As I continue my diary – the story of a Cruise Specialist who is now also wearing the hat of a general leisure travel agent, as well – a funny thing happened since my last post–I defeated the Internet–in a BIG way!
If you’ve read any of my previous entries, you may recall that I am an industry rarity–a brick-and-mortar, front-line agent. Most of our clients are either repeat business or referrals. However, because we are always trying to grow our business, we still have occasional first-timers, some of which locate us via Google, or who simply spot our shingle as they walk or drive by.
Two young ladies contacted us-resident doctors, new to the area, aching for that one cure for themselves, a hard-earned, much needed vacation! Too busy and increasingly frustrated scouring the Internet for deals, and on a fairly tight budget they stopped in to see what I might be able to do for them.
They had a few different destinations in mind, but it was Spain that they really had attracted them; Barcelona and Ibiza, to be exact. Since they’d never been there, (and I was lucky enough to visit there in 2009) I assured them that they came to the right place for assistance. It turns out, I was their last resort–they’d just about given up hope, because a very popular Internet-based travel company had told them their 10-day trip would cost them $6500.00… per person!
I explained our fee structure to them and for the customized FIT planning, there would be a $35.00 per person fee. Based on their criteria, I was confident I could find something much closer to their $2500.00 per person budget. They were all-too happy to oblige! Their only requirement was that they stay in centrally-located, 4 or 5-star hotels. Because they liked the sound of the hotels suggested online, they gave me those properties as a starting point.
After researching the 2 properties, they were, indeed, both lovely, both 5-star, and centrally located. However, upon further review, I discovered the one offered in Barcelona was probably not what they were looking for. It was a predominantly gay and lesbian oriented boutique property with a heterosexual friendly attitude. Hmm. How does one bring this up to first-time, totally unknown clients of the same gender? The answer: as honestly, but as diplomatically as possible. The result: two VERY relieved and GRATEFUL young women. They were not prejudiced in the least, mind you; it was just not the experience they were looking for in a trip to Spain.
This gross omission by the OTA, coupled with the fact I’d still found them 5-star hotels – for a savings of over $4000.00 per person has earned me not only their business (and potentially referrals); but, more importantly, their TRUST. And no amount of money saved or spent can buy that. As Nolan Burris quoted recently, If you think paying a professional is expensive, wait until you get a free amateur.
Final Score for this round: Travel Pro-1; Internet-ZERO!
I think it’s safe to say, my clients each got their $35.00 worth! Could I have charged more? In hindsight,yes; but their repeat and referral business will hopefully make up for it! Do you charge fees? If so, how much? Or, do you have a formula you use? If you don’t charge a fee…why not?
Linda Furlan is a career Travel Consultant with over 30 years experience as a front-line, brick-and-mortar agent. She is a MCC Cruise Specialist employed by Ensemble-affiliated Viking Travel Service/The Cruise Shop (www.cruise-shop.com) in Naperville, IL – celebrating their 40th Year in business in 2011. From Corporate to Groups to Leisure to middle-management, she’s seen and done it all – but becoming a niche specialist in her favorite genre – Cruising – has been the most fulfilling. Linda also recently combined her passions for travel, writing, and photography by starting her own Travel Blog . She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (630) 357-7447.