Money talks. When I request a research fee I am letting the client know that I am knowledgeable and worthy of respect. Those who are serious about their vacation and have the ability to respect my knowledge will readily pay. So far this month I have three more bookings than last month. It pays to work with only those who are serious and respectful.
While I am still experimenting with my fee structure I am learning not to short change myself. This month I collected $25 from a man who was looking for a great all inclusive vacation for his family. Following a simple consultation with me, he chose the Moon Palace in Cancun. Initially I felt that this was a “simple” booking that would not take much of my time. Well, this gentleman changed dates, number of days and airports several times and also wanted pricing for his sister and family. For 10 days he kept saying he was “getting close” to a final decision and wanted updated pricing each day. On the 11th day he told me of the fantastic price that Palace Resorts was offering online. I called Palace Resorts and was told that this fantastic pricing ($600 less than I could get with any of my suppliers) was for clients to book online themselves and not available to travel agents for earning a commission. For two days I called to inquire about this only to get the same answer; sorry – this pricing is for consumers only who book on the Palace Resort site. I told my client and he and his sister booked online with Palace Resorts. The research fee of $25 was not enough to cover the time and effort I put into this booking only to lose it to Palace Resorts directly. Lesson learned. I now charge a minimum of $75.00.
Fortunately I did not take “Palace Resorts great pricing to consumers only” lying down. I complained bitterly up the food chain until I got results. Palace Resorts apologized to me and stated that travel agents should get the same pricing to offer their clients and earn a commission. The bookings made by my client and his sister have been turned over to me and I will receive my due commission.
Incidents like this one with Palace Resorts undermine the professionalism of a travel consultant. It seems like many suppliers are doing all they can to get the consumer to book direct. Yet, the consumer may not know what resort, cruise or tour really fits his or her preferences and needs. They must guess, research on their own, and hope they pick the “right one.” How do we as an industry of travel professionals fight back? How do we “fight back” when the supplier entices the consumer with better pricing after we have consulted with consumer and recommended their product?
An immediate step for the professional travel consultant to take, is to charge a research fee upfront. Next, we need to increase public awareness of what we offer the consumer. Last, but not least, we need to put pressure on the suppliers and constantly remind them that the travel agent distribution channel is alive and well. As travel professionals we cannot shrink back, now is the time to make our worth known to both the consumer and the supplier.
Until next month, happy selling!
Pat Saizan, ACC, CTC owns Saizan’s Travel based in Altamonte Springs, FL (a home based agency hosted by Travel Planners International). For more information, you can contact Pat at Pat@SaizansTravel.com.
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