Why Travel Consultants Shouldn’t Allow Clients to Do Their Own Destination Tours and Activities

There is a truth in travel that not all people understand. Planning ahead gets you what you want. Waiting brings you what’s left.

That’s why travel advisors always recommend booking early, whether it’s a cruise, resort stay, or customized FIT vacation. But sometimes even travel consultants miss an important piece of the travel puzzle – tours and activities at the destination. This is an oversight that hurts customers and travel advisors.

“We market the big stuff,” explained Adam Duckworth, owner of Travelmation. “We market the cruise ships, the resorts and the theme parks … and let the customer handle the little things.”

When Duckworth’s team approached him about partnering with Viator to sell day tours, he turned it down.

“I thought we’d probably do a little business here, a little there, but it’s not the big things that we sell for high, high dollars.” And of course I was wrong. We’ve turned that into a really profitable part of our business.”

This is something every travel advisor can – and should – do.

Better customer experience
The less a customer has to worry about during their vacation, the happier they will be, Penny Rushing, owner of Four Points Travel, told Travel Market Report.

“It’s less planning, less things to do when they’re actually on the trip,” she said. “They know what they’re going to do, what they’re going to see. It’s less stressful.”

“Planning excursions in advance also ensures that travelers have access to the best attractions,” said Leshea Beauchamp, Partnership Manager for Tours By Locals.

A first trip to Amsterdam is not complete without a visit to the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum. Same as watching the Last Supper in Milan or going to the Vatican when in Rome. But customers who wait until they reach the destination may find themselves disappointed when these attractions are sold out.

“We kept beating that drum over and over,” Duckworth said. “This is the time to book early if you want to get what you want. In Europe this summer we dealt with client after client who didn’t want to book before they got there, and when they got there the tours were sold out or they were buying something from someone on the street for more money.”

Greater advisor value
Karen Sheldon, an independent contractor with Four Points Travel, joked that advisors want to be involved in every aspect of their clients’ travel plans, “because we’re kind of control freaks.”

Joking aside, the more complete consultants can be to their clients, the more valuable their service becomes.

Talking to clients about what they want to do in the destination and then guiding them to tour options that will suit their needs, whether it’s group tours or a customized excursion organized by a DMC, is a service that many clients appreciate.

Also, the more involved advisors are in planning their clients’ overall vacations, the stronger the relationship becomes.

“It’s about getting to know your customers and what they want to do,” Rushing said.

Finally, being involved in client planning at the destination gives advisors a complete overview of their client’s entire vacation, making it easier to address potential issues in advance and allowing them to create detailed itineraries that clients can use throughout their travels.

“Retains ownership of the reservation,” Sheldon added. “We also love building these fantastic itineraries on Travefy and when we have those confirmations we can put them straight on.”

No money left on the table
It’s not just customers who benefit from pre-planning their destination experiences. There is money for advisers.

“Let’s not leave dollars on the table,” Duckworth said. “If people add on tours or rental cars or whatever, then we can tap into that… I didn’t expect business to skyrocket with tours the way it did, but it’s skyrocketed beyond my wildest imagination. “

Commissions vary by platform – Tours By Locals, for example, starts at 5%, but advisors can increase to 10% by booking $7,500 in revenue (per year). Get Your Guide, Sheldon told TMR, pays 8%, while Viator pays 10%.

DMCs, on the other hand, usually want to be paid net prices, which gives advisers the opportunity to overcharge tour prices.

In all cases, “There’s the potential to win something,” Sheldon said.

What about customers who want to wait?
Not all customers initially want to pre-book their tours and activities at the destination. Some just haven’t thought that far ahead. Others want to take their time and make their own decisions.

Sometimes pointing out the benefits of planning ahead is all it takes to get them to act. In other cases, letting customers know that the tours you recommend have been vetted by a company you trust, or that you’ve had other customers take those tours, can encourage them to book in advance.

“We can advise. That’s what we do, we’re travel advisors,” Duckworth said. “We are not sergeants. We can’t force people to book early if they want to wait, but we say to get the good stuff and make sure you have a seat, book it early.”

For customers who insist on doing it themselves, travel advisors still have an option open to them.

“Our travel consultants probably have more conversations than not with referrals on the road with tours,” Duckworth said. “However, Viator also has a booking link that our travel advisors can share with customers so that customers can browse at their convenience.”

The link results in a compilation of all tours for the location(s) the customers visit. Customers can take their time and make their own purchases when they are ready. As long as they book through the link their advisor sent them, the advisor gets the full commission.

“It’s another way to make some money,” Rushing said.

Travel companies, consolidators and DMCS
Advisors have several choices when it comes to planning and booking tours and activities at the destination. Some of the most popular consolidator-style choices are Viator, Tours By Locals, Get Your Guide, and Project Expedition. But there are also regionally specific operators, such as Evan Evans in the UK

Another option is to work with a DMC (destination management company) to create a more personalized and personal experience.

“It really depends on the client and the type of tour they want,” Sheldon said. “If they’re the type of people who do well with a band, like Stonehenge or something like that, we’d more likely book that through Viator, Evan Evans or something.”

But for high-end boutique clients, Sheldon said he’s more likely to arrange a private tour with a company like Tours By Locals or DMC, “just to make sure there are no translation errors, so to speak.”

“DMCs are definitely more specialized, luxury, unique experiences than, hey, I need tickets to the Vatican,” Duckworth added.

Sometimes it’s not that the client needs a private tour, but that they need it personalized.

“Personalized travel experiences are huge,” said Beauchamp of Tours By Locals. “We have the ability to personalize every experience they have [clients] you want with our platform guides.”

Advisors are welcome to connect and communicate with guides directly through the Tours By Locals agent portal to create a personalized experience. As long as everything stays within the Tours By Locals system, the advisors will receive a commission.

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