Travel agent overview for tour operator (article)

Susana Moleón Moya
Susana Moleón Moya
  • Updated

How to setup travel agents, affiliates, hotel concierges etc.

Background

TourCMS provides a powerful set of tools to work with travel agents, web affiliates, and hotel concierges.

In your TourCMS account, travel agents are set up in Partners / Marketplace Agents. These are YOUR travel agent records and configuration is up to you. This data is not shared with any other company (including the travel agent themselves). From the travel agent's perspective, a TourCMS agent account enables them to just have one travel agent account and then deal with multiple TourCMS suppliers in a consistent way. 

Connecting to a travel agent via the TourCMS Marketplace

The control of a connection is up to you, the supplier. Travel agents cannot start selling for you without an action from your side. The primary action is to connect to a travel agent.

You can create a connection:

1) By inviting an agent from an existing travel agent record in Travel agent manager (Homepage / Partners / Local Agents). If the agent already has a TourCMS Marketplace account (determined by an email address) then rather than inviting them, you can just connect there and then.

2) In response to a request for a connection by email. Normally you would receive an email from the agent and would click on a link in the email. You can disregard the email if you prefer. The email notification is a one-time only (so you won't have a constant email from the same company).

3) By searching for an agent ID/name in the Marketplace Agents section and then connecting. To use this option please locate the correct Agent ID under Marketplace Agents, click on Connection icon under column Actions.

Please note the Verified tab would easily show you the correct agent ID accounts for major agents.

Homepage -> Partners -> Marketplace Agents

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Once you have opened the correct Agent ID, choose the channel ID you'd like to connect via before setting up Commission Scheme and Net rate levels, if applicable. Ensure that you have chosen the applicable Connection Permissions before clicking on the button Create Connection. Please contact the Palisis Support team if the field Invite Code appears on the agent you are connecting to.

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To remove an existing connection, find the agent's record in Marketplace Agents (Connected tab), click on the Manage icon under Actions. Choose the Channel ID you'd like to disconnect and click on the Remove connection button. In our example, we are going to remove the connection with the travel agent "TourSift":

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If the agent holds elevated permissions beyond those of standard agents, you'll find that information displayed on this page.

Connection permissions

Generally, there are 3 permission levels to choose from when making a connection:

1 - Sell only (No booking access) 
They can sell your products but they won't see how successful they are.
Ideal if you are joining up with an advertiser where you are paying a fixed fee per year (rather than on success).

2 - Summary statistics (For affiliates) 
They can sell your product and see a top-level summary of how successful they are.
e.g. they can see a summary of booking details such as booking dates, lead customer name, sale value, commission earned etc.
This level is designed for website affiliates who need to know how they are doing but are not part of the bookings transaction hence you don't want to over-disclose personal consumer information to them.

3 - Full booking details (Just on own bookings) 
Full access to booking and customer records for bookings they have generated. However, they still won't see your profit margin nor suppliers used. Designed for travel agents who probably have the customer information already as they give you the booking in the first place. 

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On some screens (where new travel agent records will also be created), level 3 connection permission has two options - retail travel agent & trusted travel agent.

Travel agent types

There are 4 top level travel agent types. The top-level distinction is who will pay for the booking. If the travel agent is merchandising the transaction, then they should be set to either a retail travel agent or a trusted travel agent. 

Retail travel agent (Trade sale - the travel agent is responsible for paying for the booking)
If the booking is for a value of 100 and the travel agent is on 10% commission the travel agent will pay 90
Ideal for retail travel agents who must pay at the point of booking (like customers do)
These travel agents will take the same deposit settings as direct customers

Trusted travel agent (Trade sale - the travel agent is responsible for paying for the booking)
If the booking is for a value of 100 and the travel agent is on 10% commission the travel agent will pay 90
Web bookings will be immediately confirmed EVEN without payment

Lead customer (Customer will pay - but net of any commission due on the booking)
If the booking is for a value of 100 and the travel agent is on 10% commission the customer will pay 90

Lead customer (Advertising tracking or web affiliate style agent - customer will pay the full value)
If the booking is for a value of 100 and the travel agent is on 10% commission the customer will pay 100
and the travel agent will subsequently be paid 10. Ideal for web affiliates and hotel concierges

Commission vs net rates

TourCMS supports both net rates and travel agent commission

With travel agent commission, if you have a 100 USD tour and give 10% travel agent commission, the travel agent will pay a net balance of 90 USD

With net rates, you will distribute the tour at 90 USD and the booking will come into TourCMS at 0% commission

Travel agent login

There are two main methods of adding a travel agent login

Firstly, there is a simple travel agent login at the start of the out of the box booking engine. This is quite simplistic but may help for some situations. Secondly, via the TourCMS Marketplace, we have a shared travel agent login area: More information

We are working on new travel agent login capabilities. Contact us for details

Reports

Unpaid commission and uncollected balances can be found within the money (sales ledger) section.

Most operational reports also include information about unpaid balances (so you can collect on the day, perhaps). However, if there is an unpaid balance from a trusted travel agent (that you are billing on a monthly basis perhaps), this information is not in the operational report (as you won't be collecting on the day).

Configuration summary

Retail travel agents

These should be setup as agent owing the balance, retail travel agents

The TourCMS Marketplace travel agent login is probably the best way to get them to book with you. They can also see previous bookings and commission too

Most retail travel agents are fine using commission (and therefore paying net balances). For day tours, deal with retail travel agents as you would a direct customer - if they don't pay, they don't get the booking

If you wish to track to individual members of staff within a retail travel agency, we suggest they put their name in the agent reference field. The alternative is to create a retail travel agent account for each member of that agency's staff.

Retail travel agents can be grouped into consortiums via the agent group system. This enables reporting etc by group (not just by agency)

IF you have bookings with deposit/balance (e.g. multi-day tours tend to do this), and you want the retail travel agent NOT to have to pay up front, you can turn on, in channel manager, credit card settings, that Pay later is shown. You can set this so it is only shown for travel agents (not customers)

Hotel concierges selling day tours

Hotel concierges tend (for obvious reasons) to be local to the tour operator. Hence there is a greater level of trust and you may let them book without paying (at a point of booking). i.e. you would set them up as a trusted travel agent. This will let them book a confirmed booking immediately

Sometimes hotel concierges want to pay the full retail price (so they can give documentation to the customer). Sometimes they want to pay a net price (or receive commission). The API has 3 values - the amount due now, the retail price and the amount due ever - so you can build logic to support this (if you are building an API powered booking engine for hotel concierges).

Web affiliates

Web affiliates drive web traffic to your website - generally for 5-8% commission. The customer books directly with you (and the web affiliate is not a party to the transaction).

The product widgets are perfect for affiliates (or they can access the API and put your tour information into their site themselves). ONCE YOU ARE CONNECTED to an affiliate, you can create widget javascript for them (OR they can, in the travel agent login). This will track clicks and conversion from those clicks.

TourCMS works on a first click principle (hence helping travel websites that work in the inspiration phase). The cookie is on the TourCMS domain and lasts 1 year

Lead generators

Some companies just want to send you leads. Set them up as affiliates and then point them in the direction of the enquiry create API method. They will then be able to put enquiries straight into your account. If you manually create a booking from the associated customer record, they will be notified AND commission will be allocated (as appropriate)

Large online travel agent (OTA) companies

You would probably work with these using NET RATES. Additionally, set them up as trusted travel agents

We are working with a number of OTAs on direct importing of bookings into TourCMS (and OTAs pulling live tour descriptions, images, dates, prices & availability).