Written By: Anita Pagliasso, PATH President
The Professional Association of Travel Hosts, Inc. (PATH) is the only travel industry association with a membership comprised of the leading Host Agencies in the United States. Founded in 2007 by some of America’s foremost Hosts, PATH is an Industry Association borne out of necessity.
A Rapid Metamorphosis in Travel Distribution & Unprecedented Realities
The New Millennium ushered in unprecedented advancements in technology combined with the emergence of the Internet as a commercial vehicle which empowered travel professionals with the freedom to conduct business “virtually anywhere” (from home or the office). These were but a few new realities.
Combined with the negative economic impact that resulted from the elimination of airline commissions and the subsequent paralyzing consequences the events of 9.11.2001 had on our Nation and our Industry, Professional Travel Consultants were faced with formidable challenges.
It was during this period of market upheaval that the Host Agency category experienced some early growing pains. As in any opportunity-driven market, a handful of entities tarnished the best efforts and intentions of the overwhelming majority of Hosts. As a “new breed” of distribution, many veteran and new Travel Agents alike were understandably confused as to what a true, Professional Host Agency should “look like”.
Professional Host Agencies, Travel Agents and Suppliers alike sought to determine professional standards and a code of conduct.
The Professionals Take Action
PATH was formed to establish Host Agency operating standards with strict enforcement among its qualifying Host Agency members.
PATH was created by forming a group, an initial core membership of dedicated, Professional Travel Host Agency members who work in co-operation to share best practices, and operate their Association with the highest levels of integrity while adhering to professional standards. Over time, our ranks have grown and our value has become well
“Several years ago, Carnival Cruise Line engaged with PATH. Little did we know the importance this association played in the success of travel hosts all around the country! Attending PATH Symposiums allowed us to get involved with business strategies that benefited travel hosts and suppliers alike. The dialogue they create for everyone is invaluable and appreciated. Thank you PATH!”
Mike Julius, CTC
Vice President – U.S. and Caribbean Field Sales
Carnival Cruise Lines
PATH is committed to ensuring professionalism in the hosting industry nationwide. Whether you are a small host agency working mostly with local travel consultants or one of the larger hosts working with consultants through-out the U.S., there are many benefits of joining PATH, the only association for host agencies.
PATH has a thorough vetting process that each member undergoes before they are able to join the organization. This ensures that member host agencies are reputable and reliable industry professionals. Travel consultants and suppliers can all be confident that any host agency belonging to PATH is an organization of the highest quality. As a PATH member the host agency will be associating with other highly reputable, respected and successful travel hosts.
The host agencies with PATH work together to ensure the independent travel professional is a voice in the evolving travel industry. The goal of the organization is diverse and provides immense value to travel suppliers, the organization’s member agencies and their affiliated Professional Travel Agents.
The PATH hosts collectively (and individually) work together to raise awareness of travel agents in communities and partner with each other on enhancing their overall value proposition. The end result is to ensure that quality professionals are attracted to our Industry and develop rewarding careers as a travel agent.
The PATH leaders convene monthly to discuss headwinds and tailwinds that are impacting the business and the agents within their organizations. We share best practices and lessons learned to help each other overcome any hurdles that exist. Most importantly in the changing landscape of this business model, we ensure the businesses are aligned with independent contractor laws and legislation.
Challenges Confronting New Age Distribution and Crafting Win-Win-Win Outcomes
Technology paved the way for travel professionals to work from home. Host agencies provide Independent Contracts the tools and resources they need to run their own businesses. The challenge that Host Agencies and Suppliers experienced in this new distribution model were tri-fold. Suppliers, Hosts and Professional Independent Travel Agents had to deal with new operational, logistical and economic realities:
- How do we communicate pertinent information to the home based agent?
- How do Host Agencies and Suppliers send important documents to home based agents?
- How do we educate home based agents on supplier products, agency programs, and all things travel?
Why should an independent contractor look for PATH Hosts?
The answer is credibility and reliability.
PATH agencies are vetted; we are experienced and held to stringent fiscal and ethical standards that are in the best interests of Independent Contractor. Choosing a PATH agency assures that you are working with a company that is an industry leader; one that is concerned about integrity and ethical standards. It means you are assured of working with an accredited host that provides training, marketing and technology support. It means you are working with the best of the best.
PATH Hosts provide insight to ASTA and CLIA so that these organizations have a clear appreciation for the concerns of the Host Agency Community and are better prepared to assist in finding solutions to any problems that exist within their scope of Organizational practices.
“The PATH Symposium is one of my favorite and most productive events of the year. We always take away valuable information and action items that we can apply to improve our partnerships, not only with Host Agencies, but with all of our travel partners. This is a must attend event on my calendar every year.”
