Why I charge consultancy fees
For every client that enquires and books a trip with me, there used to be umpteen or more, who would email me after I have done all the work or suggested where they might stay, to thank me ... and then say they have booked it all online themselves, or through another provider.
Queue me banging my head against the wall!
It happens less often now. Perhaps I have become better at recognising them and redirect them elsewhere, or perhaps it is because I charge consultancy/planning fee.
It is a lesson that I learned the hard way.
I was once referred a client from a very well-known family, who asked for six bespoke experiential itineraries, from Husky Sledding in Alaska to Rhino tagging in Africa… they did none of them. That hurt! Not to mention the fact that I had wasted a lot of time and effort. Still, as someone I know always says, if you are going to fail, fail fast.
What many people do not appreciate is that whilst I save them time and money, by sourcing the right guides, transfer companies, train times, entry tickets, giving restaurant suggestions, booking flights only, or helping with their air miles etc. It takes a lot of time, and it generates no commission.
For group travel there is usually even more time spent dealing with dietary requirements, special requests/needs and answering a million questions, like how accessible is the beach? does our meeting room have daylight? can we have flowers in the room? is there a coffee maker in the room? how far is the train station? etc… you get the picture. Again, all the above generates no revenue but takes time, probably less for me than for the client as I have been in the industry for over 25 years, but still, it takes time, my time.
Did you know that some hotels do not pay any commission in the peak season?! Apart from that, some hotels take months to pay commissions. Airlines, unless you are a large operator and have contracts, also do not pay commission. Surprised?
A well planned and tailor-made trip saves the client time and money both before they travel, and whilst they are away. I will always tell clients if I think something is overpriced or not worth the money, equally if a private guide and fast track tickets are worth the money, I will absolutely recommend them – who wants to queue for 4 hours to get into the Sistine Chapel!
I am transparent with my fees, they are not related to how much the total trip costs, but to how many hours are required on non-revenue generating items. My rates are hourly, can also be purchased in blocks, or, if you travel frequently, need a lot of time and attention or want to be able to speak to me outside office hours for non-emergency items, there is an annual fee.
Case study: Annual Retainer
A client runs business masterminding retreats throughout the year. I negotiate hotel contracts on their behalf and send reminders when each instalment is due and confirm the billing instructions. I have a regular scheduled phone call with their office once a week, for an hour. Both sides ask questions, come away with a list of actions, updates, changes to make etc. In addition, I will also answer non-urgent emails from their office in the evenings and on weekends (within reason). I am also available to answer questions from the retreat attendees and manage all aspects of their trip from flights and activities to dietary requests and special needs, I am contactable whilst they are away and will follow up post trip to get feedback and tie up any lose ends.
This client runs various retreats throughout the year and to pay me hourly is simply not cost effective. The other obvious benefit is that I am not a full-time member of staff, I am there when they need me and it is faster and more efficient to have me manage it, than a PA or similar in her office, whose time would be better spent doing something more productive.
An excerpt from said client’s testimonial is “When it came to the detailed, and sometimes complicated travel requirements of my VIP retreats, there really was just one person to do it. From the outset, Janet took the time to understand the needs of my business, and of the individuals attending my retreats. Her extensive contacts and experience in luxury travel, enabled her to negotiate contracts on our behalf, and her attention to detail has saved me both time and money”.
If you know where you want to go and when, and just want me to hold the flights and hotel whilst you decide, would like some of the extras that my contacts will bring and just want me to manage your trip. There is a slightly lesser fee.
Another client of mine took her entire family to Australia, they may not have been travelling up the front and she could have booked direct, but she chose to book with me because, as she said, “I may not have the 5-star budget, but I want the 5-star service”.
Think of the fees as providing a return on your investment and, if you really want to work with someone who cares as much about your trip as you do.