Fight fair | TravelResearchOnline

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Fight fair

Fights, brawls, spirited discussions. Call them what you like, but this week there have been countless of them on many forums, in comments in response to columns, and even in person.

With most fights, someone will intervene and separate the warring individuals and put them in the corner for a time out; but this time I think we need to step back and let the fighting continue! People fight because they are passionate. And right now, we need some passion in this industry.

Business model

One of the most volatile arguments has been on the industry’s business model. Some professionals are extolling the virtues of commissions and preferred supplier relationships, others are fee maniacs and will add a fee to any transactions, and others are squawking that their retainer only model is the way to go. While none of them are the answer for the industry in general, the fervor with which everyone is defending their particular model is extreme. To me, this just goes to show that our current model, while maybe not completely broken, is certainly in need of a tune up.

Consumer ombudsman

The other brouhaha involved a well known (and some may say not well liked) consumer Ombudsman who uncovered what appears to be a shady travel agent. Many travel professionals were livid that the lead in to the article said that the consumer’s first mistake was consulting a travel agent. As was expected, the travel professionals flipped out and countered that this particular ombudsman has a “thing” for agents and does a disservice. Maybe. Maybe not. When it comes down to it, it is his opinion and he is entitled to it. But regardless, it poked a hornet’s nest and the passion of the industry overflowed.

We are not passionate about this industry because we hate it. We are passionate (in part) because we fear it may be hurt. Let me pose a question. No answers…just think about it for a bit. If your business was booming and cash was flowing and there wasn’t a care in the world, would you have jumped into either of these issues? For me the answer is a resounding “no”. These issues are so volatile right now, because business is not right. Business is challenging. Business is downright scary. The NCFs have whittled our cruise commissions away, United wants us to pay for the credit card fees, suppliers and trade publications are going out of business and consumers are much more conscious of their expendable income. It’s not a fun time and good times do not seem to be on the near horizon. So, how does one get through all this? Sure the easy way is to hang it up—and that may be the best solution for some; and there is nothing wrong with that. As Kenny Rogers said, sometimes you have to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Or you can stick it out.

But if you choose to stick it out, does it make any sense to continue to along the same path? Are you able to affect change with the NCFs? Can you do anything about Happy Vacations or any other supplier that cannot manage their own business? We operate in a very unique industry where our total compensation can be controlled by someone else. Barack Obama campaigned on Change for America and I think it might be appropriate here. As it is, what we have is in disrepair. Take a look at what you have and figure out how to fix it up to insure your success. If it is too far gone, change it out. As I said earlier, I don’t know which business model is the right one; but one thing is for sure that if you are not at least open to the suggestion, you will be forever stuck with the broken one.  Embrace the industry. Let the passion show. And fight fair!

  2 thoughts on “Fight fair

  1. Ken Hall says:

    The problem can be summed up in paragraph 5 where you willingly state that you would not get involved in these battles if times were good. You are willing to submit to being trampled during good times because you are still okay…and you hope someone else will take up the fight.

    In bad times you don’t have the money or the time to fight because you’re struggling to get by, so you take up the call to arms and try to enlist others in the fight.

    What is needed is constant, steady pressure on the vendors, showing how we help them keep costs down, revenues up and clients returning. We need to refuse to sell companies like United when they decide to dump their costs of doing business back on us.

    Let me say it again – REFUSE TO SELL THEM! There is no law that says we must sell them. When a client asks us to book a vacation, and do their air on United, we must say, “I don’t sell United. Their policies are to charge you for ‘the right’ to do business with them. If you insist on them, I’ll either charge you a fee to cover my additional costs, or you can call them…and pay them a fee!”

    If, instead, you say to yourself, “Gosh, I can’t afford to lose this booking so I’ll take my lumps now and fight later on,” then you are part of the problem.

    The issues are the same in good times and bad. The vendors have realized the retail travel community will shout and scream for a month, maybe two if the issue is really critical to them. Then, like the American public, they will grow use to it and accept that is how life is going to be from now on.

    Whenever an issue arises we should ask ourselves, “If not now, when? If I don’t fight this now because (I’m too busy, I need the money too badly, I’m not feeling well or my clients won’t come back…) when I’m ready to fight will it be too late?”

    It’s easier to stop an attack than to move an entrenched enemy (or vendor.)

    If not now…when?

  2. Chris Turner says:

    Oh how I enjoy reading these articles from the U.S. ! Being a bricks and mortar travel agent in the UK I remember when (not too long ago ) BA introduced a reduced rate of commission then no commission at all. Our trade association ABTA was useless saying that they could not recommend their membership not to book BA. The upshot was that we did (not book) and you can see their latest results in all the financials. So with the problems you have with UA all I can say is stick together and remember they need you far more than you need them. Best of luck.

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