I have spent a lot of time debating the issue of whether or not to charge planning fees for researching and planning vacations for clients. It really is a tough decision to make as I enjoy using my expertise and knowledge to create the perfect itinerary for my clients, however I also enjoy eating, my house and the ability to travel myself! As I was debating what to do, I came across this article:
“When you seek medical care, you don’t go to a doctor and tell them that you’re just going to pay for the labs and prescriptions. No. You pay your doctor oodles of money because they’re trusted professionals who went to school for a long time to gain the skills to (hopefully) successfully diagnose your symptoms and steer you toward recovery.
Travel agents are professionals too . . . professionals who deserve to get paid for the time, knowledge, expertise and research that goes into booking a great trip for a client.” (Stien, 2018)
Okay, maybe comparing my expertise and knowledge in the travel industry to that of a doctor is a little bit of a stretch, but the reality is I do have a degree in Tourism, am about to finish a Masters Degree in Tourism Management, and have 20 years of experience working in different aspects of the tourism industry. It is finally time I start really considering myself as a professional! I have clients, a LLC, Tour Operator Liability Insurance, business cards and an office so that definitely makes me someone of value in the industry! It also gives me what I need to be outstanding in this field too!
All of the information above is the “head” reason as to why I am charging a fee, but the honestly the #1 reason, the “heart” reason, is because of you, my current and future clients. Each of the itineraries I work on are customized specifically for you, which means each of these itineraries takes time and research to meet your needs. My time is valuable too, and I strive to provide customized, personal attention, and as such I want to make sure that the time I am spending is focused on my clients. I can not tell you the number of hours I have spent researching trips for potential clients that for various reasons did not work out. Definitely no hard feelings on those situation as life happens, but those are also hours lost to me that I could have been working on other itineraries and programs.
Don’t I get paid commissions by suppliers? Yes and No. I can spend an hour researching a flight, and get no commission on it (that is why most travel agency’s charge a fee to book your tickets). Some hotels provide small commissions (I just got a check from one in Madrid that paid me $9.09), but smaller ones, AirBnB’s, etc. do not and I still want to be able to provide my clients with the best customized and authentic experiences! Yes, many resorts, destinations, and cruise lines do pay commission back to the travel agent, which is why for the Disney Vacation I plan through goMagic, there is no fee and a minimal fee for other resort vacations! However what I have discovered for other vacations is that by charging a fee I can truly customize the experience for you, with the best options, and not be steering my clients towards a suppliers that best benefits me.
I realize charging fees could be a risky move, but I am honestly excited to be able to give my clients the full attention they deserve and Turning Dreams into Reality and Miles into Memories.
*As my work with Pathfinders is that in the role of a consultant, and not a booking agent, there are no fees associated in my services with them.
Stein, Mary. (January 18, 2018). Taking the Plunge: A Travel Agents Guide to Charge Fees. Host Agency Reviews. Retrieved from: http://hostagencyreviews.com/travel-agents-guide-to-charging-fees/