Are you using the “F” word? | TravelResearchOnline


Are you using the “F” word?

There is a four-letter word that begins with an F and usually raises a few eyebrows when it is heard.  Any guesses? No, not THAT word, this is a PG-13 site!  I’m speaking of “fees!”  It definitely raises eyebrows, and not always in a negative way.  In fact, I’ve never seen a greater interest from travel agents than I am seeing today.  It looks like a lot of you are beginning to love the F-word!

A few years back, TRO hosted a webinar of mine in their “No Limits” series. In line with the theme, participants were asked to submit questions in advance, on any subject, for me to answer during the webinar. With a record number of registrations (more than 600), MOST of the questions asked were about fees!  I was pleasantly shocked.

While there were a few “should I or shouldn’t I” questions, most were about fee strategies; how much to charge, and how to present them to clients. There were so many great questions, that we could have spent the entire webinar (or the entire afternoon) on fees alone.  It seemed that another four-letter F-word was beginning to slowly fade away:  fear.

Another popular topic on the webinar was “how to beat the Internet.”  The net appears to be chock-full of bargains.  Of course, they are rarely available and seldom fulfill the promise that the pretty pictures portray. Still, it gives the appearance of limitless choices.

In “beating” the Internet, far too many agents are busy trying to win by competing against what it does instead of focusing what it can’t do.  It’s great at spewing gobs of options and prices.  It’s completely incapable of offering advice.  But, advice only matters if you make it relevant.

The only reason “shoppers” focus on price is because they don’t know what else matters.  That’s your job.  Advice is about asking questions.  The right questions are those related to the actual experience of the vacation:  activities, dining, lifestyle, social, emotional desires, etc.  Until you start asking the right questions, don’t be surprised if your clients dwell on the question of price.

Advice is the result of a process known as consulting.  Consulting is not flinging around your specialties and opinions.  It is finding the right fit for their needs and desires.  A good consultation takes time.  Time is money.  Money means fees.

Commission is a financial arrangement where suppliers pay you for all the wonderful things you do for them – namely, bookings.  It was never intended to pay you for all the wonderful things you do for your client.  Fees are specifically about those things!

If you’re selling as fast as possible to keep the commissions up and the lights on, you won’t be able to deliver the quality time needed to ever “beat” the Internet at the game of professional service.  In commission land, you make your money from reservations.  A reservation is something they can get anywhere.  In fee land, you also make money from you– the one thing not available anywhere else.

The “No Limits” webinar series has rekindled my faith in the future of travel.  With so many professionals eagerly asking about how to get started with fees or how to make them work better, I truly believe a new era is upon us.  I see profit.  I see creativity.  I see professional-level compensation.  I see fun.

This all reminds me of another F-word:  finally!

PS:  Big thanks to Dr. Bob Joselyn for opening my eyes to the miracle of fees so many years ago.

Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

  3 thoughts on “Are you using the “F” word?

  1. Tracy says:

    OMG!! Richard, you are reading my mind. I have been delving into Nolan Burris’s boot camps, specifically regarding professional fees. I literally had an “AH HAH” moment!
    Last night I edited my service agreement to include a non refundable consultation fee and I hope to never look back 🙂

  2. Tracy says:

    OOPS, Sorry Nolan! I just realized you wrote the article 🙂

  3. Paul Howard says:

    You are absolutely right. A consulting fee is not only appropriate, but neceassary in this day and age. I have been a 16+ yr Las Vegas VIP Host turned Travel Agent and we call it tips and gratuity. The consulting fee comes down to customer service, expertise in a particular area of interest or region, & time invested in the particular group booking!

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