Published on Monday, March 31, 2008

TravelMole Secret Agent

What an odd start to the year l have had. 

January calls – non-existent; February not much better; March - Hallelujah the calls have finally picked up. 

I was really starting to think that the calls would never arrive. How the booking trends have changed.

Even though the calls have picked up, l am still struggling on bookings.  

I still have the problem with certain tour operators, namely First Choice and Thomas Cook group. Their online discounting is killing me.  

It really riles me when l do all the work on a enquiry, check out all the reviews, make sure that there is a TV in the room so dad can watch the footie, a shopping mall for mum, water sports for the first born and smoking areas for fag-loving nan, and then customers go online, see that they can get massive discounts, or extremely low deposits, and then expect me to better the price!  Which l can't do without losing all my commission. 

So at the moment there are a few operators that l refuse to quote, and will only book if the customer specifically requests them.  

I am all for a bit of competition but to try and destroy the agent completely? 

I am a big advocate of  independent operators. They give much better service and if they do offer discounts direct to customers, they are normally low enough for us to have a fighting chance of matching it. 

This month my bookings have been a real mixed bag. 

A lovely repeat customer, whose husband told her the budget was £2,500 not a penny more, but ended up spending £4,000 and thanking me for getting him a bargain!

My 18-30 girls going on their first holiday abroad. They were so excited and it took me ages to book as they couldn't all to agree on dates, but we got there after six days. The booking value was very low but the excitement and gratitude from the girls was priceless. Watch out Malia 7th June!  

And then what has been my easiest booking for a long time.

A lovely gentleman with this request: ‘Me and the wife are poor grumpy old pensioners, we want to go to Cyprus any time in June for two weeks but will not spend anymore than £300 each, if you can find me something now l will book it straight away.’  

I did, and he booked, total length of phone call from answering it to taking is credit card details..........15 minutes.  I love those kind of bookings, only wish l had more.

So roll on April, and let’s see what the calls bring me.

*Do you agree with Secret Agent? Click on the Comments button below to give your view. 


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  • An interesting new feature by Travelmole

    Secret Agent's experiences are fairly predictable and I would think accurately mirror image most travel agencies today in their dealings with customers. As far as the two Travel Counsellors are concerned one presumes that they are positively networking either their friends / family or the local community or both - which is the only way to compete with the online internet market and what they should be doing anyway. But however positive they make themselves they cannot be immune from the problems of discounting / competitive online pricing that is so prevalent. Obviously we don't know who the Secret Agent is! but they could be a homeworker (maybe even with Travel Counsellors!!??) or working off the likes of Telextext type leads. Either way one is bound to be somewhat surprised they were so quiet in January, but no doubt there is an explanation - maybe next time round SE will tell us? Anyway an interesting new feature by Travelmole.

    By David McGregor, Wednesday, January 8, 2020

  • Malcolm Hingley - give us a break from the Travel Counsellors bible bashing!

    Malcolm - I see you are a Sales Director with TC. With respect isn't the point of this facility responding to the article with our own opinions relating to the subject matter? Not a free advertising avenue for Travel Counsellors! We read quite enough press info from TC in the weekly travel papers. Give us a break and don't overdo the the TC bible bashing. I was so overcome with your poetic words I almost applied to be a TC by mistake!

    By David McGregor, Wednesday, January 8, 2020

  • Competing on price is a huge problem...

    To Richard English Interestingly I find myself - to a large extent - agreeing with you, which I haven't always in the past. As you describe it's all about 'selling' and as a good travel agent (not just homeworkers) establishing some sort of rapport with the customers. However - without trying in any way to disagree with you - this is a somewhat idealistic (and at times theoretical) view and one that front line selling agents find very hard to maintain. One only has to read the comments here to see the evidence. Competing on price is a huge problem and however positive one remains (company and workers) to customers you just cannot ignore the (at times) debilitating and depressing effect this is bound to have on many travel agents who have their time wasted - over and over again - and through no particular fault of their own.

    By David McGregor, Wednesday, January 8, 2020

  • It is all about selling...

