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Different types of travel agent discounts include high-percentage discounts on transportation, accommodations and attractions. In addition, travel agents can qualify for free or low-cost “fam” or “familiarization” trips. Due to abuse of travel agent discounts by shady “independent travel agencies,” travel industry organizations, as well as travel vendors, have established strict policies in many jurisdictions so that only legitimate travel agents can earn these discounts. Travel agents who want to take advantage of industry discounts will typically need to provide industry-recognized credentials before being able to take advantage of special travel agent discounts.
Many travel vendors, such as hotels, transportation providers and tour companies, offer travel agent discounts and upgrades as both a courtesy and as a way to ensure loyalty from sellers of travel. Each travel vendor sets its own policies regarding discounts, but these discounts can provide travel agents and their family members with discounts of 50 percent or more standard prices. In addition, vendors may also upgrade the services provided to travel agents. For example, a travel agent who books a standard room in a hotel may be upgraded to a suite upon check-in. Other perks may include free tours, meals or tickets to various attractions or entertainment venues.
Familiarization trips represent another type of discount for those who work in travel services. These are organized trips to destinations that welcome tourists. Travel agents, and sometimes friends and family members, are invited to join these trips for free or at very low cost. The travel agent is typically expected to participate in seminars as well as tours of local accommodations and attractions, although he or she may also have significant free time for relaxing and independent exploring.
Travel agent discounts can be earned in several ways. Travel vendors may choose to provide discounts to all travel agents who have legitimate industry credentials, while others may provide discounts and familiarization trips to travel agents who have a strong track record of selling that vendor’s travel products and services. The process for obtaining travel industry credentials varies by jurisdiction and the issuing organization. For example, many travel vendors require a travel agent to hold credentials from the International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN) to take advantage of discount programs or fam trips. To prevent abuse of this program, as of 2011, IATAN requires a travel agent to earn $5000 US Dollars (USD) in commissions or salary within a 12-month period before issuing credentials to travel agents.