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To Save the Expense of a Ground-Floor, Central City Office, More and More Travel Agents Are Simply Working From Their Homes

    What happened to all those travel agencies that used to operate from behind plate glass windows in ground-floor locations on street corners in your community?  

    It may come as a surprise to learn that they haven’t disappeared.  Many of them are still operating--and arranging trips for many of your neighbors--but they’re performing from the dining room--or the den--or the basement--of their homes.

    And this past month, thousands of them met in an Orlando, Florida, convention center to discuss expanding their business.  I delivered an address to those “home-based travel agents”, and learned a great deal of how they stay in business, earn substantial incomes, and perform much of the travel planing for millions of Americans.

    When the airlines stopped paying commissions to traditional travel agents some years ago, nearly half of them went out of business.  But many of the survivors decided they could continue operating by eliminating the heavy overhead expense of a downtown office.

    Why pay heavy rents, they asked?  Why pay for signs, and desks, electricity and heating, switchboard operators, and all the other costs of maintaining an attractive appearance to persons passing by on the street?  Since their knowledge and expertise was largely in their minds, why not simply sit behind a home computer, and a single home telephone, and transact business with their clients by phone?  With office expenses a thing of the past, they could keep a larger part of the income they receive from fees charged to clients and from commissions on the few remaining travel facilities--cruises, package operators, international airfares, car rentals, hotels--that pay a commission to travel agents.

    The “home-based travel agents” who had a strong reputation in the community for knowing the destinations they recommended, from having traveled widely and inspected many hotels, cruise ships and the like, continued to receive business from clients who trusted them and were happy to keep communicating with them over the phone.  

    At the recent annual meeting of home-based agents in Orlando, I spoke with a great many highly-successful business people who no longer pay a penny to maintain a downtown office--or any office at all.  One of them is an expert in Scandinavia (and also Iceland) and receives many weekly calls for assistance not simply from the public but from other traditional travel agents asking for expert recommendations. I met another who has been on two dozen cruises, knows the qualities of numerous cruiseships, is on a first-name basis with cruiseship company executives.  She talks with dozens of cruise-considering clients each week, places their cruise requests for them, and earns a higher net income than before because she no longer has the expenses of an office.  She works from the den in her house, and greatly enjoys the freedom and ease of doing so.

    The head of a prominent organization that assists home-based travel agents, and is called Outside Sales Support Network (“OSSN”) told me of estimates that some 50,000 Americans now work fulltime as home-based travel agents.  And those that have survived the economic pressures of recent years are doing well.  They need not sweat out an office rent and other related expenses.


    I also met travel suppliers at that conference who have no problem paying commissions to “home-based travel agents”.  One simply suggested that “home based agents” phone a toll-free number to his company, register with them, and thereafter enjoy a commission on the business they brought to that travel supplier.  

    So the next time you decide to use a travel agent--and if you do make that decision--ask a friend to recommend someone whom they have successfully used.  Then ask for the phone number of that agent and not for their office address.  If you have a high degree of trust in the friend who gives the reommendation, simply phone up the agent and place your business with them.

   The matter of whether or not the agent has an office, should not enter into the equation.  Who cares that the travel agent is taking the call in theri living room, den or basement?  Or is wearing a bathrobe while he or she speaks with you?