Among the countless changes in our industry since the advent of the pandemic is the fact that more and more leisure travel advisors are finally embracing service fees. Why the change?
Apart from shrinking (or sometimes non-existent) commissions from suppliers, during the pandemic we have learned how much our clients needed us: to help them get home; get (and redeem) future credits; obtain refunds; and, well, include the most outrageous reason you were able to help a client this last year or so. Thousands of revenue-less hours were spent caring for clients.
At least there was a plus to all of that: clients realized more than ever before the value of having a travel advisor on their side. Not only are they saying, “I don’t know how I could have done this on my own!”, but they’re referring their friends and colleagues more frequently.
Nowadays, countless travel advisors are upgrading their revenue model by charging, for the first time, travel-planning fees (service fees, trip fees, planning and research fees, professional booking fees – call them whatever suits your business best). Not all of you are comfortable with it (yet), but think about it. There are multiple reasons why fees make sense:
1) Have you ever spent hours of research on behalf of a client only to have them tell you, “Oh, sorry, I’ve changed my mind and we’re not going.” (Or even worse: “Thanks. We’ve found another agent who can do it for $50 less.”) Service fees, charged up front and non-refundable, will magically make those tire-kickers disappear.
2) Because an advisor’s services have been “free” for so long, they have not been accorded the respect that other fee-charging professions receive. Sometimes even clients who end up booking with you make you jump through hoops just to see “what’s out there.” Seriously, can you think of another profession that works as hard as you do without charging a fee?
3) COVID has made travel complicated. Clients are now more likely to work with an advisor they can trust who can help them navigate the myriad changes and protocols which are today’s new normal.
4) Simply and obviously: the bottom line, i.e. your bottom line! Today is the day to take your career by the horns and make it more remunerative – and reap the rewards of dealing with clients who have a new mindset of respect and appreciation for you and what you do.
Next month we’ll tackle how you can take that leap: A step-by-step process on how to introduce service fees.
Don’t worry, as the dentists say, “This won’t hurt a bit.”
Joelle Goldman is the Vice President, Host Services for Direct Travel in North America, which includes its Canadian leisure division Vision Travel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.