You’re probably aware that some travel agents/advisors claim that their services are completely free and that other travel agents charge fees.
But how much do travel agents charge - and why do we charge at all?
Travel agent fees vary from agency to agency, but to give you a quick idea, you can find a typical range between $100 to $1200 depending on the destination, length of stay and complexity of the itinerary.
In keeping with my honesty and transparency, I feel it’s necessary to have an open discussion about travel agent fees, why Destinations HD charges fees and what you're actually paying for.
In light of the current situation regarding COVID-19, this has been a hot topic and more travel professionals are introducing fees, so I wanted to take this opportunity to help you to understand the reasons why and the role of your travel agent as you begin to book travel in the future.
This is quite lengthy, but there is so much to cover. Grab your cup of coffee - I hope you find this informative and enjoy a glimpse into the agent life...
So, Why do Agents Charge Fees?
Sadly, it is all too common for a person to pick a travel advisors brain, ask us to curate details of trips, call around for quotes and provide complete itineraries, only to have the would-be client take that agents expertise and work and then attempt to “shop around”. This kind of behavior has led many seasoned advisors to implement a Service Fee prior to beginning work on your requested travel plans.
What you might not realize is that 95% of our work is done on the front end of a trip. The service fee is a layer of protection for the advisor to assure that we are paid for the vast amount of effort that is put in and the knowledge that is dispersed – knowledge that has taken years of education, money and training to gather, in order to help travelers around the world enjoy a travel experience that they’ll cherish forever.
Education and Expertise
While there are numerous tourism and travel agent certification programs available, in all honesty, this isn’t the kind of education that you need to pay attention to when you’re looking for a travel advisor.
Many advisors work for large “host agencies” or “big-box” retail locations and these advisors are usually offered client leads based on a rotation schedule within the organization. While the agent may or may not have resources available to them, it is entirely possible that your agent may have limited knowledge, experience, and exposure to the destination and/or experience that you are looking for.
I pride myself on growing Destinations HD to be a specialized agency with affiliations, education, and training all directly related to the niche and destinations that I offer to my clients. To that end, a portion of my service fee supports the countless hours that I have invested in my expertise.
I investigate at least 3 destinations each year for training. During these familiarization trips, I visit 5-8 different properties PER DAY regardless of the weather – and let’s be honest, it is usually hot, humid, and uncomfortable - that is when you aren’t hanging in the pool at these tropical destinations. I pack sturdy and comfortable sandals to try to minimize the pain that will shoot through my feet by the end of each day, and I fall into bed exhausted, but super excited about which of the new properties I visited will be perfect to recommend to my clients when I’m back home.
In addition to familiarization trips, I attend travel conferences, networking groups, training events, webinars, and keep abreast of developing situations in countries that are my areas of expertise, in addition to, paying for top of the line weather alert software so that I can keep a meteorological eye on my clients wherever they might be.
So while it might appear that Destinations HD can recommend a property or a destination at the drop of a hat, be aware that there is extensive education, sacrifice and financial investment involved in having an agent who can speak knowledgeably to you about your travel plans and recommend options that will elicit the experience that you want from your vacation.
So – just as in any service industry – you pay a little for education and experience.
Time is money and that holds true for everyone. This is why many people get paid a salary or an hourly wage – people get paid for the time they work, and Destinations HD charges a fee for a portion of our time and the work that we put into planning and managing your trip.
“But wait! Travel advisors get paid on commission!” I hear you say, and yes, it is true that travel advisors get paid a percentage once travel has been completed.
However, there are a couple of things to note about that:
I’ll delve more into commission later, but for now, let me continue with explaining why you’re paying for my time. Once I’ve had a consultation with you and begun to form an idea of what you want and need from me, I begin working on your travel plans. Being a concierge service, all itineraries and quotes that I present to you, were curated personally for you and your traveling companion(s).
There is no auto-quote button and I don’t allow my team to outsource your quote or itinerary in any way, therefore, everything you receive is hand-picked, personally typed, and wrapped with a palm leaf before it is provided to you. This process takes quite some time, but I created this agency first and foremost to help people realize their travel dreams and to be able to have someone to trust !
Time is also a significant factor when it comes to the following:
Travel Advisor Commission Explained
While I’m spilling industry secrets here, I may as well tell you that the commission structure varies greatly too AND we often get paid far less commission than excepted as some items are exempt from commission altogether.
For example, there is no commission provided for airfare (or it’s very very rare, and very very low). So, although you just purchased $9500 business class airfare through you agent that found you the best flight schedule, unpublished consolidator rates, an amazing schedule that wasn’t available to the public, and will track your flights, schedule changes, call the airline when needed, organize your seat preferences, fill in your rewards numbers, let you know what the airlines new policy regarding masks or temperature checks are – we don’t get paid for any of it.
Additionally many cruise lines and other suppliers have tricks to keep the commission minimal for travel agents – there are terms in the contracts which state that commission is only paid on the “base rate” for example, then the room costs are separated into an itemized list that total the entire room rate that you see and pay for. However, the commission that I get paid only applies to one item - generally the lowest priced segment – and those savings do not translate to you if you book online. You are still paying the same no matter what, but the company simply retains the additional money that would have been paid out to a travel advisor, had you used one.
Unfortunately, many large corporations are not usually out to save YOU money, and would prefer to keep the extra for themselves instead of paying a travel advisor for selling their products.
Tours and excursions are also no guarantee on commission for your travel agent – there are those that we get paid a small commission for and others where we don’t receive any compensation regardless of how much time and effort we put into building the perfect itinerary with days filled with the perfect activities to enrich your experience.
As with the example mentioned earlier, since I am paid an upfront service fee by you, I can confidently recommend the right tour or excursion option tailored to your vision, regardless of what it means for my paycheck – I never have to choose between my integrity and my bills.
I hope you found some valuable insight into our industry. I can keep on going discussing the differences between agency services, but this is already SUPER long, so I won't keep you. Should you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line!
As always, for a free consultation, please reach out and we can begin working together to plan your 2021 and beyond adventures!
Stay positive, safe and hopeful!
Hey there! I just read your blog post about why travel agents charge fees and I have to say, it was really informative. As someone who loves to travel but often feels overwhelmed by the planning process, I've always been curious about why travel agents charge fees and what exactly goes into the work they do.
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