Let's begin by defining what the TRUE code is all about...
The TRUE code was established in 1999 as a component of what was then the Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN). Based on IATA's numerical identification system, it was designed for independent travel agents who wanted a means to receive payments directly from suppliers and a way to be recognized in "the system" as sellers of travel. This new accreditation was the first one developed by travel agents, as opposed to ARC, IATA and CLIA's system which was developed by the airlines and cruise lines, respectively.
Since 1999, more than 5,000 travel agencies have been approved to operate under a TRUE Code today. The codes are owned by the agency owners, who may have an unlimited number of approved independent contractors operating under that code. So in essence, one code could represent a sole proprietor operating their own agency, or an agency comprised of hundreds of independent contractors. There are many small to medium-sized host agencies who operate under a TRUE code as well. In 2017, we introduced TRUEHost for agencies who require seats for more than 5 independent contractors. Upon approval, they may add up to 25 at a reduced rate.
In 2013, both OSSN and the TRUE Code were acquired by us (CCRA) with the intention of growing the network outside of the USA and to be able to connect these agencies with a wealth of new suppliers who wanted to do business with serious sellers of travel. The acquisition presented many challenges, including brand confusion over what was happening to OSSN, how the TRUE code would change, and how travel professionals would make the transition over to CCRA successfully. It also allowed us to take a much closer look at the requirement for TRUE, and the types of travel sellers who would benefit most from it. For instance, the costs and requirements of obtaining TRUE can be difficult in some states that require bonds and seller of travel licensure... and some agents may not be ready for that. In those cases, we advise travel professionals to seek out a host agency to help them grow. Again, this was confusing to those in the industry who were used to TRUE only representing small, independent agents.
Now, several years later, the TRUE landscape has changed dramatically. More and more larger agencies and high volume producers are obtaining TRUE codes in order to have the ability to work outside the US, to work with more diverse, niche suppliers and not have to worry about volume requirements. In addition, TRUE code holders often prefer to negotiate their own commissions based on their particular business model.
About ID Cards
Few things have stirred up as much controversy in the travel industry as ID cards have. Some view them as a means to obtaining cheap, insider deals on travel, while most view them as a crucial benefit to CCRA and TRUE membership. There is no easier way to verify your credentials and brand yourself as a professional when you're having a face-to-face conversation or presenting yourself in person to a supplier. Online verification and certificates are great - and we provide those too - but there is no substitute for these cards.
Most agents use them responsibly, but unfortunately there have been many deal-seekers or those seeking out a shortcut to discounts that have given them a bad name in many circles. Our cards are only issued to agencies who fulfill all of the requirements of TRUE, AND maintain them annually.
So, the next time you hear the term "card mill", make sure you do your homework and ask the right questions. IS the program too easy to get in to? Do they accept anyone and everyone? Ask about specific vetting processes and their purpose. In the end, you'll see and appreciate just how much value a thorough verification process provides to you, your suppliers and your customers!
"Yes, we are making waves because we require a higher standard when it comes to our agents. Only through proven dedication, experience and demonstrated success can we build the most powerful network of travel professionals in the world. Our agents work hard to maintain their status, and aren’t allowed to just cruise on in. That’s our standard of excellence, and we hope you demand the same from your partners." — Margie Jordan, VP Membership Services, CCRA