100 Lighting Way
Are consumers peppering us with test questions that require better
Secaucus, NJ 07094
responses than the industry standbys that served us well, lo these
many years? I
s it my imagination, or are the questions getting more difficult?
the tour company’s top-producing agencies.
Tour companies have gone to court to prevent online rebating of their products.
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Of course they are. Our clients
spend hours reading online reviews and
hearing tales of our demise. But there are
some voices out there, newly awakened, who
still think we have value. They’re suggesting
that consumers take us for a test ride before
making any commitment.
interest to reserve your space
The second reason has to do
with marketing. Tour operators
and cruise lines are reluctant to
give those who book last better
pricing than those who were will-ing to commit early. They hate
having to go back to those already
committed to paying one price to
tell them they can now pay less. So the odds
are that the earlier you book, the better the
Online rebaters clearly don’t feel the tour
is worth the brochure price, and thus they
are unsupportive of the company. So, should there be problems
while you’re traveling, they will
not be able to wield any influence on your behalf. You’d be
working with an industry pariah,
which is a real risk.
VICE PRESIDENT/EDITOR IN CHIEF:
EDI TOR: ROB FIXMER
MANAGING EDITOR: REBECCA TOBIN
EDITOR/NEWS & OPINION:
Bill Poling (301) 585-1686
DEPU TY MANAGING EDITOR:
Here are a few consumer questions travel
sellers have to deal with every day, plus snippets of the responses they might hear from
better agents I’ve interviewed over the years.
Of course, our agency offers
price protection. So just send us
the quote and we’ll bring it to the
attention of the tour operator. If
it is a legitimate price, we will match it.
Michelle Baran (Tour Operators)
Danny King (Hotels)
Some of these responses are tough, almost
guerrilla marketing in nature. I don’t agree
with all of these approaches, and some of
them are based on half-truths. But they’re
examples of how some of the most successful agents handle these tough questions. I do
believe we’ve been fighting well-armed price
predators with feathers. If you believe it’s
time to lock and load, that you’re at war with
commodity travel marketers, consider what
follows a blueprint for battle:
Gay Nagle Myers (Caribbean/Mexico)
Will I get a better price on my cruise
from one of the large online discount sites?
Kimberly Scholz (Travel Product News)
An even better reason is that, sure, budget travel suppliers are constantly changing
their prices. But we don’t sell them. We look
for price integrity before we will agree to
represent a travel product. Thus, the tour
operators and cruise lines allow us to automatically qualify you for any new marketing
discounts. We guarantee price protection, so
you have no worries.
Donna Tunney (Cruise)
They’d like you to believe you will, but
most often you won’t. Cruise lines simply do
not want you to book their products online,
because every online booking is thought to
generate between 12 and 15 phone calls to
the cruise line’s reservations center; online
bookers get little or no counseling about
things like insurance options, safety issues,
shore excursions, onboard dining options
and reservations, pre and post arrangements
and myriad other reservation issues.
EDITOR AT LARGE:
COPY EDITOR: Eric Moya
Romina Paludi, Thomas Lechleiter
Why should I use your services when I
can book directly?
You’re going to be charged for my services
whether you use them or not. My fee is built
into the cost of your travel product. If you
book direct, the supplier simply pockets the
commission, and you get nothing in return.
After I called you, I called a discount
travel agency and found that their price
for exactly the same cruise was $450 per
person less than your quote. $900 is a big
difference. Will you match it?
If you use my services, on the other hand,
you have an advocate. You represent one
booking to a supplier; I represent dozens,
and my consortium represents many more.
We have volume clout. You have none.
We appreciate the opportunity to respond. Our relationship with [the supplier]
is extremely close, and we can match the offer. However, we’ll need a copy of the cruise
line guest invoice. No price is legitimate if it
doesn’t have the imprint of the cruise line
on the fare quote or a confirmation number.
Once we receive your invoice with the lower
price, we’ll get back to you within 24 hours
with a price match plus a gift for your time
and trouble. If it’s not a legitimate price, you
at least will know that you were dealing with
an unethical travel seller.
What really gets the cruise lines upset is
that they’re paying the online travel agencies
commissions, even though they’re not doing
their job. They would much prefer that you
book with a professional travel consultant
who can answer all your questions, not with
some outsourced contractor in Mumbai.
Harvey Chipkin, Laura Del Rosso,
Charlie Funk, Damon Hodge, Mark Pestronk,
Felicity Long, Shane Nelson,
Joe Rosen, Richard Turen
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: Rebecca Tobin
WEB EDITOR: Jerry Limone
MANAGING EDITOR: Kimberly Scholz
WEB SERVICES MANAGER: Linda Buchanan
I am a caring consultant who will be with
you every step of the way, beginning with
the special documentation I’ll send you.
Book with Henry Headset and you’re just
We’re price-checking at least four or five
agencies and online brokers. We’ll book
with whichever offers the best quote. Will
you send us your best price?
Of course not! We save our best rates for
our most loyal clients, which is why we have
such a high repeat factor and are successful.
It sounds like I
get no price benefits
with you vs. booking
direct. Why is that?
I’d like to book
with you, but [fill in
the blank]’s website
is offering a 5% rebate on any tour. Will you do the same?
TRAVEL WEEKLY PRODUCTION:
Patrick Fox, Sal Lamourt
AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT CONSULTANT:
Suppliers set the
value on the products they sell. They don’t
appreciate it when a seller demeans their
product by selling it for less. So, yes, we will
both have the same prices. But our agency
has negotiated exclusive benefits for our clients, so our package will make you feel good
about your purchase. It’s always going to be
in your financial interest to use our services.
If price is your sole criteria, you’ll want
to work with a part-timer doing agent work
as a second job, with no industry standing.
They’ll rebate much of the 10% to 15% of
the price that is their commission. I’d recommend that you first check them out with
the Better Business Bureau.
TRAVEL WEEKLY MARKE TING:
EDITOR & GRAPHIC DESIGNER, CUSTOM
PUBLISHING: Lauren Flowers
You will typically pay more for your vacation in a year than you’ll pay your physician, attorney or accountant. In those cases,
would you choose the best professional or
the one who offered you a rebate?
If the very lowest price is not your only
criteria, we suggest that you contact the first
agent you invited to work on your vacation,
because the truth is, all ethical travel agents
get exactly the same rates on the tours and
cruises they sell. Since the first agent has already spent time researching your request,
we urge you to use her.
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Why should I book now? What happens
if the price goes down later?
There are three key reasons to book now.
First, early bookings guarantee a space on
the tour date or in the cruise cabin category
you want, with the best possible placement.
There are preferred cabin locations in virtually every cruise category, and it is in your
Tour companies hate rebaters, and you
take some real risks by booking with one.
Imagine being a guide on the first day of
an upscale tour somewhere. As the guests
mingle at the introductory cocktail party,
one obnoxious couple lets everyone know
that their travel agent was willing to work
for practically nothing and rebated a good
portion of her commission. Now the tour
director has an unhappy group, some of
whom might have been booked by one of
Contributing editor Richard Turen
owns Churchill and Turen, a vacation-planning firm that has been named to
Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the World’s
Top Travel Specialists since the list be-gan.Co ntact him at rturen@travel