No matter what destination you choose to sell, it’s likely that there are numerous tour operators specializing in that area, all eager to execute the vacations you design for your clients and vying for your business. Remember that the tour operator you select (unless you’re booking all elements directly) reflects your brand, your reputation, your integrity. Your perfectly designed vacation is meaningless to the client if not executed flawlessly by the tour operator.
So, with numerous tour operators to choose from, how do you select the right ones?
- Know your own standards for delivery and service. You can’t select a vendor whose standards mirror your own if you’re unclear what yours are.
- How knowledgeable are their reservation agents? The company may tout it specializes in a region, but is the person you’re actually talking to on the phone an expert? I invest much time and money in learning a region, and I expect my travel partners to be equally vested.
- How quickly do they respond to your request for an itinerary—hours, days, weeks? Why settle for a vendor who is sluggish in returning your calls or meeting your needs? How long are you kept on hold? Are you required to book online to save the vendor time/money, even if you prefer a real person’s input?
- Do they listen and respond to your input about your clients’ needs and priorities, or does the itinerary they hand you reflect their own agenda for personal biases or selling goals? I conduct an intensive consultation with clients on their needs/wants; is the vendor equally engaged with my client’s desires?
- Are their communications clear with no room for conjecture and misunderstandings?
- Are their travel documents professional and substantial in appearance, or do they utilize e-docs to save them money on printing/postage?
- Ask travel agents that you trust and who share your standards for their recommendations; ask pertinent questions of your colleagues on why and how they trust that vendor. Attend seminars and presentations of vendors that interest you, and make it a point to speak to them personally and initiate a relationship.
- What is their payment policy? Not only how much commission (gross or net) but when do they pay—when docs delivered? When the clients leave for travel? Two months after clients have returned from travel? I pay my bills promptly, and I expect a travel partner to pay me promptly, too, if they want my business.
- Try the vendor’s product yourself before entrusting any client to them so you have firsthand experiences to judge them. They might talk a good talk but are sloppy on delivery. The one time I violated this rule some years ago, I paid for it as the clients’ vacation was rife with unacceptable glitches that should have never happened. It’s now my ironclad rule, no exceptions.
What other parameters do you consider when choosing a vendor?
Anne Rose is President of Cameron Park, CA-based Celebrate-Travel, Inc, a boutique travel agency specializing in custom-designed leisure travel. She is passionate about travel and loves helping consumers experience the joys of travel. Anne also was elected to the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation under the aegis of the CA Seller of Travel whose function is to adjudicate CA consumer claims against CA travel agents.