In last week’s message, I talked about an opportunity that was available to every professional travel advisor. It isn’t new and isn’t even particularly clever. Some of you are already doing this. Most of you are not, but you most definitely should be. Let me back up for a moment.
Like many of you, the pandemic has kept me from really and truly indulging in one of my great passions: traveling. Sure, I’ve traveled quite a bit over the last two years. The family loaded into the car early in the pandemic to visit relatives at the lake in Northern Wisconsin, and, of course, many of us gathered together in Las Vegas for Travel Quest World, and then there was ASTA Global in Chicago, and Travel Leaders EDGE in Orlando, and I think a half-dozen trips to Florida for various other things. None of these trips really scratched that travel itch though.
As you might imagine, the last two years have been difficult professionally. I’m willing to bet you can relate. My wife’s career has been far steadier, but even busier than mine (if that’s even possible). As much as we’ve wanted to go somewhere, anywhere, it just hasn’t come together for one reason or another.
So, Jillian and I decided that we had to take a quick break, even if it was just a couple of days. We decided to cash in some miles and hop a flight to St. Lucia to visit our great partner, Sandals. Well, that was the idea. A quick getaway flight, resort stay, you know, easy…
What was easy-peasy just a couple of years ago, now felt like I was planning the first moon landing. Even easy international travel now can involve lengthy, and often confusing, travel restrictions and testing protocols. There are testing requirements, deadlines, file uploads, check-ins, and so on. Again, I’m willing to bet you can relate. None of it has been particularly hard, per se, but it was stressful and at times a little confusing. When things are confusing, when things are stressful, there is an opportunity.
Many, if not all of your customers expect that you will help them navigate the COVID testing protocols required for their trip. This could be as simple as clearly explaining to them what is required (people don’t like to read) or it could be as much as actually scheduling pre-travel testing for them, a full COVID Concierge if you will.
Many of you charge services fees. Good, and if you don’t, you should. But most of you are not charging appropriately and specifically for COVID protocol consultation, if at all. As I recently prepared for our little getaway to St. Lucia, the only thing I could think was “Damn, this is really worth something.” People will gladly pay for this as an added service if it is marketed correctly.
More importantly, as I talked about last week, we may be entering into the endemic phase, with some requirements and protocols hanging around for quite some time. You have a window of opportunity to create a semi-permanent revenue stream that adequately compensates your business for the time spent advising on COVID-restrictions.
Today, many of you are providing COVID protocol consultation and you’re doing it for free. Sure, you’re earning commission, eventually, but what about all of the unprotected cancellations? What about all of the extra work? If you’re not assessing a special charge for the newly added work, then you’re doing it for free. Don’t miss the opportunity to create a new revenue stream for your business.
In the mid-2000’s I ran a specialty print retail company that also provided commercial printing services and free delivery. When the business started, gasoline was about $1.15 a gallon. By 2007, it had increased to over $3.00 a gallon, and over $4.00 by 2008. If you remember that time, it was a crisis. UPS and FedEx had to raise prices. Companies left and right were adding fuel delivery “surcharges.” What we had done for years for free was no longer viable. We had to add a fuel delivery surcharge to justify the expense of delivery, and most customers didn’t blink. What do you think happened though when gasoline dropped back under $2.00 in early 2009? Did we (or any company) get rid of the fuel surcharge? No. Because we knew fuel prices could soar again just as quickly. Our customers knew this too and didn’t argue. The fuel surcharge has since become a fixture on many commercial, and even some consumer, invoices. It’s built into the profit picture now and it isn’t going away.
So, charging for COVID protocol consultation, or whatever you want to call it to fit your business, can be a revenue stream that lasts well past the pandemic. I might suggest something general to stand the test of time, like a “Wellness Consultation Fee” or “Health Protocol Consultation Fee.” Even as the pandemic turns to endemic, eventually, your fee income can continue. Don’t miss the opportunity, because let me tell you, this really is worth something.
CEO, Travel Quest Network/WorldVia
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