host agency or start your own independent travel agency. Both paths have their merits, and understanding the differences between them can help you make an informed decision.

Let’s examine the various aspects of starting a travel business — including suppliers, clients, marketing, and more. We will look into the contrasting experiences of being with a host agency versus operating independently. By analyzing the advantages and considerations associated with each approach, you can gain valuable insights that guide you toward choosing the path that aligns with your goals and aspirations as a travel agent.

Suppliers on Your Own vs. with a Host Agency

Building solid relationships with suppliers has the potential to “make or break” your business.  Suppliers are, in a sense, an extension of your business.  You need to know that your clients are in good hands when you are booking with suppliers; how your chosen suppliers conduct transactions can determine whether or not clients will continue trusting you with their travel needs.

When you work with a host, this means you will have access to their suppliers.

Working with a host agency has a significant advantage: gaining access to its established network of suppliers. Host agencies have already built relationships with various suppliers in the travel industry, including airlines, hotels, tour operators, etc.

This established network allows you to leverage their connections, benefiting from better deals, exclusive offers, and preferred partnerships. Working with a host agency saves you the time and effort required to establish these relationships independently.

Creating an independent travel agency means creating your own supplier relationships.

On the other hand, starting your own travel agency requires you to build your supplier relationships from scratch. This process involves researching, contacting, and negotiating with suppliers to establish partnerships.

While it may take time and effort, creating your own supplier relationships allows you to have more control over agreements and tailor them to suit your business needs.  A few ways to find partners and inventory suppliers are to search online travel agent directories, attend industry events, or contact travel suppliers directly.  By finding your own suppliers, you will have the freedom to choose them based on your specific niche or target market — potentially offering unique experiences and packages that differentiate your agency.

host v. independent, supplier

Clients with a Host Agency vs. Independent Travel Agents

Finding your ideal client should not be taken lightly, and there are some considerations to take into account when deciding whether to work with a host agency or work on your own.

Working with a host agency provides access to an already-established client base.

One significant advantage of working with a host agency is the access to their existing client base. Host agencies often have a large pool of clients who regularly book through their network of travel agents. This means that when you join a host agency, you have the opportunity to tap into this client base, potentially generating bookings and revenue right from the start.

This immediate access to clients can be beneficial, especially for new agents who are building their reputation and clientele.  Starting out fresh in this industry can be exciting, but it can also have its challenges.  Host agencies exist to help you navigate these obstacles.

Independent travel agencies require building your own clientele.

Starting your own travel agency requires you to build your own client base — again — from scratch. You’ll need to invest time and effort in marketing and promoting your agency to attract potential clients. This may involve strategies such as digital marketing, building a social media presence, networking, and targeted advertising.

While it may take time to establish your clientele, the advantage of an independent agency is that you have complete control over the type of clients you attract and can tailor your marketing efforts accordingly.

Marketing Support with a Host Agency vs. Independent Agents

Marketing can be the “bread and butter” of your travel business.  It has been said many times that if potential clients do not know what you can do for them — or how to find you — you are defeating yourself before you even begin.

Working with a host agency means you will have built-in marketing support.

Host agencies often provide marketing support and resources to their affiliated agents. They may offer marketing materials, templates, and even digital marketing campaigns that you can use to promote your agency and its services. This support can be valuable, particularly for agents who are new to the industry or those who may not have extensive marketing expertise.

Having access to marketing resources from partnerships with companies like Virtuoso can save you time and effort while not only effectively promoting your travel agency but improving your brand’s overall reputation as well.  Host agencies may even provide professional marketing training, like live webinars and coaching calls, so you can feel comfortable sharing your newfound expertise and services with your audience.

Independent travel agencies require self-managed marketing efforts.

When you start your own travel agency, you are responsible for managing your marketing efforts independently. This includes creating and implementing your marketing strategies, designing promotional materials, and executing digital marketing campaigns. Marketing for your agency can become a job on its own.  Nevertheless, there is a host of online training (no pun intended) that can help bridge the gap if you do not have any prior marketing experience under your belt.

While it may require more effort on your part, being an independent agent does allow you to have complete control over your marketing message and branding. You can tailor your marketing campaigns to align with your agency’s unique selling propositions and target your desired audience precisely.

host v. independent, marketing and fees

Planning Fees with an Agency vs. On Your Own

New travel agents often get stumped with the “whats” and “hows” of charging for services.

