It's been an interesting couple of weeks for travel agent commissions as, following Marriott’s decision to cut group bookings in the U.S. and Canada starting March 31, a number of other hotels and hospitality companies have stepped up to start offering increased group commissions for travel agents. Against this backdrop, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has launched a new training on service fee strategies.
While ASTA did not directly reference the continuing fallout from Marriott’s decision in its announcement, the organization did say that its goal was to help its members articulate their value to consumers and diversify their revenue streams.
“Travel agents are worth everything they’re paid and more, but there’s a need for advisors to continue adapting to consumer preferences and market conditions,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA president and CEO, in a written release. “Travel agents are much more than intermediaries – they’re trusted travel advisors, destination specialists, small business owners and human beings with extraordinary expertise in a complex landscape of travel options. It is our hope that this new course will help them navigate the possibilities of their earning potential.”
Trust is a key theme for the new course. ASTA noted that its recent consumer research found that nearly 80 percent of recent travel agent users say that agents are looking out for them as opposed to suppliers, and that the new course can help travel agents build on that trust. Ultimately, the success or failure of a fees program depends on effective communication between travel agents and their clients.
The new course, Professional Fees – Strategies and Solutions, sees industry consultant Nolan Burris share best practices and tips from travel agencies who use a balanced revenue approach. It also aims to help agents develop a successful communication strategy. Course materials consist of an approximately one hour video, workbook with exercises, a 45-question exam and a downloaded spreadsheet to help agency owners and managers with the calculations needed to determine profitable fee amounts. The course can either be taken by itself or as part of ASTA’s recently launched Verified Travel Advisor certification program.
“As our past consumer research work has highlighted, consumers are more than willing to pay for good professional advice,” said Kerby. “While we appreciate the travel partners who understand the value that travel agents provide, it’s important now more than ever to ensure that travel advisors understand the value that they provide.”