“We should start a host agency!”

That’s exactly how Gifted Travel Network was conceived, in early 2012. As a lifelong student and someone who creates paths when they don’t exist, I love to provide value in the travel agent education space. It comes as no surprise, then, that I created the Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs (GIFTE). There was a void in the industry and GIFTE filled it.

The void GIFTE filled was an absence of education, training and guidance on client attraction and business ownership for the new breed of travel sellers – a large portion of which are solo entrepreneurs, working from home. Within the travel industry, there are countless sources of product information and education. But no amount of product training is going to get you clients. There was no one in the industry teaching travel agency owners how to establish their expertise, attract ideal clients and put themselves on a path to profitability in the digital age. GIFTE fills that void – and does it quite well, I might add.

But it didn’t take long for a new void to reveal itself. Through GIFTE, as we taught more and more business owners how to put themselves on a path to profitability – one that looked quite different from the paths followed 20-25 years ago – a recurring question kept coming up from our students. Can you recommend a host agency – one that is in alignment with this new path to success that you’re teaching?

While I highly respect many of the host agencies in the industry, the honest answer is that we couldn’t give a fully endorsed recommendation. As someone who sold travel for 10 years, carved out a path to profitability amidst one of most difficult economic environments, and contracted with 3 different host agencies, I was quite aware of what was out there and what the new breed of travel business owner needed for success.

  1. Top Tier Commissions with as many suppliers as possible;
  2. 100% commission share in exchange for a reasonable monthly fee – so that the host agency expense was a fixed, known amount;
  3. Support in operating under the individual brand with no agenda to promote the host agency’s brand; why? experts make more money and I should be able to choose my expertise;
  4. Collaborative community, absent of a competitive environment – so I can tap the resources and wisdom of all other members and thus give my clients the best service possible;
  5. All the other standard things a host agency should offer like E&O insurance, Web-based CRM, invoicing support, consortia benefits, responsive customer service support, etc.

While it’s possible to name several host agencies that score top marks on many of these 5 things, there was not one that offered all 5 – and offer them well. Specifically, the 2 items that are hardest to find in the industry are 2 (affordable monthly fee in exchange for 100% commission share) and 3 (support in operating under the individual brand).

So, after chewing on the idea for many, many months, we decided to start a host agency.   We started Gifted Travel Network with the sole focus to support our Independent Contractors (I.C.’s). I think you’ll find that many host agencies have that the other way around – their focus is their business and the IC’s support it.

Now, with 2 companies under one roof, we had to set very clear boundaries on the relationship between the 2. It’s arms length. Our intentions from the GIFTE side haven’t changed. With our GIFTE hats on, we want to be of service to anyone desiring to monetize their passion for travel. For those that are content with their host, franchise, or independent status, GIFTE has no agenda for GTN. But for those who are asking about a good host recommendation, we will proudly put GTN in the ring.

I couldn’t be more proud of the management team at the helm of Gifted Travel Network. Our I.C’s are in tremendously good hands! While our combined experience is not what you would expect of this group, we are 3 dynamic, competent mom-preneurial go getters! Between Jen’s 25 years at the Federal Reserve Bank, Vanessa’s incredible success in sales and business development plus experience running the training for one of the industry’s largest franchise operations, and my self created path to success selling travel for over 10 years, our different contributions to the business are quite symbiotic. And honestly … if we can raise 7 amazing kids between the 3 of us … we can do anything!

Our strategy to create a host agency solely focused on supporting the travel entrepreneur has paid off. In only 2 years, we grew our network from 0 to over 140 independent contractors. Suppliers have no idea where we came from! That number will continue to grow, but we remain committed to being of service to the seller of travel in today’s digital age.

[pmc_box background_color=”#c3e8f7″ border_color=”#c3e8f7″ text_color=”#000000″ ]Inspired by the joy Meredith gets from answering GIFTE and GTN members’ questions on her Monthly Mentoring with Meredith calls, we decided to proactively provide you with answers to questions you didn’t even know you had. Think of #AskMeredith as the travel industry’s digital age version of the good old fashioned “Dear Abby” newspaper column.[/pmc_box]

Gifted Travel Network, Inc. | 425 E. Statesville, Suite 101, Mooresville, NC 28115 | (877) 982‐2842

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