I recently received two queries about software and the home-based travel agent that covered pretty much the same ground so, thinking that there are probably other folks out there with the same questions, I decided to provide an answer here so all can benefit.
Before, I launch into it, let me remind you that most questions (including these!) are answered on my FAQ page. Got it? Okay, let’s dig in.
First, I got this:
1) Does your course suggest what kind(s) of software you will need to be a home based travel agency?? For example — Reservations, business etc …
2) How much would the software cost ???
Then, from a Twitter follower, came this:
Is it wise to use a system like Sabre, when becoming a home based agent, or is it a waste of money?
Where to begin?
First, let me say that you need no specialized software to become or function as a home-based travel agent. Let me repeat that, with emphasis added: You need no specialized software to become or function as a home-based travel agent.
You do, of course, need software. If you are reading this, you probably have all the software you need already installed in your computer. Things like a word processing program, a database program like Excel, an accounting program like Quicken to keep track of your income and expenses, an Internet browser, Acrobat Reader, and so forth. You might also have more advanced software for making videos or laying out brochures. If not, and if you feel you need them, you can get them.
All of the above could fall under the heading of “general business software.” But what special software do you need to be a functioning home-based travel agent. None!
“But, but, but . . .” I hear you say, “What about all those slick ads from host agencies that say they’ll give me all the software I need and train me to use it?”
Well, host agencies have to make a living, too, and one way they do that is to sell software and training. The question is: Do you need it? In my opinion, the answer is NO, especially if you’re just starting out.
For one thing, more and more host agencies provide — sometimes for no additional fee — online access (that is, through a browser window on you home computer) to simplified versions of the fancy-schmancy GDS booking software that their home-based agents can use. These are pared down WYSIWYG point-and-click systems that are so intuitive that no real training is required.
For another, more and more suppliers are offering “booking engines” that let home-based travel agents go online (again, through their browser and make bookings. There are hotel aggregators through whom you can book everything from budget motels to villas in Tuscany. With these systems, you don’t even need a host agency — if you follow the steps outlined in the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course.
What about airline tickets? Those big GDS (Global Distribution System) programs like Sabre and the rest were originally developed to serve the airlines and the immensely complex of distributing and managing their tickets. If you plan on selling a lot of air, then at some point you will probably have to deal with one of these systems.
However, you can sell some air without them. More and more consolidators have online booking portals and a few, a very few, airlines let agents book online.
But I would encourage you to read the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course before you make any firm decision on whether to sell air. In many cases, you can sell the air portion of a trip without dealing with the airlines at all — and get a commission.
Oh, yes, did you know that airlines don’t pay commissions? You’ll have to charge a fee if you want to be paid for your work and that’s a hassle. And airline tickets cause more grey hairs in travel agents than any other travel product. Trips get cancelled and dates get changed and weather delays require rebookings. Very few people are going to cancel a honeymoon on you or change the dates of an anniversary cruise at the last minute.
Here’s another point: Wondering abut Sabre when you are starting out is putting the cart before the horse. You see the GDS you use is a function of the host agency you choose. To my way of thinking, it makes more sense to find a host agency that fits your needs and your style and learn whichever GDS system they use.
Now, of course, if you already know Sabre, it makes sense to seek out a host that uses it. No sense in learning a whole new language.
In the Host Agency Directory, a component of the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course, I provide information on over 300 hosts and cross-reference them by which GDS they use (among a number of other factor), which makes it easy to narrow your search.
As to cost of GDS software, it varies considerably, but there is typically an upfront investment of several hundred dollars and then ongoing monthly payments for access and perhaps fees for training. So, obviously, the calculation that has to be made is will you be bringing in enough money in commissions to justify the expense? Yet another reason to wait. (The Host Agency Directory provides information on the cost of a GDS at hosts that offer one.)
Let me emphasize that I am not suggesting that you must never sell airline tickets or that you must never invest in a GDS. All I’m saying is that I think you would be wise to put off that decision until you have a better understanding of the industry and a better feel for how your own business is evolving. Getting GDS software involves an investment of money, of course, but more importantly from my perspective in the time it takes to master it. There’s no point in spending the money and the time only to find out you’re not having any fun.
When the time comes for you to get a GDS, you’ll know it. And for many people who take my course that time never comes because they have discovered that they can earn a a very good living without one, and that’s all right, too.
So to summarize:
• Hold off on deciding whether you want to make booking airline tickets a part of your business mix.
• If, at some point down the road, you decide that you do want to book air, you will have enough experience under your belt to make an informed decision about how to go about it and, if you’re smart, the Host Agency Directory to guide you..