When you are a service professional there are two keys things you can make money from: your knowledge and your time. As a travel agent, you use your knowledge to craft amazing vacations for people. And it takes time to do that. But at the end of the day, you are limited on how much money you can make when you are one person (if only we had cloning machines!), so it is critical to be strategic about how you use both your knowledge and your time. It literally pays to take a look at your business practices from time to time, and here are a few areas to start with.

Don’t leave any money on the table.

Travel agents leave money on the table all the time! For instance, I’m amazed at how many travel agents will spend time working with a client to book a cruise, and then not help them book shore excursions, insurance (third-party, of course!), air, and pre-cruise hotel. While they may seem like little “pieces”, they really add up when you look at your total commission. Here is an example using an actual booking. You assist a client with a Royal Caribbean cruise that cost $7,959 and pays $1,023 in commission (non-commissionable charges reduce realized commission (or yield) from 15% to an actual 12.8%). You could stop there, but if you add insurance, that’s an additional $102; book an air and pre-cruise hotel package and that’s an additional $150 with the commission from the wholesaler and the added fee for the non-commissionable air; and book shore excursions and get an additional $110. Your total commission just increased from $1,023 to $1,385. If you book 50 cruises per year, that’s an additional $18,100 in your pocket! Yes, it takes more time to work on these additional components, but not nearly as much time as it would to start from scratch with a new client!

Evaluate Your Professional Fee Schedule

More and more travel agents are charging fees in recognition of the expertise they provide their clients. There have been lots of articles in consumer publications recently, and they frequently mention that you should expect to pay a fee for working with a qualified professional. They often quote fees of $250 to $500.

While fees take multiple forms (i.e., per booking fee, annual fee), it’s a good idea to evaluate what you are doing, and make sure it is in line with where you feel they should be. Is your fee reflective of the knowledge that you are putting into assisting the client? And if you aren’t charging fees, it is time to consider that!

Consider Who You Are Booking With

All travel agents have choices about which travel companies they work with and who they don’t. Are you getting a fair commission from your supplier partners? Could you be making more working with another partner? Of course, this isn’t always in your control. If your clients want to do a cruise in Hawaii that only cruises the Hawaiian islands, you only have one choice (NCL America). If they want to visit Walt Disney World and stay at the Polynesian Resort, you have to book direct with Disney. But there are many other times when you can choose. Take hotels for instance. If you book direct you will probably make 10%. If you book with a wholesaler, you might make 15%, 16%, or more! And if you are an agent working through your own credentials, you probably aren’t making nearly as much as you could if you worked with a host agency. Even after considering the cost of the host agency fees, you will make more money.

Sure, talking about numbers and finances isn’t the FUN side of the travel business. But at the end of the year when you are thinking about how hard you worked, and how much you made for all that effort, these are the kinds of things that matter! After all, you are operating a business and these are the kinds of business decisions that allow you to put more money in your pocket, take the trips that matter to you, and live the laptop lifestyle!