What's Involved with Switching Host Agencies?
By Sandy Saburn, CTIE

The ideal situation for any travel professional is to find a host agency that works for when they are starting their business AND that will meet their needs as they grow so they never have to change. However, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes your business changes and your host agency is no longer a good fit. Sometimes it is your host agency that changes and it’s no longer a fit for you. And in some cases, people don’t realize their options and later find out there is a better option for them.

Regardless of the reason, people change host agencies all the time. Right now, a lot of people are changing hosts because they have the smallest number of trips on the books they have had in a long time making it an easier time for transition.

The reality of switching is that it can be done, but it isn’t like turning off a light in one room and turning on one in another room. For most agents, there is a period of time when you will be dual-hosted. That means you have two hosts: one for those bookings that you have already made that you haven’t been paid for, and another for all future bookings.

Before we get into too much detail, I want to emphasize that how a transition happens is determined in large part by the contract you have with your current host agency. That contract should spell out what happens if you decide to sever your business relationship. If you are considering changing hosts, you should certainly give that document a good read to make sure you know what your options are.

Many agents think it isn’t possible to be dual hosted. Unless you are a franchisee (which is a completely different kettle of fish), your host agency cannot prevent you from being dual hosted. You are an independent contractor. You have the right to do business with the companies that make sense for you. This is a cornerstone of what makes someone an independent contractor (which is an IRS designation) and not an employee.

What concerns most people – and rightfully so – is how you will be paid the commissions you have already earned. Most often we see agents continue their affiliation with their original host until the commission is paid on all of their bookings. For some agents that can mean being dual affiliated for a few months or a year or more. All your new bookings go through your new host and you don’t put anything new through your old host, meaning you just staying with them until you get paid.

Many people think that if they change their host agency they can take their bookings with them. That’s rarely true. Most likely if you walk away and sever your relationship completely you forfeit your rights to the commission you are owed in the future. That’s not true with all hosts, so check your contract. In our current climate, some hosts are allowing advisors to take bookings with them to their new host. It varies greatly from host to host.

Because so many clients have future travel credits that aren’t tied to any agency, but the client, it also makes it an easier time to make a transition.

Keep in mind that you probably don’t have to notify your current host that you are working with another one. Whether or not you decide to tell your current host that you are changing, you may want to make a change to the hosting plan you are on if there is a monthly charge. It varies from agency to agency, but in some when you change your commission plan it applies to future bookings. Since you aren’t going to put any future bookings through the original host, it makes sense to change to the cheapest plan. This does not affect bookings made in the past, but again, read the contract.

But here’s another thought: You may not have to change hosts. If you love everything about your host except the commission split, talk to the owners or managers and see what you can negotiate.  If you are a productive agent and a valued member of their community, they will probably want to do what they can to keep you.

The bottom line is this: If you aren’t happy with your host agency and have decided it is in your best interest to change hosts, it doesn’t get any easier to wait. In many cases it makes it worse because frustration and resentment build. That negative energy doesn’t serve you or your business. Now is a golden opportunity to make that change and start 2021 in a new environment ready for new success.