Why Does Unprofessionalism Exist? | Travel Research Online


Why Does Unprofessionalism Exist?

As travel professionals, it is our sacred duty to search out hotels, cruise ships, tours, activities, restaurants, and other must-sees and have-to-dos as much as we can. Invariably, we will be called upon to counsel a client and provide recommendations for all of those. Experiencing the product is important to understanding it and being able to sell it to the right client. In doing so, we come face to face with people who can make or break our clients’ experience. The waitstaff at a restaurant. The room steward on a cruise ship. The talking guide on the hop-on hop-off bus tour. Every one of them makes judgments about us, sometimes in our capacity as travel professionals, and those judgments can affect every one of us as a whole.

I was on a cruise ship inspection not too long ago. As anyone who has done one or two of these things knows, a staple of the ship inspection is lunch in the dining room, with table service by the ship’s waitstaff. After the lunch was done, I pulled out my wallet and left behind some cash for a tip for the staff that served us. Some other agents did as well. But not everyone. I was confused, but didn’t feel it was right to speak up. However, in later conversations with other agents, and much later still online, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one confused and frankly, appalled, by this.

Some of you may be wondering what the big deal is – tipping? So what? Here’s the low down. Cruise line waitstaff make the majority of their money from tips provided by the passengers. Usually, these tips are pre-paid or they are done on board automatically, so it’s never something one has to consciously think about like when dining at the local Red Lobster. For the crew, they may have had the possibility of getting off the ship (if they weren’t assigned to turnaround duties) and instead, they chose to serve the guests in the dining room. Often, they do this on the premise they will collect some extra money. It’s exactly like picking up an extra shift or two at a regular 9-5 job. Since there are no pre-paid gratuities on a ship inspection, it’s up to us, the guests, to ensure the waitstaff is properly tipped. So those who attend ship inspections and are served lunch do us all a disservice when they neglect to tip. Be sure to budget for the tips when you plan out your ship inspection trips, whether they are individualized programs or part of a larger event like CLIA’s cruise3sixty.

In line with this, when we are traveling, it is important to treat the people with whom we interact with respect. They may not know we are travel professionals, and really we should treat everyone with respect, but it’s ever more important when we are representing the industry at large. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve booked a travel agent rate at a hotel, as an example, and upon check-in the front desk attendant makes note of that to me. “Oh, Mr. Cousino, I see you are one of our travel agent partners. Welcome!” But how many times have I booked an agent rate, and that person doesn’t acknowledge it? Think they aren’t paying attention to how you treat them and conduct yourself during your stay?You bet they are. And all of us are being painted with that paintbrush.

There are many more examples of unprofessionalism in our industry that should be addressed which I will do so in a future article. In the mean time, let’s all make sure we are not the travel agent everyone else talks about when they go home. You know, the star of the story that begins, “You’ll never believe what I saw on my FAM trip…”

Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS has been a travel professional since 2005 and currently owns Exclusive Events At Sea (http://www.exclusiveeventsatsea.com) and Journeys By Steve (http://www.journeysbysteve.com) with specializations in group cruising, individual ocean & river cruising, and personalized experiences in Europe, especially the British Isles.  In addition, Steve heads up WordPressForTravelAgents.com, an email-based WordPress education system designed specifically for the busy travel professional.  He can be reached at steve@journeysbysteve.com.

  7 thoughts on “Why Does Unprofessionalism Exist?

  1. Geoff Millar says:

    What happens on a lot of All-Inclusive resort inspections is that before you leave the hotel to inspect resorts the leader of the FAM will collect X amout upfront to be used for tips. Everyone is made aware of this practice before you sign up for the FAM. These tips are used for the bus driver and any waitstaff where meals are served.

    We did go on a agent tour to the Mayan riuns in Dec with the Apple Platinum agents and tipping was not mandatory. There were about 20 agents on the tour and at the end the tour the guide mentioned that tips are welcome and a large part of his salary and, out of 20 agents, 3 agents left tips and one of them was me. You are correct.

  2. Staci Blunt says:

    I agree that travel agents need to be as professional as possible when on hosted trips or site inspections. It’s also up to the organizer or host to be clear and upfront what is and is not covered as part of the experience. They need to state in advance if gratuities to staff are included or not so that everyone can prepare for it–and how much to prepare for. Even better is to build in the gratuities to the cost of the FAM or site inspection so that everything is pre-paid upfront, and then the organizer can handle monies paid and let everyone know this. A lot of not-tipping from agents is not just rude behavior, but stems from confusion. If it’s not discussed in advance, many agents mistakenly believe that gratuities are being hosted as well… If not included, the organizer again can help out at each meal or tour by reminding agents that gratuities to the staff are appreciated.

  3. Sheri Doyle says:

    Interesting point. Whenever I’ve organized and hosted an event, I make sure the servers are taken care of, so I’ve always assumed that a cruise line would do the same when it is hosting agents or media for an onboard event. Do you know for sure that they don’t? I’d be curious to know. I did ask on a fam whether tips for housekeeping were included (as they said gratuities were included) but it turned out they were not covered, so I was glad I asked so I knew to tip housekeeping.

  4. Patti says:

    I do agree that unprofessional behavior reflects badly on us Steve. However, I had no idea that I should be tipping the waitstaff at lunch. I’ve never seen anyone leave a tip either. Your the first person discussing this…you learn something new every day. I don’t consider it unprofessional, just ignorance on my part 🙂

  5. Barry says:

    I’ve questioned this many times.

    I think you have to be careful using a blanket statement that the tips are not included on ship inspection/luncheon. I’ve been on these many times and always question it, normally the BDM’s and/or regional sales manager for the lines say they are included.

    The ship bills/contracts with your regional director for a local event or if it is the cruise line offering it to a trade conference the ship luncheon is contracted with the ship just like any of us do with a groups for a private cocktail party or a private luncheon where the tip is included in the per-head fee.

    I’ve also been on a few of these with different cruise lines and they give everyone a tip coupon to give your wait staff to redeem.

    These ships are individual businesses and have budgets to maintain just like we do. They don’t do these for free, the costs are funneled back to corporate to who-ever’s department gets charged.

    I’m not saying it is not nice to give more, just understand the policy before hand.

  6. Some of the ship inspections I have done are on the cruise lines that are all inclusive, such as Crystal. I think in the future I will ask about the tipping policy for lunch receptions.

  7. Chanté says:

    Thanks for a well written, and thoughtful piece. While I can appreciate that some people may not know that the gratuities are/were not included in FAMS, etc, but for me, I prefer to error on the side of caution. I’m not made of money, but it’s not going to “break me” to throw down an additional $5 or whatever, if I’ve done an inspection or FAM. Also, I am not the most trusting person, so I sometimes think that even if they obtain additional monies to “pay the gratuities,” am I really assured that waitperson is actually receiving it? If I leave it at the table (or typically, I hand it to them), then I am assured that money is actually reaching them.
    @Geoff, that’s awful that only 3 of those 20 left anything.

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