Reaction to the news that TripAdvisor has reached out to certain travel advisors to gauge their interest in a program that would charge consumers $200 in return for agent referrals was decidedly mixed, with some agents open to the idea and others vehemently opposed.
“I think such a program does emphasize the importance of a professional travel advisor’s advice and expertise in planning travel,” said Travel Edge’s Claire Schoeder.”
She added she would need more details about the plan to endorse it. “How are they vetting clients before referring them to agents. What restrictions will agents face? A $200 planning fee is not that much. Like many luxury travel advisors, my fee is substantially higher than $200 and receiving only 25 percent of that fee would not come close to what I normally charge.”
Those higher fees work toward ensuring that “my clients are serious and not looking for an agent to do the research for them so that they can then book directly,” Schoeder said.
Similarly, Ben Gritzewsky of FROSCH was on the fence about the concept of the prospective program.
“My reaction is that while it may validate advisors’ existence and acknowledge the human touch, why should TripAdvisor keep 75 percent or more of that fee? If that is the case, I would not participate,” he said. “However, if the client is at the point of booking, highly qualified/motivated, and the fee was $250 or more and split at least 50/50, I would consider it.”
For his part, Gary Pollard, CTC, of Ambassador Travel, a member of Ensemble Travel, took issue with the TripAdvisor plan.
“From a consumer point of view, I struggle with the idea of paying to get a lead,” he said. “There are too many elements that could create backlash rather than more sales.”
Richard Turen of Churchill & Turen, meanwhile, made it clear that he would never support such a plan.
“TripAdvisor, as a result of its size, influence, and willingness to print virtually anything from anyone, has become the largest single source of misinformation about the relative quality of travel experiences and products in the world,” he said. “Its inaccuracies and laughable ratings have ruined countless numbers of vacations and hotel stays for consumers who relied on them as a source of honesty and integrity.”
He added, “I don’t see how any organization that purports to represent true industry professionals can take pleasure from this kind of ‘endorsement’ of the role of the trusted travel advisor. Describe this for what it is – another potential profit center for a concept that relies on the misplaced trust of travel innocents.”
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