Vice President, Industry Relations
Travel Insured International©
Education forums are the foundation of the key initiatives these agencies work to influence. Ensuring agents are informed and educated on industry trends, technologies and product is paramount to their success. The ultimate goal is to have professional agents conducting business and influencing consumers on the benefits of travel.
The biggest opportunity is to increase the overall engagement with existing independent contractors within each agency. In addition, PATH aims to encourage any IC to partner with a PATH affiliated agency where each offers a plan for being successful in the business of travel.
“The landscape of what a Host agency is has changed over the last few years and PATH brings clarity to that definition. As a company (The Mark Travel Corporation), we realize the importance of the Host agency and their IC’s and the contribution they make to the industry. We feel our association with PATH has given us a closer working relationship with these agencies and we will continue to grow our outreach to these IC’s. The conference we attended this past August in DC was a great exchange of ideas, concerns and opportunities within the HOST world. Sharing of this information was valuable to all that were present.”
Cheryl Hudak, CTC
Regional BDM WEST
The Mark Travel Corporation
While PATH does not offer a supplier membership we offer a host of benefits to the Suppliers that participate in annual Symposium. Many Suppliers have seen the benefit of modifying certain business practices. The result? Stronger and more efficient/effective business relationships with the Host Agency Community.
When we meet each year we discuss topics of critical importance on to day-to-day and long-term business implications.
One of the biggest issues for suppliers has been reaching the Independent Contractor even when working with a host agency. While all Host Agencies operate a little different there were a number of changes that could benefit all of us.
- Sending PATH members local training opportunities so we can distribute to our membership.
- Adding secondary phone fields so the agent can get local support if needed.
- Many have added positions within their company that directly work with the Host Agencies. This is to make sure the agents are getting the right type of marketing and attention.
The rewards to the Suppliers have been a growth in business from PATH Hosted IC’s/Travel Agents. The benefit to the Agents has been the recognition and attention they deserve. It has been a win-win-win for everyone.
Benefits of Joining the Professional Association of Travel Hosts
So why should a host agency join Path?
The answer is simple, as a PATH member you no longer have to “go it alone” when faced with issues impacting the hosted model. Within this organization of responsible, vetted host agencies, you have opportunities to share, discuss and solve issues impacting your business in a friendly and confidential manner. Focused attention to industry issues results in focused solutions.
Strength is another reason to join PATH. When governmental or supplier issues arise, the collective voice of the PATH organization is stronger than that of a single host agency. And today, when the hosted model is growing faster than the industry is able to respond, a unified and collective voice is needed more than ever.
One of the greatest advantages of joining PATH is the opportunity available for networking with others in the industry and the camaraderie that results from these relationships. There is much to be gained by sharing ideas, best practices, and challenges that occur with government regulation, supplier partners, consultant training, and day to day operations that are unique the hosting arena.
When an organization belongs to PATH it will have wider access to the latest industry information that may not be readily available otherwise. It could mean more visibility, which may give a competitive edge. Membership in PATH can help project a positive brand image of a host company to industry suppliers and independent travel consultants. There is much to be gained by supporting others in a common business community. Competitors working together through PATH make the hosting industry stronger.
By joining PATH a host is kept abreast of the latest issues that crop up in the industry. As a PATH Board of Directors Member stated: “PATH lets me know what’s going on in my industry so I can make better and more informed decisions. It’s a comfort knowing that I am not the only one dealing with similar problems”. It is important for hosts to have an inside track on new developments in this quickly evolving industry and PATH is a fantastic resource for that.
PATH provides its membership with a unified voice which results in a bigger impact and therefore, can solve problems and facilitate change quicker and easier. As with any professional association, to reap the benefits of membership individuals must be willing to participate. Paying annual dues is not enough to realize all the benefits that come with a PATH membership. What a company gets out of membership is directly related to how much a host agency becomes involved.
“We greatly value our partnership with PATH as we have been able to cultivate stronger business relationships through our involvement. The PATH symposiums provide us with insight for better communication and support to host agency members. Thank you for your continued efforts to provide these opportunities. Kudos to PATH!
Sr. Director of Home Based Partnerships
Carnival Cruise Lines provide these opportunities. Kudos to PATH!”
Pockets of opportunities for the host model
The travel industry has a number of agency owners that are looking for succession plans for their businesses. There are several options that a Host Agency can offer owners that allow them to find homes for their employees and clients. Path is a great place for agency owners to look for a professional host agency to start this conversation with. Host agencies offer more than just a home for a single Independent Contractor.
Ask us for options!
Feel free to contact us for additional information and to discuss opportunities