“When I become a home-based agent, will I get my IATAN card?”
“How do I get an IATA number?”
In spite of covering this matter on my web site, I get a steady stream of such questions. I try to answer them but some people still don’t seem to “get it.” One wrote back, “So if I buy your course, will I get my IATAN card with it?”
So let me try to clear up what I believe is a basic misunderstanding about how this all works.
An IATA number (sometimes referred to as an ARC number or an ARC/IATA number, just to confuse you) is simply a unique identifying number that distinguishes one accredited travel agency from another. Most importantly, an IATA number lets an agency sell airline tickets. There are other travel products that, technically, an agency can sell without an IATA number but the ARC/IATA identifier system has become so well-established that most suppliers find it convenient to track their agency vendors by IATA number. It’s also a convenient way for a supplier to get a rough idea of who is a “serious” travel agent and who isn’t. Of course, there are a great many travel agents without ARC or IATA numbers who are highly serious and impeccably professional, but that’s another issue.
The key to the home-based travel revolution is that it is possible to have the benefits of an IATA number (that is, be able to sell travel products) without having an IATA number (and the storefront premises, bonding, overhead, reporting burdens, and all the other things that go along with it).
You do that by forming a relationship with a “host agency” as an independent contractor. In effect (although this is not the legal term for it), you are “renting” the host agency’s IATA number and using it to make bookings with suppliers. The “rent” you pay is a portion of the commission earned on all products you, the independent contractor, sell using the host agency’s IATA number. Many host agencies also charge an upfront fee to new independent contractors; some also assess annual “membership” fees.
In other words, you don’t actually “have” an IATA number in this arrangement but you have the use of one, which is in many important respects a better deal. As I just mentioned, by using a host agency’s ARC/IATA number you avoid a lot of expensive overhead. And if you follow the advice I give in my home study course, you will pay only a modest “rent” in the form of the host agency’s share of the commission. It’s a real win/win situation. And, as a completely independent contractor (with the accent on “independent”), you can deal directly with any supplier that is willing to deal directly with you – another topic covered in the course.
To deal directly with suppliers yourself, you will need your own IATA number — or something very much like it. A number of new options give you a number that takes the place of the “pseudo-ARC numbers” that have long been given to independent non-ARC agents by suppliers. (These new options, as well as pseudo-ARC numbers are discussed in the home-study course.)
These “new” numbers are not quite the same as the ARC/IATA number that the storefront travel agency has. For starters, you can’t use most of these numbers to book airline tickets; for that you still need the industrial strength ARC-IATA number of your host agency. Note: Not all host agencies have the ability to sell airline tickets! If this is important to you, make sure the host you are investigating actually has the capability to sell air before you enter into a business relation with them!
Does getting your own “IATA” number make sense for you? It’s hard to tell. In theory, it makes it easier for you to establish direct relationships with suppliers, but I have been showing home-based agents how to do that for years. It may turn out that suppliers will prefer these IATA-like identifying numbers over the pseudo numbers (often composed of the agent’s phone number) that they used in the past. Time will tell.
Once you get your own IATA number (or its functional equivalent), you are more than just a travel agent who can deal directly with suppliers. Your are a travel agency!
That means you can do everything a “real” travel agency can do (except, perhaps, for selling airline tickets). You have commercial premises. You can hire agents whom you pay by either salary or commission. You have form relationships with independent contractors, to whom you pay commissions when they make a booking. In short, you can become a host agency! Several people I have trained have taken this major step.
Is it for you? I can’t say, obviously, but I can tell you that it is possible. And I can guide you on your way.