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.