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Consultant vs agent

There is still some confusion out there as to how a travel advisor makes his/her income. This week, I had a potential client call to arrange for an appointment. At the end of our short introductory chat he asked, “By the way? How do you get paid? Do you charge a consultant fee?”

I was happy to inform him that we are similar to independent mortgage brokers. Our income is derived from the travel suppliers we endorse, and subsequently book on your behalf. There is no cost to you. In rare cases, fees are charged for air-only bookings where no commission is being paid and/or when we are asked to prepare long, intricate itinerary proposals.

There is, however, a difference in the level of expertise among those employed within the travel industry. An online travel agency or travel ‘agent’ is simply an order taker.  You tell them what you want to book, and they simply facilitate the order. An agent never asks ‘WHY’.  They don’t ask what it is you hope to enjoy while on vacation, or what motivates you, what level of service you expect, or other places you’ve been.  

A consultant, on the other hand, will likely ask you why it is that you’ve chosen that particular destination, resort or cruise line. We will source out what it is that you’re actually expecting to experience while on vacation, and advise accordingly as to whether your particular choice is the right choice. Price point is a factor, of course, but the reality is that $1000 is a lot to waste on a mistake when sometimes as little as an extra $200 will deliver the holiday of your dreams.

A true travel consultant or advisor is motivated to deliver a holiday that meets their clients’ expectations. We hope to develop and maintain a long term relationship that results in a mutually beneficial scenario. If you’re happy . . . you come back to me for future adventures.

We develop relationships with, and endorse, suppliers who not only deliver a quality product at a good value, but foremost, work with companies that handle issues in a fair and compassionate manner. I’m sure most of you remember that terrible explosion at the resort in the Mayan Riviera in 2010. WestJet Vacations was nationally commended for its immediate care of, and attention to, their clientele, with subsequent re-accommodation protocols, refunds, and free rescheduling of flights for those passengers wishing to return home. Other suppliers were not as accommodating.

Be sure to find a consultant that is also well-travelled themselves. This is invaluable insight that can help prepare you for new exotic destinations, and perhaps alleviate any concerns you may have. Of course, nobody has traveled everywhere, but an experienced travel consultant will have resources to acquire the expertise needed for all world-wide journeys. They are invaluable in sourcing out documentation requirements and advising of any unexpected visa or entry fees.

How do you find the consultant that’s right for you? Usually the same way you find that perfect mortgage broker, hairdresser or carpenter. Talk to the people that seem happiest with their holidays. Happy clients are only too eager to share in their good fortune and to endorse their travel advisor.



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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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