The New Normal - Charging Service Fees With Confidence

To fee or not to fee? It’s a crucial, game-changing question on the mind of today’s travel advisors, and the answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

Incorporating a service fees structure requires a well-conceived and easy-to-implement plan aimed at explaining to existing and future clients why travel advisors deserve to be paid. Here are the top 5 ways to make service fees a part of your agency business going forward. 

#1 – Normalize The Practice Of Charging Service Fees By Advocating Your Value
Consumers are used to paying fees for financial planners and consultants in other industries, but many view travel advisors differently – and it’s a perception that needs to change.

Embracing the idea of “value” is central to initiating this change. Travel advisors are professionals who deserve to get paid for their time researching and planning a trip as well as their breadth of knowledge and expertise. Time is a valuable asset, and the time advisors spend handling a client’s travel needs is time that clients can use to do other things. Additionally, COVID-19 reinforced advisor value. The tremendous travel disruptions caused by COVID-19 vividly reminded consumers how important it is to be able to connect with an actual, knowledgeable, trusted individual when having to handle trip changes, cancellations and other situations.

Travel advisors can find guidance in how to approach the process of implementing service fees. Direct Travel recently held coaching sessions for their advisors providing them with a comprehensive Service Fees Tool Kit to ensure they receive proper payment for their tireless efforts in assisting clients.

#2 – Create A Clearly Defined Fee Structure 
Fees are essential to a travel advisor’s livelihood – commissions alone don’t afford a sustainable income, so advisors need the revenue upfront that service fees provide, especially now as the industry recovers from COVID-19. 

What should advisors consider as they develop a fee structure? Charge different fees for different services like air-only bookings, consultations, concierge-like services, etc. Break down the hours typically spent on travel planning and the revenue generated, so you don’t price yourself too low. Align your business and fees with the products you sell. Create an FAQ explaining the how’s and why’s of your fees structure.

It’s understandable to have concerns about fees deterring new clients or not being seen as favorable by current ones, but fees actually help you build a loyal client base that values your expertise. Even novice advisors should charge fees because they still spend lots of time working for clients, and that time is extremely valuable.

#3 – Develop Targeted Pitches For Different Types Of Clients
Travel advisors don’t operate on a one-size-fits-all approach. Different types of clients – the new client, seasoned client, etc. – require different pitches when advisors are talking about their business offerings and fee structure.

Fees should scale based on the services provided – think a nominal service fee for a straightforward booking and a larger charge for curated travel planning. Consider offering a complimentary consultation to allow a client to understand all the work involved in being a travel advisor. This gives a client the chance to see if working with an advisor and paying a fee is the right fit for them. 

Determining the best way to structure fees and convey this information to clients can be a daunting task, so work with companies like Direct Travel, which empowers independent contractors selling business and leisure travel, provides a suggested fee structure, and promotes the value of a travel advisor. 

#4 – Invest In Your Own Professional Development
Knowledge is power. Travel advisors who continue to strengthen their knowledge base and cultivate industry connections reinforce their value and tend to be more comfortable incorporating service fees into their business structure.

Listen to webinars to gain property updates and destination information. Participate in training sessions. Conduct destination research. Attend supplier networking events. Explore advisor certification programs, which reflect specialization and expertise. Go to trade shows and conferences to enrich product knowledge. 

#5 – Showcase Your Travel Experiences & Expertise
One of the benefits of being a travel advisor is to satisfy a wanderlust spirit. And, sharing those global adventures is another way to develop your profile as an experienced, travel-planning resource. 

Promote the places you’ve visited and where you’re traveling to in the future. Share relevant hotel and destination information, travel and safety tips, and anything that reveals your expertise. 

Reach out to current and potential clients through e-mail communication and social media (think compelling visuals and video) to build your customer base. Ask clients for testimonials about their experience working with you, and then incorporate this positive praise on social platforms. A crucial rule of thumb – don’t glorify things. The more honest you are, the more trust you’ll create with clients and referrals. 

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.