Let’s face it, folks: Once your friends and family members know that you’re a travel agent, sometimes you become the “go-to” person by default, and other times people who know you may shy away from seeking your professional advice and assistance.
In some respects, travel requests from friends and family can be a very positive thing. Those who know you seek your advice on travel, and this may in turn lead to referral business. Anything they book builds your sales and earns you commission. That’s what you’re in business for, after all! If they’re happy with their trip, they’ll be more apt to tell others about your services because they know and trust you. A recommendation from your family and friends differs from other client recommendations because it is given with more personal insight.
By the same token, there can be some challenges when handling travel requests for friends and family. Here are a few potential issues to consider:
- The traveler(s) may expect more from you for free, whether it’s excessive consultation time, information, quotes for trips they may not actually take, or requests for minute details you wouldn’t normally handle for clients.
- They may be more apt to question your recommendations and prices, and sometimes they forget that you’re functioning in your business capacity when assisting them.
- They may have a tendency to wave your standard agency procedures aside, whether or not they realize they’re making life difficult for you. Examples of this might include:
- Giving you vague or incomplete answers during your in-take: “Just find something nice and cheap. You know what I like, and you have my information.”
- Wanting to shop for trips they might not actually take: “Let me know when you see a good deal. I’ll go wherever.”
- Not understanding that there are certain things that you as a travel professional and business person must do: “Why do I need to sign Terms and Conditions? For heaven’s sake, you know me!”
- The travelers may want to blame you for anything that doesn’t go perfectly on their trip, whether or not you had anything to do with it.
I don’t think there are any hard-and-fast answers as to how to handle requests from friends and family. Like everything in the travel business, it depends on the specifics of each given situation. As agents and business owners, it’s not always possible or prudent to decline travel requests. However, finesse, diplomacy, and reliance on your experience and knowledge are the keys to showing your friends and family that you’re a professional and proud of the business you’ve worked so hard to build. Take the time to educate them about what you do, and help them recognize that not only are you someone they know, but you are also an informed, established travel professional. You may find that their requests become more frequent and more reasonable, and as a result, you will find that handling these requests becomes more of a win-win situation for everyone involved.
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