As business guru, Marshall Goldsmith so accurately said, “What got you here won’t get you there”. The world as we know it will be different after this pandemic, and what got you to where you are in 2020 might not generate the same success in 2021. Will you change and thrive or stick to what worked in the past?

To be prepared for this new reality you first need to do some evaluation of your current business to see what is working and what isn’t. These 5 key areas of your business need a thorough examination from time-to-time and if you haven’t evaluated these thoroughly in the past year, it’s time.

  1. Your Specialty
  2. Fee Structure
  3. Commission plan
  4. Host Agency
  5. Consortia

We will take a look at each one in turn and talk about how to determine if changes are needed.

Area 1: Your Specialty. Do you have one? Can you articulate it? Specialization is important because it drives your marketing. It establishes you as an expert. It allows you to ask for – and get – top fees.

Every travel advisor should be able to answer the “What do you do?” question with a strong statement about what client they serve and the value they bring that client. That statement needs to be crafted to speak to your ideal client, not be generalized like, “I’m a travel agent”.

Which leads to the question, “How much do you know about your ideal client?” Start with writing a list of characteristics this person would have. Are they young, old, or in between? Do they have kids? Grandkids? What do they do? What type of travel are they taking? What’s important to them in a vacation?

When you are clear about your specialty, your ideal client, and the value you offer that ideal client, you are better prepared to market yourself to them and begin attracting them to you. You will also be more confident in turning away those clients who aren’t a good fit who are often a distraction and take precious time you could use to work ON your business.

Allow me a quick sidebar here. Every single time I bring up the topic of specialization, I have at least a handful of agents who tell me they don’t specialize. They take whatever business comes along and they are very successful, thank you very much. My response to that: Great! That’s wonderful that it is working for you! But have you considered that maybe you would be more successful (happier, more fulfilled, making more money) if you had a specialty? The travel agents who are making the most money are those who specialize. Period.

Area 2: Fee Structure. Are you happy with what you are charging? Are you consistent about it? Do you have a good process in place for processing it? Now is a great time to adjust that structure to be more in line with your goals and your ideal client (remember, that fee structure helps turn away tire kickers).

Fees represent a significant income stream for advisors. If you work with 100 clients per year and added a $100 fee for each of them that is an additional $10,000 in your pocket. A $250 fee would bring in $25,000. The range of fees varies significantly depending on your specialty, target clients, and in some cases your location.

For those of you who aren’t currently charging fees, why not? Every article in the consumer press that I have read recently mentions that you should expect to pay a fee to work with a skilled travel advisor. If you are providing a high level of service to clients, you should be paid a fee by that client. I am willing to bet some of you think that your clients won’t pay fees because none of the other agents in your area of specialty do. That’s not true. I know Disney advisors who spend hours making dining reservations, making park plans, and setting up fast passes and do it all for free. I also know other agents who do the same thing for their Disney clients and charge big bucks for it. And the clients happily pay for it. The same is true with cruises. You can charge a fee. Will everyone pay it? No. But remember every client that comes to you isn’t your ideal client anyway.

Area 3: Commission Plan. If you are hosted, are you on the right commission plan? The way to determine that is to look at the total amount you are paying your host agency each year. Add up the annual fee, costs for technology or other services, and the total amount they kept of your commissions. Look at the other commission plans offered by your host and see if it makes sense to change. For instance, if you are at 80%, does it make sense to go to 90%? Or if you are at 90%, is it time to go to 100%? (Yes, 100% commission plans do exist – Gifted Travel Network has one!) If it is time to change, talk to your host about switching plans. If that isn’t allowed it might be time to switch hosts.

For those of you operating under your own credentials, you might make more by being hosted. You have to crunch the numbers to find out, but the commission splits are often much higher and make up for the costs associated with hosting. On top of all that you make more because you have many things (like commission processing) taken off your plate and you have more support, access to education, and probably a consortia you couldn’t get into on your own.

Area 4: Your Host Agency The ideal situation when you get into the travel industry is to find a host agency that works for you as a start-up that will serve as you grow so you never have to change. That doesn’t always happen. When the fit is no longer right, it is time to change. This is one of the most important relationships you have as a business owner. And it should be a business decision. Too often people stay with hosts that are no longer a good fit because they feel guilty about changing, sometimes because the host agency gave them their start. If the fit is no longer right, ask the host agency to work with you to be a better fit if it is reasonable. If they are unwilling or unable to do that, it is probably time to make a change.

There are a lot of considerations when shopping for a host agency: commission levels, how/when you are can change commission plans, preferred partner relationships, consortia, technology, and training. But the single most important aspect is fit. Your relationship with your host agency is your most important business relationship and for you to get the most out of it you need to feel like you are in the right place. What is right for you might not be right for your friends in the industry so do your own research. There are vast differences between host agencies. Visit Host Agency Reviews and you will see there are more than 100 – and they all do things a little differently. For guidance on what’s involved with switching host agencies, download our free guide.

Make a list of what you’d like to have in a host and start having conversations with other agencies and see how it feels. Trust your gut in this process because remember you are looking for a fit.

Area 5: Consortia One reason being with a host agency is so important is because it can give you access to a consortium that you could not get into on your own. If you are a luxury travel advisor this is of critical importance. Gifted Travel Network is a member of Virtuoso and our advisors get a wealth of benefits through that relationship.

But no matter how amazing the consortium’s benefits are if you aren’t taking advantage of them they might as well not be there. Now is a great time to make sure you know what is available to you and how to utilize all those resources. If you start digging and find the options lacking, it might be time to look for a new host in order to get access to a great consortium. Or if you are working under your own credentials it might be worth revisiting that decision in order to get the many benefits a strong consortium offers.

Bottom line: this is another exercise in working on your business and not just in your business. If you are an IC, you are a travel entrepreneur and you have sole responsibility for making these decisions that dramatically impact the success of your business. You owe it to yourself and your business to make sound decisions that serve you both. You have time right now. See that as a gift you can use to make your business even better.

Gifted Travel Network, Inc. | 425 E. Statesville, Suite 101, Mooresville, NC 28115 | (877) 982‐2842

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