Working with a host agency often provides guidance and structure when it comes to planning fees.

Host agencies typically have established fee structures and guidelines that help you determine appropriate charges for the services you offer. They can offer valuable insights into industry standards and pricing, ensuring that you set fair and competitive fees that reflect the value you provide to your clients.

Moreover, host agencies may have resources and tools to help you articulate the value of your services to clients, making it easier to communicate and justify your planning fees. This support ensures that you are fairly compensated for your time, expertise, and the exceptional service you deliver.

In contrast, setting planning fees on your own as an independent travel agent requires careful consideration and market research.

You’ll need to assess your own expertise, the level of service you provide, and the specific needs of your clients. Conducting a thorough analysis of your market and understanding your target audience can help you determine competitive pricing that reflects the value you offer. As an independent agent, you have the flexibility to set your own pricing structure and tailor it to your business model and client base.

However, it is crucial to strike a balance between fair compensation for your efforts and remaining competitive in the market. Regularly reviewing and adjusting your planning fees as needed ensures that your business remains sustainable while meeting the expectations of your clients.

Networking with a Host Agency vs. On Your Own

Networking opportunities also have differences to consider with and without a host agency.

When you work with a host agency, you instantly gain access to a valuable network of fellow travel agents.

This network becomes an invaluable resource for networking, knowledge sharing, and peer support.  Additionally, networking within a host agency can lead to potential collaborations, partnerships, and referrals — expanding your reach and opening doors to new business opportunities.

On the other hand, when you choose to start your own travel agency, building a network becomes a more independent endeavor.

You’ll need to actively seek out networking opportunities, such as attending industry events, joining travel associations, and participating in online communities. While it may require more effort and initiative, networking on your own gives you the liberty to connect with a diverse range of professionals in the travel industry. Through self-driven networking, you can broaden your horizons, establish relationships with suppliers, industry experts, and potential clients – and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

host v. independent, networking

In conclusion, there are distinct differences between working with a host agency and starting your own travel agency.

Working with a host agency provides access to an established network of suppliers, an existing client base, marketing support, and more. This can save time and effort, especially for new agents, while still offering access to valuable resources. On the other hand, starting your own travel agency allows you to create your own supplier relationships, build your own clientele, and have complete control and flexibility over your marketing efforts.

Ultimately, the decision between working with a host agency or starting your own travel agency depends on your goals, resources, and preferences. Consider the advantages and challenges of each approach, and choose the path that aligns best with the vision you have for your travel agency business. Remember, whether you decide to work with a host agency or go independent, providing exceptional service, building relationships, and continuously improving your skills and knowledge are crucial factors for success in the competitive travel industry.

Meet Pickles Travel Network: The Host Agency That Makes It Easy to Start and Scale Your Travel Business

Whether you’ve just started your travel agent journey, or you’ve been on it… Pickles Travel Network has the tools and resources to help grow your business. Unlike other host agencies, we believe in letting our members choose what works best for their business. Pickles Travel Network allows you to choose your commission rate, along with whether or not you want to charge planning fees. As a member, you’ll receive instant access to our list of suppliers, several marketing platforms and monthly coaching/trainings. 

IATA | CLIA Membership

PTN IATAN code: 45769253

PTN CLIA number: 00032299

When you enroll with suppliers, you must use PTN’s codes to receive a commission from us. Want to sign up for your own CLIA or IATA numbers for exclusive travel benefits? See below.

Get your own IATA/IATAN ID Card:


The IATA/IATAN ID Card is the industry-standard credential to identify bona fide travel professionals. Key benefits include access to concessionary incentives from industry suppliers. Just added, the IATA MemberPerks program provides cardholders with daily savings at over 300,000 merchants across North America.

To be eligible, you must be registered with IATAN under PTN’s IATA number 45769253, working a minimum of 20 hours per week and earning a minimum of $5,000 per annum in commissions. You’ll need to send PTN a support ticket asking for approval. Once approved, we will send you a PRIN # to allow you to register with IATAN and ask for an ID card.

Get your own CLIA EMBARK ID:


Obtain a CLIA EMBARC ID for travel discounts and FAM (Familiarization) trips. Join CLIA as an Individual Agent Member, under Pickles Travel Network CLIA #00032299.

Once you’ve registered, submit a support ticket to let us know, and we will approve your registration.