The Role of Price and the Role of the Travel Consultant

Richard Earls, Travel Research Online

There are many good reasons not to make price the centerpiece of your presentations, but here’s the best one. Your client only thinks price is important. The reality, of course, is that every day the client chooses considerations of value over price, even when they begin the conversation by telling you they want to travel “as cheaply as possible.”

What the client says and what the client actually means can be two different things entirely. The client doesn’t really mean they want to walk to their destination and sleep under the stars. The client is expressing their concern about paying too much, about not achieving a good value. The unfortunate fact is all too often the travel professional is immediately led off course by the client’s early focus on price. The travel consultant begins research from the starting point of the client’s wallet rather than the client’s needs. Remember, YOU are the professional. It is your responsibility to lead the client, not the other way around.

Travel consultants often create their own reality by leading with price, training the client to shop around. “Let me see if I can find you a great deal.” How about advertising that announces the come-on rate in the headline? Tactics such as these work on the internet on a strictly transactional basis, but they will quickly induce a failure to thrive for most travel agencies. Worse yet, the clients who experience the cut rate trip, the third tier accommodations and the lack-luster locations are seldom loyal to the travel consultant who failed to guide them out of their self-inflicted journey into “cheap.”

When price is the primary consideration in travel planning, the rational side of the client’s brain kicks into overdrive, a bargain basement mentality predominates the discussion and all of the defenses are on full alert. In point of fact, and regardless of their demands, clients inherently mistrust “cheap” and those who offer it. Don’t you?

So what’s a travel consultant to do?

Engage the client in a relationship. Educate the client. Demystify the experience. Clients mistrust travel advertising and “too good to be true” pricing. Take advantage of that fact by helping the client to better understand the logistics of the experience of travel research. In the context of less complicated and better understood purchases, clients easily demonstrate an understanding of value. Otherwise they would all be driving Hyundai Accents and Starbucks would never sell a cup of coffee.

When a client doesn’t “get it”, it’s because we failed to do an adequate job of explaining it.

Most importantly, don’t sell the client anything. Help the client to buy. Be the coach. The opportunity to engage a client in this manner doesn’t happen when the client rushes through the door with an offer in hand shouting “beat this!” But when the proper groundwork is in place, when a relationship is the context for the conversation, the chances are very good the client will grasp the concept of value and will understand price as just one component of the overall experience of being an educated consumer.

Richard Earls is the Publisher of Travel Research Online, an online travel industry resource dedicated to enhancing the professional lives of travel agents.

(will not be published)