I am my own second-worst client, with my husband taking first place. As a professional travel consultant I have tried many times to qualify my husband as a client, and failed miserably every single time. “What do you want at a resort?” “I don’t know.” Hmmm. “Where do you want to go?” “Somewhere warm” or “I don’t know, you decide.” Really? Yes, really, that’s all I get. Sometimes I am tempted to ship him off to Death Valley mid-August and ask him if that was warm enough for him. And this is also the man that swore he’d hate all-inclusive beach resorts, until he fell in love with Sandals’ Grande St Lucian during a site inspection. Unfortunately this widened his palette, so now it’s not just a matter of picking a cruise ship for him. Now it’s a matter of deciding cruise or land, then which ship or resort, and then which room category, and what activities/excursions. So let’s face it, he’s a lost cause as far as clients go. But then, I’m not really much better.
Thankfully, I’m not the only travel professional faced with this issue. Many of us seem to run into road blocks when the vacation planning hits too close to home, whether we are planning for ourselves, our spouses or our offspring. Why is it that all of our expertise, training and experience seem to fly out the window when it comes to our own vacation planning? “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” There is a similar quote that applies to lawyers. Maybe it applies to travel consultants as well.
So what do we do? Well, do what we tell the general public to do. Work with a professional travel consultant! If you are in an agency with multiple consultants, talk to a co-worker whose advice you value. If you are home based and a one man/woman shop, then I don’t think the office mascot (cat here) would be helpful. Call up a trusted colleague and enlist their help, or post in the TRO community as I did recently and ask for advice. Either way, you need to be willing to return the favor.
Be ready to pay for advice. Yes, I said pay. If you are looking for something more involved, let’s say you want a three week FIT in Australia, be ready to pay for the advice you receive. That, or be ready to let someone else do the booking and make the commission. Yes, that’s right, pay for your consultant’s time. If you are engaging their expertise and time to plan your vacation, and you are taking up a fair amount of their time (time they could be spending with paying clients), be fair and offer to compensate them for their time. They may pass. They may ask you to do the same for them some day in exchange. Or they may charge you. Don’t balk. Pay them. You would want to be paid as well if you had a client asking for advice, knowing they were not going to be booking with you. Whatever you do, work out the details ahead of time.
I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway. Don’t abuse free advice. Whether asking a co-worker, an online colleague, or posting in any agent forum, don’t over ask. It’s one thing to ask for opinions on Ocho Rios versus Montego Bay, or Resort A versus Resort B, but asking 101 questions (especially in the course of a single post) is pushing your luck. Of course if you do abuse the free advice, you’ll soon find that you aren’t receiving any advice at all. 😉
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel (www.shipsntripstravel.com) located in Brentwood, Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations (www.kickbuttvaations.com) she focuses on travel for young adults under 35. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.