Struggler or superstar–which are you? | Travel Research Online


Struggler or superstar–which are you?

I hear from just about every type of travel consultant and agency you can imagine.  I hear both challenges and triumphs.  And still, after all these years, professional fees still top the list of questions and comments.

Recently there’s been an increase in agencies successfully charging what many would call “premium” fees.  They charge $250, $500, and even $1,000 on top of commissions earned.  In some cases, they’re in the same markets where others claim any fee was impossible.

What makes the difference between these fee superstars and those who struggle with fees of any kind?  While there were many factors, geographic location didn’t seem to be one of them.  I did however find three key issues that appeared to have the biggest impact:  belief, awareness, and amount.


Simply put: if you don’t believe you’re worth it, neither will your clients. Strugglers still tend to believe their worth is somehow tied to commission.  Superstars believe it is completely separate from it.

Commission is: compensation for making a booking – period.  Superstars see the price of the actual trip as completely separate too.

  • Fees:  for the value you provide to your clients
  • Commission:  for the value you provide to your suppliers
  • Trip price: for the value suppliers provide to your clients


Superstars strive for a keen awareness of the changing needs and desires of their clients. They adapt and deliver.  Strugglers cling to the past and resist change, often to their detriment.

This is most apparent in the struggler’s obsession with bookings.  Superstars make bookings too, but they view them like their clients do:  the result, not the actual desire.

Strugglers get openly irritated with people who don’t book with them.  Superstars know their value has nothing to do with bookings.  They charge a fee in order to deliver their value.  Bookings usually follow as a logical result, but substantial fees have been collected even if they don’t.

Strugglers have a tough time with this. Superstars live and breathe it.


Whatever fee you charge (including zero), tells your clients what you believe you are worth. This is where the strugglers and superstars are as different as night and day.

Strugglers are afraid that fees will drive away existing clients.  Superstars use fees to create the kind of experience that retains the right clients.

Strugglers often believe that fees won’t work with their existing clientele.  Superstars use fees to attract the clientele they desire – one that values service above all.

Funding an amazing customer experience is critical if you hope to “out-wow” the competition.  A fee of $20 might help cover some costs but it’s hardly enough to pay for a wow experience.  Superstars say that for $250 you could do almost everything better!  

To be honest, you don’t have to charge fees to succeed in travel today.  But, strugglers cling the remote possibility that it will always be that way.  Superstars know better.  They are not only preparing for tomorrow, they are reaping the benefits now.

Yes, some strugglers do charge fees, sometimes, for some things, to some people, for some cruises or some tours.  Superstars would ask: “are you only worth it sometimes, for some things, to some people, for some cruises or some tours?”  Your integrity might be at risk.

To be a superstar, you have to be worth it every time, to every one.  So, they charge fees every time and they don’t apply them to the purchase of a trip. Fees passed on to a supplier are really just deposits.  Unless you keep them, your stated value would revert to zero.

There is another thing about superstars that interests me.  They almost universally say that it’s easier to charge $250 than $25.  I believe it’s a result of what I mentioned before: a combination of the professional image that higher fees create, combined with the ability to pay for a much better agency experience.

I personally know lots of strugglers.  Many are dear friends and I sincerely hope they can break free of the issues holding them back.

When I compare the strugglers to the superstars that I know; I don’t see a difference in abilities or a lesser desire to succeed.  But the superstars believe they are worth it.  They charge for it, and they deliver on the goods.

You might say, instead of searching for that illusive level playing field, they’ve decided to shoot for the stars.

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.

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