You want me to give away what? | Travel Research Online


You want me to give away what?

If you’re good at something never do it for free.” – The Joker in The Dark Knight

Many of us who write for Travel Research Online have become or are firm believers in charging professional fees for our consultation services. We have grown weary of being used as quoting service. Nothing emphasizes this philosophy more clearly than a blog entry by Chris Brogan called The Audacity of Free. Reading this entry brought be to a different entry The point when you can’t do free anymore. Funny how reading from others outside of our industry opens up an entire thought process, but that is a topic for another article.

My thought process is a bit different than these two authors in that I feel there are some times when we do need to give away what we know for free. Certainly not everything, but I am going to be so bold as to say we should potentially give away up to 90% of what we know for free. We should also cover up that special Google-proof knowledge we possess (that 10%) with a bikini. You may be thinking that bikinis are just what you wear when traveling, but they can apply to information as well.

We need to do a better job in communicating the value we offer our clients when we quote our fee. We all got into this business because we LOVE to travel and early all of us love to talk. We are story tellers, and in 2010, we should be weaving stories of our travels in as many avenues we can to our clients directly in person or through email; through group presentations; writing in our blogs, Facebook updates or tweets. We know where to find that great restaurant not in the tourist guide. We know how to read deck plans and know our client with the young child wants to be nowhere near the cruise ship night club that gets going around 2AM!

We also have the ability to be the one person our client speaks to or gets an email from at every point of contact, before, during and after their vacation. We can either be available or have coverage available during a client’s travel who intimately knows his or her travel plans. We know when to go and more importantly can recommend when NOT to go. To be successful with the concept of the bikini you must offer information they won’t find on the web or if it is even possible a client is going to take a great deal of time to locate it

I believe if we offer the 90% of knowledge we know about a particular destination, cruise line, or resort there are people who will pay for the 10% covered by the bikini, and they will pay handsomely for it. Of course, you may only wish to do 75/25. Whatever the number is, your clients don’t know what they don’t know. You have to provide them value for their money, but you also have to make money as well. However, just remember that the most successful people in networking organizations are those who give the most referrals.

Our goal for 2010, or MMX as I am going refer to this year, should be educating the traveling public that the knowledge hidden by our individual bikinis is worth paying a premium. We must let our clients and potential clients know that vacation advice from the agency of THEY SAID and I’VE HEARD is not going there to help them when their flight is cancelled, the resort walks them or their arrival port has been closed due to fog.

As I bring this article to an end, let me share a personal story. My wife and I were nearly to the point of filing for divorce this past Christmas while trying to put together my daughter’s new bicycle. Screams filled the house, threats were made, and hands received minor injuries due to a brake handle squeezed at an inopportune time. In an act of desperation, my wife called a local toy seller and learned for a small fee, they will complete the remaining 10% of construction left on the bicycle. Divorce was averted, boiling over kettles were brought to a more comfortable temperature and the bicycle was finished by an EXPERT.

My daughter’s bicycle was made whole by someone who puts together bikes every single day, several times a day. For the sanctity of our marriage, we would have paid 10 TIMES as much to receive the desired result. I promise you there are clients out there who are in the same boat, so to speak, when it comes to arranging their traveling plans. We just need to let them know we are available to help them…for a fee of course!

Chuck Flagg is an independent owner/operator of Cruise Holidays of Canton, GA. He can be reached at 770-355-9569 or at

  4 thoughts on “You want me to give away what?

