One of the most common “obstacles” travel professionals deal with is being asked to match a price the client found somewhere else. In the past it used to be pricing from other agents, but now the two biggies seem to be OTAs (Online Travel Agencies like Expedia) and Costco. This issue has come up several times recently and I thought it would be helpful to share the issue and suggested ways to handle it.

The first thing to do when a client reaches out and says, “I found this online” or “Costco has this deal”, is to take a deep breath and be calm. Don’t take this as an insult! Of course, your clients were doing their own research while you were working on their behalf. Start with thoroughly looking at the quote and seeing where the differences are. Two things to check for right away: Basic Economy airfare (which you would only quote for a client if they asked for it and know they are getting no seat assignments and no overhead bin space) and the category of hotel room. These are the most frequent places there are differences clients miss. After that compare package inclusions (complimentary breakfast, upgrade upon availability, tours, etc.).

If after all these comparisons the package is the same and the price from the OTA is lower, you can go back to your wholesaler and ask them to price match. You will want to know your preferred wholesaler’s price matching policies ahead of time!

But what if the package is just plain better? It happens. This happens a lot with Costco because they can pretty much match your quote and then give the client back much of the commission in the form of a Costco gift card. This is the reason that more and more travel companies don’t allow Costco to book their product.

You really don’t want to promote yourself as promoting on price anyway. Why? Because clients who consider pricing the most important are not at all loyal. They will book with another agent next time and might even cancel this booking and book with someone else to save $50.

So, how can you compete on price? The bottom line is: DON’T. Seriously, don’t. Of course, you want to get the best value for your clients. But when you have people who are hyper-focused on price, let them go. Those clients will be more high maintenance, they don’t appreciate what you offer, won’t refer people to you, and will not book with you again. It is really a one-time transaction. What’s the opportunity cost in that booking? What could you be doing with that time? Marketing to get your ideal client? A much better option!

This is why it is really important to have a clear focus on the benefits you offer clients. Many clients are focused strictly on the booking transaction and don’t think about all the other things that go into working with a true travel professional. You have to educate them on your value. And the time to do all that? When you first talk to them, not after they have brought you a price to match.

When you first work with a client you need to make time in the conversation to talk about you and how you are working. It is so tempting to just listen to what they want to do and rush off the phone to get to work on a quote. But that doesn’t help you communicate your value.

And all this also brings up the need to charge professional fees, but that is another article entirely!