    One of the problems of talking about selling is that many people who are supposedly in a selling role don't actually know as much about selling as they maybe should. David McGregor speaks of creating rapport and I agree this is part of selling - but only part. He speaks about price competition and I agree - that is a challenge and a challenge that won't always be overcome. But good sales techniques will often overcome price competition - and there are many good salespeople around who prove this every day. Karen Byrne writes "...I don't think it's just a matter of selling travel to customers, a lot of the problem is information over load and so much choice for potential customers..." And I would remark that information overload, and too much choice, are some of the things that drive customers to good salespeople since, by the application of good sales techniques, these difficulties can be resolved for customers. Good sales techniques, although they won't always overcome price competition, they do give sellers a chance. Just letting customers take control and behaving as an unpaid information bureau gives no chance at all.

    By Richard English, Wednesday, April 2, 2008

  • It's not just about selling

    I don't think it's just a matter of selling travel to customers, a lot of the problem is information over load and so much choice for potential customers. I remember a client contacting me looking for a villa with specific requirements in the Italian Lakes. I did a lot of research and found "perfect" accommodation to exactly match requirements, got back to client, who told me they had decided to go to a kibbutz in Israel.

    By Karen Bryan, Tuesday, April 1, 2008

  • That's the way it is...

    Two things struck me immediately when I read the secret agent's piece. Firstly she writes, "...It really riles me when l do all the work on a enquiry...then expect me to better the price..." And then she writes"...he booked, total length of phone call from answering it to taking is credit card details..........15 minutes. I love those kind of bookings..." As I have written and presented many, many times, those customers we all like, the easy ones who "know what they want" and book without fuss, are the ones that are disappearing. If all you are doing is taking their money and their order, then what value are you adding to their transaction? It's the difficult ones, those in the former category, that will become the mainstay of professional agents. The ones who shop around, make a fuss, demand everything and check all the options, will be the customers of the future. But you need to know how to deal with them so as to get their money - and that's a skill known as "selling". And selling doesn't simply mean trying to match the online price.

    By Richard English, Tuesday, April 1, 2008

  • It is hard being self employed on the front line

    One of the main reasons I changed from a direct commission agreement with accommodation suppliers to affiliate links is exactly because I did so much leg work for prospective clients who never booked. Now I make less commission but don't get messed around.

    By Karen Bryan, Tuesday, April 1, 2008

  • In total agreement

    Yes, the clients that drill you and you give them all the information and then they book on line or with the discounters!!!!

    By PHYLLIS NIKIFORUK, Tuesday, April 1, 2008

  • Thanks for this realistic view of the issue

    Hi, I loved this secret agent~´s today contribution. Realistic, straight and focusing the target of the travel agent main role: advice, information and sales! The whole industry needs to protect the retailers.

    By PEDRO LARA, Tuesday, April 1, 2008

  • I Agree With Sam Peters

    I too work for Travel Counsellors and have only been working from home for a year and a half. At first things were quiet but it didn't take long for me to become more and more successful by treating each and every customer with respect, friendliness and understanding. I have had a few quiet times but with the support I get from Head Office I don't have time to wallow in the few holidays that go astray I am looking forward to the next holiday I am booking and the smile on my customers faces when I deliver exactly what fills their needs. So listen on, if you are not being supported by the companies you work for move on.

    By jane webling, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • selling more holidays from independent tour operators?

    We are a niche market tour operator, celebrating 10th years in business this year, ATOL bonded and although we mainly deal direct with the public. We have seen a steady increase in interest from travel agents looking to book for their clients (we give 12.5% commission- with average holiday cost around £1000). We were even taken on as a supplier for Advantage network a few years ago who claimed to have travel agents looking for our products, a few thousand pounds membership fee later it and no bookings........ However we have been pro-actively promoting ourselves to travel agents selling specialist holidays (mainly those listed on the AITO site). I have to be honest the response is never hugely encouraging for the effort (we offer to send brochures, posters for the shop windows, suggest sponsoring evenings for clients, willing to advertise in their newsletters etc) My own personal feeling from the conversations I have with travel agents is that they more or less pay lip-service to offering "specialist holidays" but in reality are clearly more comfortable selling what they know and trust(which is understandable) and tend to be led by what the customer asks for (again fair enough). I think independent tour operators have quite a long way to go before travel agents are comfortable selling our specialist holidays. Clearly though with reduced commissions from the big operators, the independent tour operators are going to play an increasing role in generating revenue for travel agents in the coming this debate will no doubt continue on........

