Caribbean Travel Advisor, News

Has the Pandemic Impacted Travel Advisors’ Fees? 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff

By Joe Pike, Special Contributor to Caribbean Travel Advisor

The pandemic forced a lot of travel advisors to restructure their business models or strategies, but is charging or not charging fees one those practices that had to be amended?

Many travel advisors are saying fees are not only more important now than ever before, they are also more accepted by the clients who have to pay them.

“Post-pandemic clients are more accepting of fees,” said Andrey Zakharenko, founder of My World to Travel / Always Travel and co-founder and owner of Russian Connections. “A few of my clients remind me to charge them fees and volunteer to pay fees, something not common before.”

Michelle Gordon of Jetset World Travel has seen similar reactions from clients.

“’Yes’ to fees,” proclaimed Gordon. “With the overload of information online, review websites that may or may not be accurate combined with everything we’ve been through with the pandemic I feel there has been less pushback with fees vs pre-pandemic times.”

For that reason, now is the time for agents who haven’t charged fees to start doing so.

“Of course the workload for the agent has increased,” said Zakharenko. “Most suppliers are still short-staffed and clients are needing extra attention when planning the most basic trips.” 

“Clients are very inclined to pay fees to work with advisors now,” said Nikki Miller, owner of Travel With Nikki. “During the pandemic, many of them learned the hard way that large OTN will just shut the phones off when call levels get too large, or you’ll be in a 24-plus hour callback cue for the airlines. They are more than willing to pay a travel advisor to get out of having to go through all of that frustration.”

Sally Smith, co-owner of The TravelSmiths, said keeping track of all the different COVID protocols was enough reason for a client to pay an agent a fee.

“We are also their [for our clients] post-COVID going to new destinations, showing the protocols, letting them know exactly what was happening in destination,” she said. “Our time, our investment in our business is incredibly important as it pertains to our clients ultimate happiness.” 

But Smith also said the pandemic wasn’t needed to justify an agent’s fee structure.

“Attorneys, accountants, consultants, etc. charge fees,” said Smith. “You cannot get a plumber to even show up to your home for less than $75 and then the work begins. After 37 years in the industry, we have a wealth of knowledge to share and to assist our clients in safeguarding their most valued possession, which is their free time.”

Terry Van Meter of Legacy Travel said charging fees has always been an advisor’s best defense against those looking for free information before using it to book online.

“Charging professional fees before doing any research has been a game-changer for our travel agency,” said Terry Van Meter of Legacy Travel. “Take my last call for instance. He wanted to pick my brain about my favorite resorts in Fiji.

“After I gave him my professional fee speech, he confided that he was not serious about the trip yet,” she continued. “Charging fees for our services allows us to spend time on those who are serious and appreciate our hard work.”

But Kacie Walls of Traevlista Travels the decision to charge or not charge fees is also determined by the price volume of the trips advisors are booking.

“I do not charge fees,” said Walls. “I have never charged fees. Ninety-five percent of my clients are booking low budget trips. I am not a luxury booking agent. The area I come from is just not that of high end trips. I don’t feel as if I need to charge a fee, most all of my clients book with me and return to me with friends and family.

“I know that most of them would book online instead of with me if I charged a fee,” she continued. Unfortunately, that is just how the area is that I am in.”

Lindsay Kowalski, founder and advisor of LK Travel, an affiliate of Jetset World Travel, said specialists who charge fees are the ones who’ve earned the title, “advisor” over “agent.”

“I truly believe that charging a fee allows me to provide personalized and unbiased advice that is tailored to the specific needs and preferences of my clients,” said

Kowalski. “This is the true distinction between a travel agent versus a travel advisor. My role as an advisor is not transactional, because I am not solely focused on making a sale or booking a trip.”

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