  1. Fees desired but region/target makes diff says:

    I read a lot about the increased desire of the travel agent community to want to charge fees. And there seems to be mixed results and mixed thoughts. A lot of examples are used of the agencies targeting rich clients and naturally once they have established a base and loyalty they can get away with outrageous fees (like the one that is mentioned often – Fisher I believe – that can charge 100k to each client because they are price insensitive and they have the right clients). But there needs to be more discussion about how sometimes charging a fee is a turnoff also and results in lost business. A lot of agencies cater to the mainstream or price sensitive consumers which is the norm. In the bike example above, the bike person is a technical expert. But as much as some agents are also technical experts, let’s not forget many consumers unless needing a sophisticated international trip can do much of what we can themselves – online especially. For simple domestic trips and cruises, consumers do research and just as is all of our nature they want to save. So if they call an agent who says you must pay a fee for my services, some may proceed but many won’t. Their mindset – I’m doing research and if you can save me great but otherwise no problem and I’ll keep doing research. Fees can be a turnoff too and I wish this topic would be written about. What if grocery stores started saying you must pay a fee to clerks to spend their expert knowledge and time ringing up our groceries. That’s legitimate too. Doctors and lawyers have the kinds of professions where consumers don’t question off the roof fees – $50 to $100 for 5 minutes of someone’s time with often no tangible benefit. But for agents, they are trying to turn the tables suddenly. Let’s also discuss why charging fees may not work and most importantly the proper communication about fees. Because those agents just blindly deciding per all the articles written that yes I deserve fees so from now on I’ll say that upfront to all my customers you must pay a fee, may end up angry when they lose too many customers and look back at whether that was a wise decision and/or how they could have better communicated it. This is a sensitive topic and the cons have to be better explored too…

  2. Raza Visram says:

    This is almost the chicken and egg predicament. How can you make a sale without educating the client and after spending time/money/resources educating and planning, the client “researches” and books the program directly or at reduced price after showing the various agencies the offers received from the various operators. As I mentioned previously on TRO – it’s really a two step processes (1) Agent will described a set up of proven itineraries and program that live up to standards. (2) If the client is still not satisfied, then paying a planning fee which will be refunded to the client when he books the program. If these 2 approaches are still not suitable, you might away as well turn the client away. With advent of the internet, the efforts that agents put are simple looked as a physical product “can of coke” approach as I often call it: its only a matter of time where the client ends up being this can of coke: at vending machine, sam’s club or walmart. Agents must have a strategy in place and create win-win situations for both themselves as well as their clients. NOW IF WE CAN ONLY ASK FOR INTERESTED TRAVELERS!!

    All the best for 2010.

  3. Jane Grant says:

    I agree – with both responses. I’ve been following the posts and articles in the last year about charging fees and had been hesitant to do so, until now. As of January 1, I put a fee page on my website explaining my Plan To Go fee that is applied to the final payment of my clients’ trips, as well as other applicable fees for unpackaged air and custom itineraries.
    I’ve learned that in order to make this work I have to work on my selling skills and sell myself and what I have to offer. Once I’ve done that I talk about the Plan To Go fee once the prospect understands that she won’t be paying any more for my services than doing it herself, but I’ll add greater value and be there to answer all of her questions. I’ve gotten to a point where I’m comfortable doing this. Recently, a bride-to-be visited my website and went to my fees page. After that, she still called me and we just booked her dream honeymoon.
    When a client first contacts me, I ask them some questions and give them a questionnaire to fill out asking a lot more about their interests. Then I talk a little about their travel options (name some resorts and tell them a little about them). This is all to prove my knowledge and value. Then, we talk about the fees and I tell them that I can give them more options that fit their interests and budget once the fee is paid… and take it from there. I don’t just take the fee up front, but I do before I spend too much time on it and start offering options and pricing. Oh – and I’m sure to tell the prospects that I can price match if they do see the same trip for less money if they’re looking around.
    People see the value in a Travel Agent – if they don’t, sell it to them. If they just want the cheapest trip, refer them to the Internet.

  4. Chuck Flagg says:

    Hi there:

    You might want to read Nolan Burris’ column from today on the front page.

    I realize that by charging fees, there are going to be clients that will not pay it. I also know that I am not going to waste my time quoting for clients who never call back and never return my emails after receiving a quote. The fee is high enough (and does not apply to the cost of the trip itself) that someone is going to be less likely to walk away to save a few dollars from a discounter or get FREE-PREPAID gratuities or some other perk. IF they do, you still were paid for you time.

    I do believe we do have specialized knowledge. We have sat through the supplier webinars, the Princess Commodore and other supplier certification programs and frankly our time is worth money. We need to stop selling travel and start selling ourselves.

    There are client’s out there willing to pay for personal service and a more pleasant experience. IF there weren’t, there would be no personal shoppers and Nordstrom would be out of business.

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