Travel agent fees include fees paid by both consumers and travel agents themselves. Many travel agents charge customers fees to offset the cost of booking travel products that don’t pay a commission as well as for both the time and expense of performing travel research or communicating with vendors to arrange for special accommodations. In addition to consumer fees, travel agents themselves may pay fees in the form of split commissions with host agencies, host agency membership fees or franchise fees. Agencies may also pay membership and credit card processing fees to professional travel organizations.
In most cases, a travel agent will earn the bulk of his or her income through commissions paid by vendors of travel services such as hotels and cruise lines. Some travel vendors, however, don't pay travel agent a commission if he or she books the travel on behalf of his or her client. Since this represents a potential loss to the agent, many charge travel agent fees to consumers for each noncommissioned booking the travel agent must make. For example, most commercial airlines don't pay travel agents commissions anymore, so many travel agencies now charge a small courtesy fee for each booked airline ticket.
Many consumers are expected to pay travel agent fees when booking very complex travel arrangements, particularly if the arrangements require significant research on the part of the travel agent. Some travelers choose to visit exotic destinations or plan long trips to several different places. This type of travel may require the efforts of a professional travel agent to determine visa requirements, book quality accommodations and to arrange for local transportation. Since this can require several hours of work, some travel agents will request that consumers pay travel agent fees to cover the time spent on trip planning. In addition, customers may also be expected to cover any expenses incurred by the travel agent during the research and booking process.
Travel agents and travel agencies may also be required to pay various types of fees. Independent travel agents frequently work with a host agency that provides technological support, access to travel vendors and liability coverage to individual agents. Agents may pay a variety of fees to their host agency to cover the cost of the services that they receive. These agents may also be required to split their commissions with the host agency. Agencies themselves may choose to participate in various professional certification programs or benefit from credit card processing services offered by industry associations. In both cases, the agency will pay one or more types of fees to the organization providing these services.