Recently I have been rethinking my fee structure. Primarily because I made the same mistake a lot of travel agents make that have committed to requiring a deposit or retainer–waiving them for family and friends. To date I have broken my rule to charge a service deposit before doing any research, five times. It is no surprise that none of the five have yet to be booked.
For me it was never a question to charge a retainer or deposit. My first venture in the industry was with a franchised travel company who smartly worked the service deposit into the franchise program. Clients either paid the service deposit or they chose to take their business elsewhere it was that simple. As a franchisee, I felt empowered quoting the deposit requirement in my consultation script; perhaps it was the power of the brand that gave me the confidence. However, as the Traveling Kidd, I felt less confident. Would a client actually readily pay me a retainer or service deposit?
I went back and forth with this for months, consulted with a few of my mentors and recently settled on a deposit structure that would provide me with some sort of protection should the client decide not to book or travel after the actual work has begun. My new plan allows me to apply the entire deposit to the client’s final payment. It is a win-win situation for both of us.
Groups, on the other hand, are a very tricky. The difficult part for me was deciding who was to be charged the service deposit? I decided to work a cancellation fee into my agreement for all travelers in the group; ultimately guaranteeing some sort of compensation for my services should the client back out of the group.
Like some of my peers, I considered keeping a portion of the service deposit for administrative costs. I eventually decided against it. I felt that I was promoting myself as a professional who provided a service beyond the call of duty; the last thing I wanted to do was nickel and dime my clients.
My experience with family and friends has taught me an invaluable lesson. Now I won’t even entertain the discussion of travel planning in a casual setting. My standard response now is “give me a call or shoot me an email and we can discuss planning something wonderful for you.”
Are you still hesitant about charging a deposit or retainer? I am interested to hear your point of view.
Tracy Kidd is the owner and agent of The Traveling Kidd in Central New Jersey. She specializes in planning travel for couples, friend getaways, and groups. She is a member of NACTA and entered the industry in 2010. Yo can contact Tracy at www.travelingkidd.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org