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Alamo Travel Group — dealing with last minute bookings

For the past two weeks, I have wondered if my agency name had been changed to Last Minute Bookings.  I will be honest and say these are my least favorite of any bookings.  I can definitely relate to the busy professional who can’t afford the time to plan their vacation, but nonetheless they are on the bottom of the list of my favorite things to do.  I have been lucky to build a solid client base that book with me frequently, and we plan these trips at least two months out.  Thanks to my CRM I was able to mine that nugget of information.  I also learned that 75% of my clients book summer trips. 

So of course coming into end of summer and the beginning of fall I am open to all business–no matter how last minute.  Most of these last minute bookings are new clients, which is a double-edged sword.  So I am going to use this space to share some frustrations and maybe some of you all can help a fellow agent with tips on how you’ve turned these frustrations around.

As I said in a previous diary, I love showing the value of a travel agent to prospects and clients.  I am a firm believer that a good travel consultant can totally change a trip to become an experience beyond the client’s dreams.  I would say the majority of the time that we receive calls or walk-ins for last minute travel is because they are bargain shopping, or they got stuck somewhere in the online process and now need help.  It is both frustrating and annoying.  So I have prospects not really caring about value.  I try; I really do try on behalf of my industry, colleagues, company and coworkers to show them what we can do for them.  That is very hard when you have a prospect on their mobile phone going tit for tat with you on how they are coming out $200 cheaper on an online booking engine.  Or they saw a small inn that only books directly; and they want you to book it for them at the same rate.

Even with tour operators that will price match, the prospects want to know why I don’t automatically get the same rate they did online. I often get accused of trying to pull a fast one by marking up the price to see how much I could make—and we all know that is not the case! It’s tough, I focus on showing all of our services, and explain how we can be of assistance; but I think the close ratio is small.  When asked what is my most difficult challenge, I always have to turn to these last minute bookings.  Are they a bane or a boon for you? Do they drive you batty like they do me?  Any tips on what works?

Mary Jo Salas is a 3-year veteran of the industry working for Alamo Travel Group. Alamo is a full service agency with government, business and leisure travel divisions based in San Antonio, Texas. Mary Jo specializes in honeymoons, family vacations, and couples’ getaways and also serves as the Southwest Chapter Vice-President for ASTA.

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