    By Lorne Blyth, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • The names and faces have been changed to protect the guilty

    Secret Agent's experience generally mirrors my own this year, although the discounters buggering me (is that the proper British phrase?) are big box stores like Costco.

    By Wes Schellenbaum, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • It IS tough for independents

    As an independent Tour Operator, we are finding it hard now as well. We will happily pay 7% commission to any independent travel agent.

    By Penny Bateman, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • You can build a successful Business

    There is no doubt it is a tough, competitive world out there, but when has it ever been any different? At Travel Counsellors we want to be the best and we want every one of our Travel Counsellors to be the best they can be and build a great business for themselves. To be the best you can be, you need the best help and support you can get particularly when the going gets tough. In short you need friends who care and we and all the 180 strong team at Head Office care about our people. We build special relationships with every TC that provides the help, support, training, development, guidance, motivation, inspiration and encouragement that every agent needs to help them build up a business that they can be proud of. As we build special relationships with our Travel Counsellors, our TC's in turn build special relationships with their customers. Our customers get to know, like and trust their Travel Counsellor. We build an emotional attachment with our customers that is based upon making our customers feel special and our TC's are the best in the business at doing that. It's not about the price and it's not about the booking, it's about the customer and at TC we provide all the tools and the support everyone needs to gain new customers and most importantly keep them for life. The more you touch your customer in a way that encourages their friendship and as a result the emotional attachment, the more chance you have of being the best. With constant help and support, you both can and will build yourself a successful business to be proud of.

    By Malcolm Hingley, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • Always a brightside?

    Arsenal created the best comeback since Lazurus....

    By chris ballam, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • I have to disagree!

    I pose a question to Secret Agent...are they working for the right agency and getting the support you need? I have worked for Travel Counsellors for six years and have seen my business grow each year, with fantastic support from Head Office. January was busy for me as always, I've never known it any different. Even given the current financial climate I firmly believe people will always have a holiday, as we all work hard and like to have something to look forward to. I did have a couple of days in February which were quiet, then again it was half term. Rather than sit back and worry I contacted my Business Development Manager and within the hour we'd planned for a mail shot to go out to all my clients that day. As a result of that I had several calls which turned into nice bookings and once again I was on a roll. If you"re not getting the help you need to be successful working from home I would ask you why are you still working for that company?

    By Samantha Peters, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • Take the big boys off the racks and support the small independants

    I totally agree with the Secret Agent. I am an independant agent for the last 26yrs and have had enough of being used by the public as infomation providers and a brochure pick up point, for the greedy an selfish "Main Line Tour Operators" namely Thomson, First Choice, and now Thomas Cook.They think by sending in tons of brochures that this is supporting the agent.After spending sometimes hours doing what we do best,the clients ring direct and recieved up to 23.5% discount with First Choice, after telling the trade this doesn't happen. They wouldn't give us anywhere near this so why give it to the clients who have done nothing except make one phone call using our brouchure and information.Why should we receive less commission than the clients from all of the big boys. Dont support them if they wont support us. Get them of your racks,they did it in Scotland. Wake up before its to late,and they stop all our commission. They still need us more than we need them.. Sell the small operators that do support the agent with better service and commission. Lets not forget that we started our business to make profit for ourselves. By making a profit we can then give good service to our clients, but we come first.

    By Don Sandgrove, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • Some customers are savvy

    Usuall agent who has to live in the real age in as much that customers are savvey and want as much as possible for their £. Its up to the agent to add value to make their profit no matter what. We do not want wingers but thoes who can help us to win bookings

    By Paul Neaves, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • Global Village

    World is small. I am an indepedant operator myself operating out of India. I can relate to the feelings & frustrations expressed by Secrent Agent.

    By M.Radhakrishnan Mundayur, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • Up with the Independant professional provider !

    Even in my line of business, which is Destination Management and Business Groups in and outbound. Customers like to have personalised service, but its a hard world out there !

    By Angela Seager, Monday, March 31, 2008

  • Typical

    Typical travel agents scenario then.

    By Fay Thompson, Monday, March 31, 2008

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