One of the biggest — and most damaging — myths for travel agents is something I hear all the time:
“I’d charge planning fees (or higher planning fees), but there just isn’t a market for it.”
Some agents point to the economy. Or the fact that tons of agents already do what they do. Or the fact that people just don’t value their services as much as they once did.
Here’s the deal, and this is REALLY important for you to understand:
There’s always a market for high quality. ALWAYS.
Whatever your travel niche, whatever the economy — if you’re a passionate and caring travel agent, offer a great service, have expertise and/or experience that others may not, and are willing to be constantly learning and improving your skills — then you can and should be charging high-quality prices for your work.
Let’s bust this no-market myth with some truths. Let me give you two quick examples, one as a client and one as an entrepreneur.
I currently live in a small town, after moving from a medium-sized city. Initially, I was delighted to find that I could get my eyebrows waxed for a third of the price that I paid in Minneapolis. But I soon discovered that the quality of the work was nowhere near what I had experienced before. Back in Minneapolis I had the same brow artist for 12 years — and I loved her work. AND, I was happy to pay more for good work. I still am. If a high-quality brow artist moved to my town and charged TRIPLE the average rate, I would absolutely jump at it, no question, and I would immediately tell all my friends to go.
I would do this because it’s worth it to me. It’s less important to me what the average “going rate” is if that rate produces sub-par results. I recognize skilled artistry in this area, and it matters to me. And I know I’m not alone.
So that’s TRUTH #1: There are always people looking for the BEST of the BEST — and who are willing and happy to pay for it.
My company has grown and morphed a TON over the years. Probably like you, we’ve tried new things, branched into new areas of expertise, expanded and refined our products and services.
When we first started building websites for travel agents, our prices were ridiculously low. We charged close to nothing for a full website package.
But here’s the thing: we were just starting out. We offered a great product and great customer service — but we were working out the kinks. We were learning. We were working our tails off to get to top-level — but in those first months, the truth is that we weren’t top-tier. So we didn’t charge top-tier prices. That would’ve been dishonest.
As time went on, we got better. Better than better — we brought it. We honed our skills. We hired incredible programmers. We got SEO dialed. We dramatically increased the efficiency and multi-platform functionality of our sites. We got project managers who are at the top of their game. We started creating highly effective designs. We developed client-friendly processes.
Eventually, we knew we could claim it: we provide great, profit-driving websites for travel agents. And we knew we could charge high-quality prices. We still offer an incredible value, but we’re not beginners anymore. We upped our game, and we attract travel agents who appreciate that and who are also looking to up their game and launch their travel businesses to the next level.
Side note: We no longer build travel agent websites, but we’ll show you EXACLY how-to in the Travel Expert Marketing Academy.
And that’s TRUTH #2: When you know what you do is extraordinary (in terms of the service you provide your travel clients), then don’t be afraid to have your planning fees reflect your expertise. When you’re just starting out, go for planning fees that reflect your space of learning. It’s okay, and it’s a reflection of your integrity to be clear that you’re building a skill. But once you get there, bump up what you’re charging. Besides earning more, you’ll also start to attract clients (like me and my search for a kick-ass brow ninja) who are willing to pay more to work with a travel professional with your level of expertise and client care.
There’s one last thing that I want you to know:
The key to becoming the kind of entrepreneur that clients confidently invest in is having the courage to invest in yourself.
What does this mean?
It means you’re constantly learning, always asking how you can improve your skills and improve the quality of your marketing. You stop making excuses. You take risks. It means you invest in high-quality marketing that accurately reflects who you are and what you’re bringing to the world. You cultivate and nurture a brand that tells your story honestly and beautifully so that the clients you’re seeking cannot wait to get on board with you. It means you listen to your intuition and follow your passion.
I hope that as you’re looking at the year ahead, you’re willing to take seriously the value of what you offer. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing to break through to that next level. Please leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.
To your ever-growing success,
Heidi and Your Marketing Team
P.S. One of the BEST ways to improve your marketing is to join the Travel Expert Marketing Academy. We’re offering a FREE preview to the academy next week. For details and to register, click here.
Excellent piece! I might add: do not confuse a fee with a “plan to go fee” which is converted into a deposit if the clients book with you. This service fee is for you as pure incision! Also, have an automated system where you send the prospect the benefits of working with you. What will they get from you to make their life easier? Then offer them your fee and WAIT!
YES! Great point Dave. Thank you. And this is really important … “What will they get from you to make their life easier? Then offer them your fee and WAIT!” Thanks for sharing!
Please forward info
Excellent information! I am a new travel consultant ( only been in the business a year). I realize that I need to charge fees, but simply couldn’t justify it since I didn’t consider myself “experienced” enough to command it. After reading your piece I’ve decided to adjust my rates and put it out to the public. Thanks for the insight!
That’s so great to hear Melissa! Let us know how it goes for you.
That’s great to hear, Melissa. YES, you ARE worth it!
I am taking this step towards firing my day job. I am a brand spanking new TA, with no expertise or experience but I am certainly dedicated and determined to find the trip that mirrors those things that my client says are most important. That has involved LONG hours of research for no pay, yet. I definitely need to define a niche, and learn when and how to charge for planning!
How exciting for you Lakela! It’s a big leap to quit your “day job”. I am sure you will do great things by following your dreams!
I do and have always charges a fee, especially as I am an independent travel planner. The time spent in consultation, research, planning, booking and the itinerary , it is a must.
Short story, I volunteered to help with a large organisation and because they knew I was the travel expert, they asked me to help. Had they paid for my services their response would have been quick and forthcoming. However, I did not charge- because I was a volunteer- and they just dragged their feet. NEVER AGAIN!
If a client pays they know and feel that you are working for and with them, otherwise they take you as a joke, a hobbyist.
So yes I am and will be charging a fee and thanks to the Academy, I now know how to work out my rates.
YES Rowena! Thank you for sharing your experience!