Travel Agent NewsWhy selling on price not only hurts travel agents but the entire industry in the long run.

Travel agents, you don't have to be a coupon code

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Travel advisors selling on discounts and amenities might be negatively impacting the entire travel industry.
Travel advisors selling on discounts and amenities might be negatively impacting the entire travel industry. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/seb_ra

Recently, I saw a feature on the news covering why viewers should work with a travel agent. It caught my attention immediately, and I was thrilled to see our industry, and this job, get coverage.

My excitement quickly dissipated as the story unfolded: The segment was about how a travel advisor got a client a 50% discount.

I have several issues with this. For starters, it’s not at all representative of the current travel-planning environment where demand is high, supply is low, and prices are higher than ever. To see the value of our profession, summed up by a discount, was infuriating.

To see the value of our profession, summed up by a discount, was infuriating.

If you ever get the opportunity to talk about our job on a high-profile stage, don’t walk, but run from using the angle of “discounted price” as the advantage of using a travel professional.

I understand why it’s tempting, particularly as newer agents get started in this career. They need those first few clients to get business going, and selling on “deals” may even work to get them a few. But I promise these agents: It will not be the clients you want.

It will be the shoppers. The time-wasters. The people who do not respect your time, your expertise, or your boundaries. These travellers are the ones who will abandon you the moment they can save $5 elsewhere.

Selling on price hurts the entire travel industry

Here’s the thing: Selling based on price doesn’t only impact you.

When you attract the tire-kickers, you backlog suppliers with meaningless requests that won’t turn into actual bookings. The more trip requests that are going to suppliers, the longer it takes to turn around proposals. These suppliers get slammed with creating more itineraries and have to spend valuable time educating the advisors who are sending over impossible inquiries. 

Here’s the thing: Selling based on price doesn’t only impact you.

It creates a slowdown. Advisors feel the ripple effect in their business. Suddenly, each request takes a few more days. Maybe an extra week. Or, perhaps, as is the case currently with many of my supplier colleagues, they stop fielding new trips to clear out the backlog.

And what about those great clients? The ones who advisors have had for years and who always book, or the excited new prospect with a great budget who is ready to confirm? They have to wait a little longer. And if they aren’t willing, that good sale is lost.

Let’s not forget our on-the-ground partners, as well. With more requests, suppliers are inundating our vendors with questions, making them generate more quotes and causing them the extra work of checking and re-checking availability. Then it’s another bottleneck in the process.

Particularly when pricing is the focus. Or, when you sell on amenities (which is just another way to sell on price).

Often, to make this booking work, your suppliers must cut their own margins (stretching them thinner and thinner, with less room to hire staff to help with turnaround times) and ask hotel and activity partners for more. This drives up rates ⁠— for everyone — to account for all the costs involved.

The higher rates then will often lead to advisors trying to sell on discounts and amenities. The cycle repeats, hurting sales for all of us along the way.

View the travel industry as a complete ecosystem

We need to start recognising our industry as a complete ecosystem. Every component impacts the others. As a community, we should be driving this messaging and creating the perception of the job we want.

After all, it’s up to us to create the space we want to work in, and a system where we can have both success and happy clients.

That doesn’t happen when we focus our “value” on discounts and amenities. It happens when we are sought out as trusted advisors who guide clients through the travel-planning process. When we position ourselves as an expert, with the knowledge and relationships in place that clients do not have on their own.

You are not a coupon code. You are a travel pro.

Kate Thomas is the owner of North & Leisure, a Florida-based boutique tour operator for Ireland and Scotland. She is also the co-founder of Travel Pro Theory, a travel education space.

Source: TravelAge West

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