A Travel Agents Guide to Hotels
Benefits of Booking Hotels
As a travel agent you arrange all types of travel, from all-inclusive resorts to simple hotel accommodation. It's important to be familiar with all types of hotels available, particularly if you specialize in specific geographic regions. For many international travelers, the hotel can truly define the experience. Likewise, choosing a culturally authentic hotel can make for a more memorable and enjoyable experience.
Many travel agents develop relationships with major hotel chains. This is beneficial because these chains often have well established travel agent programs with a commission structure that is successful and well defined. Having a relationship with a hotel chain also allows a travel agent to take advantage of any loyalty programs that may be available. International hotel chains are found worldwide, so you can reliably find a hotel that you are familiar with and will continue to build your benefits from the loyalty program.
Still, many clients are looking for a more unique and less corporate experience. This is particularly true today, when travelers are looking to step outside of their comfort zone and experience something "real". A referral for a hotel from a travel agent can go a long way in building this traveler's confidence. By familiarizing yourself with the more unique and independent hotel options available in an area, you'll be able to offer your clients more, and this level of expertise will go a long way in marketing yourself to new clients. You'll also be able to reach a more independent audience that may not typically use a travel agent to do their business.
If your clients are going on a tour, in all likelihood the tour operator is handling the accommodation arrangements for you and your client. If this is the situation, you will likely collect a commission directly from the tour operator, and not from the hotel itself. In some occasions, however, the tour will provide ground transportation and guides, but not hotels. This may be the case in personalized tours that are not designed for groups. If this is the case, you can receive commissions from both the tour operator and any hotels with which you work.
Commission Rates for Agents
Commission rates for travel agents can vary dramatically based on any number of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, the hotel company, the booking engine used, the number of previous bookings, the value of the room, the size of the group, or any additional add-ons such as rental cars or airline tickets. Commissions are roughly around 10% of the booking, but this can change one way or the other dramatically.
If your clients are going on a tour, you'll likely receive a commission from the tour operator, who will take care of the hotel arrangements. If you have a close working relationship with the tour operator, and the tour is less organized and more flexible, then it may be possible to arrange the hotels separate from the tour and still receive a commission.
Hotels, Resorts and Bed and Breakfasts
Accommodation styles can vary dramatically. Clients often have a preference for the type of place they wish to stay, but sometimes they are looking for recommendations and input from you, the travel expert. It's tempting as a travel agent to refer a client to a major hotel chain with whom you work regularly, but many clients will appreciate it if you have a range of options to offer them. Many travelers these days are looking for a more unique and personalized experience. It's important for you to develop relationships with independent hotels and inns. Bed and breakfasts are great options for many guests, but often their commission structure is not as well defined. You may have to start a conversation with the owner and reach an agreement before you begin doing business. Even though the relationship may not be as straightforward, many independent hotel owners are still very interested in working with you. When you begin the conversation with the owners, talk to them about how many clients you may be able to send their way. If you can show them that you can give them a steady flow of business, they are likely to be quite generous with their commissions.
All-inclusive resorts often have a similar structure to cruise lines. The commission rates can be quite generous, and by booking additional excursions and add-ons, you are likely to see an even greater return rate. Increasing your loyalty level to these programs can also provide you with any number of rewards and perks.
Popular Hotel Chains
Many travel agents choose to work with major hotel chains as they usually offer user friendly interfaces and have well established and straightforward programs. Clients are also familiar with these hotels, so they have confidence in the quality of the room they are being offered. Some of the major hotel chains that are particularly popular with travel agents are the Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton. Often times clients also belong to loyalty programs for these hotels. Make sure you inquire whether your client belongs to such a loyalty program before you make a booking for them, and if they do not, consider recommending this option to them. The rewards can be impressive for frequent travelers. Often these rewards programs vary slightly for those hotels that are located overseas. Sometimes the rules can be different and redeeming the rewards can be slightly more challenging in countries outside of the home country. Make sure that both you and your client fully understand the rules for redeeming rewards prior to making arrangements or joining a loyalty program.
If your focus is on international travel, then you should familiarize yourself with the different hotel chains in your region of interest. Although there are many major chains abroad that you are likely to be familiar with, some of the more affordable options may operate in only one or two countries. Despite not being found worldwide, these hotels often still offer excellent commission programs for travel agents.