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The Truth About Charging Planning Fees as a Travel Professional

The Truth About Charging Planning Fees as a Travel ProfessionalThe Truth About Charging Planning Fees as a Travel Professional

Written By: Heidi DeCoux, Owner – Marketing for Travel Agents



One of the biggest — and most damaging — myths for travel agents is something I hear all the time:


“I’d charge planning fees (or higher planning fees), but there just isn’t a market for it.”


Some agents point to the economy. Or the fact that tons of agents already do what they do. Or the fact that people just don’t value their services as much as they once did.


Here’s the deal, and this is REALLY important for you to understand:


There’s always a market for high quality. ALWAYS.


Whatever your travel niche, whatever the economy — if you’re a passionate and caring travel agent, offer a great service, have expertise and/or experience that others may not, and are willing to be constantly learning and improving your skills — then you can and should be charging high-quality prices for your work.


Lets bust this no-market myth with some truths. Let me give you three quick examples:



I currently live in a small town, after moving from a medium-sized city. Initially, I was delighted to find that I could get my eyebrows waxed for a third of the price that I paid in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that the quality of the work was nowhere near what I had experienced before. Back in Minneapolis I had the same brow artist for 12 years — and I loved her work. AND, I was happy to pay more for good work. I still am. If a high-quality brow artist moved to my town and charged TRIPLE the average rate, I would absolutely jump at it, no question, and I would immediately tell all my friends to go.


I would do this because it’s worth it to me. It’s less important to me what the average “going rate” is if that rate produces sub-par results. I recognize skilled artistry in this area, and it matters to me. And I know I’m not alone.


TRUTH #1: 

There are always people looking for the BEST of the BEST — and who are willing and happy to pay for it.



My company has grown and morphed a TON over the years. Probably like you, we’ve tried new things, branched into new areas of expertise, expanded and refined our products and services.


A few years ago we used to build websites for travel agents and when we first started building them, our prices were ridiculously low. We charged close to nothing for a full website package.


But here’s the thing: we were just starting out. We offered a great product and great customer service — but we were working out the kinks. We were learning. We were working our tails off to get to top-level — but in those first months, the truth is that we weren’t top-tier. So we didn’t charge top-tier prices. That would’ve been dishonest and unfair.


As time went on, we got better. Better than better — we brought it. We honed our skills. We hired incredible programmers. We dramatically increased the efficiency and multi-platform functionality of our sites. We got project managers who are at the top of their game. We started creating highly effective designs. We developed client-friendly processes.


Eventually, we knew we could claim it: we provided great, profit-driving websites for travel agents. And we knew we could charge high-quality prices. We still offered an incredible value, but we’re not beginners anymore. We upped our game, and we attracted travel agents who appreciated that and who were also looking to up their game and launch their travel businesses to the next level.


TRUTH #2: 

When you know what you do is extraordinary (in terms of the service you provide your travel clients), then don’t be afraid to have your planning fees reflect your expertise.


When you’re just starting out, go for planning fees that reflect your space of learning. It’s okay, and it’s a reflection of your integrity to be clear that you’re building a skill. But once you get there, bump up what you’re charging. Besides earning more, you’ll also start to attract clients (like me and my search for a top-notch brow artist) who are willing to pay more to work with a travel professional with your level of expertise and client care.



Mark Ingram Bridal Atelier is a luxury, by-appointment-only Bridal salon in New York City. They carry only the best (and some of the most expensive) designer gowns, employ and train word-class consultants and only the most talented seamstresses to perform alterations.


The gowns at Mark Ingram range from $5,000 – $20,000, with the average sale at Mark Ingram going for four times the overall average cost of a bridal gown in the U.S. said: “Shopping at Mark Ingram’s Atelier is a fairy tale come to life.” It is truly a luxury experience. Their brand and reputation help them attract clients willing to pay for their services, but they can’t stop there.


Before an appointment they educate their clients up front about how to get the best experience from them. For example, they encourage brides to only bring their bridesmaids shopping with them, and only so they can learn how to help them with the dress, not to chime in on how the dress looks, because the bride should trust that she knows how she should look.


Mark Ingram knows that a “gaggle” of 20 or so friends and family chiming in on how a bride should look on her day is not going to lead to a luxury experience so they don’t allow it.


During the consultation, the consultants educate the brides about things like materials, construction, workmanship, and the value of skilled alterations so that each bride understands the value of the experience, she understands why she is paying four times (or more) for her gown, and she is happy to do it because she understands the value of the luxury experience she is having.


TRUTH #3: 

This might sound a little like bad news, but it’s not, it’s just a fact that needs to be embraced – It’s up to YOU to educate your clients about your worth.


You know what you are worth, you know how valuable it is to work with an expert travel agent, but never assume your clients do. You have to explain it to them, you have to show them, you have to make them feel it.


You are the expert, own it!  Educate your clients about the best way to work with you. Be their guide from the very first interaction throughout the entire process. Educate them about thebvalue you bring to their travel experience and why they shouldn’t even consider not working with you.


The experience your clients have with you and your brand from the first point of contact and throughout the entire experience should convey the message that you are worth the price that people pay to work for you.


There’s one last thing that I want you to know:

The key to becoming the kind of entrepreneur that clients confidently invest in is having the courage to invest in yourself.


What does this mean?


It means you’re constantly learning, always asking how you can improve your skills and improve the quality of your marketing.


You stop making excuses. You take risks. It means you invest in high-quality marketing that accurately reflects who you are and what you’re bringing to the world.


You cultivate and nurture a brand that tells your story honestly and beautifully so that the clients you’re seeking cannot wait to get on board with you. It means you listen to your intuition and follow your passion.


I hope that as you’re looking at the year ahead, you’re willing to take seriously the value of what you offer.


If you are ready to invest in your business this year and start earning the kind of money you dream of, the kind of money you deserve, join us for our free Travel Agent Marketing Masterclass.


Register now at