I often use consolidators to service my client inquiries. As a home-based agent, I choose not to subscribe to a GDS system, mainly due to the overhead cost. Therefore, I typically rely on consolidators to ticket international air as an ideal alternative. Our requests for international travel are wide-ranging, from business trips to students, couples, and families traveling for leisure. Our profits generally average $100-125 per ticket for coach tickets and $200-250 per ticket for business class.
Fortunately, I have found a few favorite consolidators who ticket for destinations worldwide, and I am very comfortable working with them. However, each individual client’s request may affect the ticketing scenario. These might include the need for more flexible tickets, the method of payment, the knowledge and efficiency of the consolidator’s agent, and my agency’s working relationship with the consolidator.
Keep in mind each consolidator’s geographic and contractual strengths and weaknesses. For example, some air consolidators specialize in different parts of the world, while others ticket for destinations worldwide. Some consolidators have lower fares or more airline options in certain geographical regions, since their contracts with the airlines can vary greatly.
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When it comes to the ticketing process, consolidators’ policies with regard to third-party credit cards and courtesy holds vary. It has been my experience that ticketing rules and limitations are often the deciding factor when it comes to working with a particular air consolidator. Take, for example, my agency’s original niche market of adoption travel. If the newly adopted child was an infant traveling one way from overseas home to the U.S., I had to use a consolidator with the capability to process that one-way infant ticket. Likewise, air requests that involve stopovers can be problematic. While the airlines themselves impose all types of restrictions and fare rules in this regard, some consolidators cannot include domestic stopovers. In each instance, it helps to have a knowledgeable agent working with you in the consolidator’s reservations office.
Hotel accommodations are another travel component that I frequently book through consolidators. Most of the time, I book via their online systems, where they have multiple hotels displayed for a given destination, so I can send clients a paste-up synopsis along with the quoted room rate. Although this booking method is convenient, I have never found booking hotel nights a la carte to be profitable, due to low commission percentages, the amount of time and work involved in compiling the information for clients, and the time spent chasing down unpaid commission. Have you ever noticed that no matter how much detailed information you provide, some clients will inevitably have more questions? And there comes a point at which the time spent chasing down commissions translates into the opportunity cost of garnering new business or servicing current client requests.
Whenever possible, I book international air and hotel nights with my preferred consolidator, adding in sightseeing and ground transportation as needed. With the airfare usually offered at net rates and all other components commissionable at a generous percentage, our profits fair much better. With this scenario, our tour operator and air consolidator are one in the same, giving us the convenience of working through a single contact, in addition to the higher profit margin.
Adrienne Mitra is the owner of Celebrations International Travel, Inc., an independent agency focused on serving a number of niche markets, including culinary travel, cruises, tours, and group travel.
Celebrations International Travel, Inc.
Phone: (480) 272-6020
Fax: (240) 269-6020
Web Site: www.celebrationsinternationaltravel.com