Since 2020, when people began to travel again, we have seen an increase in the number of travelers who are choosing to book through travel agents/advisors rather than shopping for their trips solely online.
That is great news for our industry, when before, some professionals were even thinking that travel agents might become obsolete.
But unfortunately, in general, most people don’t change their behavior. Those who like to “shop around” will continue to do so. This time, they will go from travel agent to travel agent, making agents work hard to plan an itinerary or get pricing from a vendor, while continuing to consult other agents until “the price is right!” How can you distinguish the “good” shoppers or prospective clients from the “bad” ones?
For those who don’t know me very well, I don’t work as a travel agent, but I am glad to refer friends, family and even not-so-great friends to travel agents who I mentor, and to those who I know the way they work. Until now, I have had no problems doing this. But I, like anyone else, can guarantee that every once in a while, I am totally surprised that I have sent along a “shopper” instead a real prospective client. I must confess that I am not only surprised but embarrassed as well.
My strong advice to all TA’s is to charge a service fee! Many agents have already been doing this for years, but others are still unsure about it. To those who are afraid of losing business by charging a fee, I suggest that you:
A) Create a service fee and if/when a trip is booked, reduce or waive it at your own discretion
B) Create some “pre-packaged itineraries” where there isn’t as much customization, so the actual time you’re “giving” is less. That way, you won’t feel taken advantage of if you get a shopper instead of a booking.
The travel industry is changing to make things even better for TA’s who know how to manage their time and business. Don’t get caught giving too much to the ones who are takers. You are a professional and deserve to be rewarded as one!
Always cheering for you!