A few days ago, someone posted a copy of Richard Turen’s recent article on the value of personalized service over on the Cruise Critic message boards. While I feel his message is one to be shared, there was an ulterior motive. The message was posted by “Kim Sorenseon” a misspelled version of the President of YTB Travel. It was obvious that this was not posted by Kim (I hope he is smart enough to spell his last name correctly), and in their wildest dreams, YTB could never come close to providing the type of service discussed by Turen and practiced by most legitimate travel professionals who have invested more than $49 a month to be called one.
Of course, the Cruise Critic crowd jumped in with the standard agent bashing comments including:
I am my own best advocate when things go wrong, and I don’t need any of those services that supposedly give TAs and advantage over booking direct. A TA has never done anything for me that I couldn’t do better for myself, including handling problems (which happened to us twice – she got us nothing, while I was able to get us substantial compensation)
I booked our last trip “Dream” through Sears Travel. We had the world’s worst travel agent. The most frustrating was when we got called in to her office to finalize our travel plans and she fielded 3 phone calls; the last of which DH had to threaten to walk out and book elsewhere before she got the message. She made errors with our booking. When I was reading on-line about rate drops and OBC; she insisted that there were none. That was the last time I entrust my travel plans to someone else. I booked our next cruise directly with RCI and will be doing so from now on
…when it comes to booking a cruise. I don’t need advice, or anyone to worry about me. I have software to alert me to price drops. Just give me the OBC.
OK, we get it, the Cruise Critic people are the bottom feeders. They are only looking for the cheapest deal out there and most have zero loyalty to anyone. Some have had a legitimately bad experience with a travel professional and are unashamed to spread the word. It makes no sense for an agent to go there looking for business–or defending it.
The gist of the problem is that there are too many mediocre travel professionals out there who refuse to know and honor their own limits of expertise. I dare to say that as an industry, dollar signs today take precedence over the dollar signs you might realize ten years from now. In my business, single parent travel, I know my limits and I know the service I provide. I have never been to Australia or New Zealand and when I get the rare single parent looking to go there, I outsource it. I know my limits. I think I may be the exception. Most agents will take the booking thinking that in the worst case, the client will never come back, but hey, they get the commission now.
What is the collateral damage? What happens when that client heads over to Cruise Critic (who currently has over 600,000 members) to lament the crappy service provided by their last travel agent? Instant black eye to that agent, and to the agents of the 600,000 members of Cruise Critic. Is it still okay because you got that commission check?
Certainly, YTB and the other MLM/Card Mill outfits contribute to the perception of inept agents as they churn out wannabe after wannabe calling them travel agents. But aside from that stigma (which we have all be fighting in some form or another since the Internet became mainstream), the Cruise Critic post introduces yet another stigma. This is a legitimate agent falsely identifying his or herself simply to create controversy. Now, what does that say about our industry? To some there is no doubt that it reinforces their decision to eschew the industry.
Travel has never been an industry where you can make Bill Gates type money. Remember back in the days of airline commissions? It was an industry that doctors and lawyers bought for their wives to appease their wanderlusting ways. The value was in the perks. It’s not easy to make money in this business. The good agents make good money. The bad agents—well they just bring the rest of us down, and this recent post certainly did nothing to help our cause. Which are you?
Oh, and for the record, I contacted Cruise Critic and pointed out that the thread was a fake and suggested that they remove it.