Travel advisors have changed the way they are working following the COVID-19 pandemic. New research from host agency Travel Experts finds that more advisors are charging fees and encouraging clients to purchase travel insurance.
Renee Taylor of Renee Taylor Travel in Searcy, Arkansas, said that it was a difficult decision to start charging for services.
“Deciding that it was time to start charging fees after 15 years of no fees was very difficult, but it was something that I have wanted to do for quite some time,” said Taylor. “I enlisted the help of a colleague and came up with a fee structure that would make me feel comfortable in presenting fees to my long-time existing clients as well new clients. Most of my clients were very receptive and even commented that they have wondered why I waited this long to charge for my services.”
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Eileen Anderson of Journeys Afar, Raleigh, North Carolina, noted that this past year reminded her that her expertise has value.
“I’ve actually had clients tell me they don’t expect me to work for free, they appreciate my knowledge, connections and efficiency. but a few whose planning fees were waived in the past have faded away,” said Anderson. “Upside: more time available for those seriously interested in trip design collaboration.”
Ralph Iantosca charged clients fees already but has changed to a subscription model.
“I had to stop and think about my value,” said Iantosca, “and what I actually do and what it is I can bring to the table.”
Iantosca is not the only one who has changed from ad hoc fees to a subscription-based structure.
Jolene Detillion of Your Travel Designer in Seattle, Washington, said: “We are eliminating ad hoc fees for the majority of our established clientele that travel frequently on an annual basis and we rolled out Annual Travel Subscriptions, that start at $2,500 for a family of four. It engages clients in the planning process and really captures not just the bigger trips but makes them think of us for all their travel needs.”
Not all advisors have had luck charging fees.
Linda de Sosa of Bucketlist Travel Consulting in Houston, Texas, is still not charging her clients for her services.
“I’m begging the clients to use me for small trips and I don’t want to dis-incentivize that.”
One thing that has become a hot ticket item during the pandemic is travel insurance.
“The pandemic has really boosted the awareness of why travel insurance is so important,” said Kim Steiger of Adventures Beyond Borders in Saint Charles, Minnesota.
Holly Lombardo of Lombardo Travel in Atlanta, Georgia, agreed.
“I am quite direct with clients that in this environment travel insurance is a must,” she said.
Christina Schlegel of Bluetail Travel in Arlington, Virginia, has seen an uptick in those choosing to purchase insurance.
“My mantra has always been, travel insurance is strongly recommended, but optional,” said Schlegel. “I would say 90 percent of my clients now purchase travel insurance. It’s always been the smart thing to do. Travel costs are often a significant financial investment, so you want to protect that.”
Taylor noted that her clients have always purchased insurance but now they are looking at more inclusive policies.
“I would say that 98 percent of my clients have always purchased travel insurance. Insurance is such an easy sell for me,” she said. “The only difference now is that I have realized the value in ‘cancel for any reason’ policies after realizing that coverage for epidemics/pandemics was not initially offered by any of the insurance providers.”
Anderson makes sure that she has her bases covered if clients choose not to purchase insurance.
“If clients refuse to purchase insurance, I have them sign a waiver acknowledging it was offered and declined,” she said.
However, Iantosca doesn’t push his clients to purchase.
“It’s their choice,” he said. “Cancel policy for COVID isn’t worth it in most cases.”