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Travel Agent Resources

What is a CLIA Number?

By Courtney Eisen

February 22, 2024

When it comes to travel agency identification numbers, it's easy to get lost in the many acronyms. There are ARC (Airlines Reporting Corporation), IATA (International Air Transport Association), and CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) numbers, each serving a unique purpose. In this article, we'll delve into the intricacies of the CLIA Number and its role in the travel industry.

The CLIA Number, as the name suggests, is issued by the Cruise Lines International Association. It serves as a way for vendors to identify travel agents as authorized sellers of travel. While the ARC and IATA numbers are primarily associated with airline ticket sales, the CLIA Number caters to a different segment of the travel industry, specifically focusing on cruises.

A Quick History

In the past, travel agencies heavily relied on airline ticket sales as their main source of revenue. As the industry evolved and travel agent commissions were reduced, many agencies started diversifying their income streams beyond airline tickets. This shift in focus led to the emergence of a new type of travel agency that didn't require an ARC or IATA number.

To accommodate these agencies and provide them with a more cost-effective way to establish their credentials, CLIA introduced the CLIA Industry ID Number. This number allowed agency owners to transition from their old ARC or IATA numbers to a CLIA Number, similar to keeping your phone number while switching carriers. For new leisure independent advisors entering the scene, CLIA offered the opportunity to obtain a brand-new CLIA Number.

CLIA vs. The ARC and IATA

Compared to ARC and IATA accreditation, obtaining a CLIA Number is more affordable and has fewer barriers to entry. This makes it an attractive option for leisure agents who want agency credentials to book travel. However, it's important to note that the CLIA Number cannot be used to book airline tickets through the GDS (Global Distribution System). If you're primarily focused on air-only reservations, ARC and IATA accreditation are still essential.

Suggested Article: Travel Agent Certification

One of the key differences between a CLIA Number and ARC/IATA accreditation is the terminology used. CLIA, with its emphasis on travel agent education and certification, avoids using the term "accreditation." However, the CLIA Industry ID Number functions similarly to other travel accreditations like ARC and IATA. Participating vendors recognize CLIA numbers, allowing agents to book travel and receive commissions under that number.

The Tiers of CLIA

Now, let's take a closer look at the credentialing requirements for obtaining a CLIA Number. There are two tiers of credentials with CLIA. It is important to note, however, that one is invite-only. For those new to CLIA, the Travel Agency Membership (TAM) is the primary option. This membership is designed for host agencies wanting CLIA Number. TAM is also suitable for storefront agencies. It's particularly suitable for leisure and cruise agencies that don't book a high volume of air-only travel.

To qualify for a TAM membership, your travel agency must be in good standing with state and federal regulations. The annual cost of a TAM membership is $399. This annual membership also includes an Individual Agent Membership (IAM) which can be used by the agency owner, or whoever the agency feels is most appropriate.The IAM provides access to various resources and is required for CLIA's professional development and certification programs.

For agencies that meet specific eligibility criteria, CLIA offers the Premier Agency Membership (PAM). However, the details regarding PAM eligibility are internal and not publicly disclosed. It's worth mentioning that MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) travel agencies are not allowed to join as PAM members.

Moving on to the IAM, it's important to note that this membership level does not provide a booking credential like the CLIA Number. Instead, the IAM grants access to CLIA's professional development and certification programs. To qualify for an IAM, you must be affiliated with a CLIA-credentialed agency, either as an employee or an independent contractor (IC). Your agency's CLIA Number serves as the entry point for obtaining an IAM.

The cost of an IAM membership depends on whether your agency is a Premier Agency Member or a Travel Agency Member. For Premier Agency Members, the annual fee is $69, while Travel Agency Members pay $119. Additionally, IAM members are required to complete CLIA's State of the Industry course, which is available at no cost, to maintain their membership status.

Apart from accessing professional development and certification programs, having an IAM allows you to be listed on CLIA's Agent Finder for an annual fee of $19.99. It also enables you to obtain an EMBARC ID, formerly known as the "CLIA Card." The EMBARC ID serves as a physical identification card for agents of CLIA-credentialed agencies and is widely accepted in the industry.

Using Your Host's CLIA Number

If you don't wish to obtain your own CLIA Number or IAM, there is an alternative. You can affiliate with a host agency (like ours) and book under their CLIA Number. This option is particularly beneficial for home-based agents, as it allows them to combine their revenue with that of other agents under the host agency's CLIA Number. This often leads to higher commission tiers that wouldn't be accessible on an individual basis.

In conclusion, the CLIA Number plays a crucial role in the travel industry, specifically for agents involved in selling cruises. While it differs from ARC and IATA accreditation, the CLIA Number serves as a recognized credential that allows agents to book travel and receive commissions. Whether you choose to obtain your own CLIA Number or affiliate with a CLIA-credentialed agency, understanding the options available can help you navigate the world of travel agency identification numbers more effectively.

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