It was a warm and sultry Saturday morning and I was returning from an early morning jog to have a sip of coconut water near Mantralaya, Mumbai. I noticed a police van stopping by and there were 6 policemen who alighted from the vehicle. Each of them was holding a coconut in their hand and they approached the coconut vendor demanding him authoritatively to break open the coconut for them to have the coconut water. The first instance, I thought that they might have received a coconut each as an incentive for some of their good deeds. However, after gulping down the water, they just vanished in a few seconds without even thanking or acknowledging the effort of the vendor who earns a small sum of money by selling coconut to those who wish to quench their thirst. The poor vendor earns a pittance for the efforts of getting the coconut and in the day and age where the inflation seems to cross all boundaries, he charges a measly Rs 25 (less than 50 cents) which includes getting the coconut, transportation, cutting and serving, at times packing the coconut in a bag along with a straw as well.
I could see the contempt and absolute disgust on the face of the poor coconut vendor as these uniformed cops came adamantly and demanded authoritatively without any iota of guilt compelling the hapless vendor to serve as priority even before those who were waiting to be served and willing to pay money as well. Those who are there to protect the common man use authority to get freebies. I enquired with my coconut vendor and he shared with me that these cops bully those who transport the coconut in hand drawn carts and to let them go free, they take coconuts for themselves and their partners in injustice (if not crime) and then land up at coconut vendors to get free coconut water. Does that not sound disgusting?
Sure, it does. And my first reaction was to probably call up some media to conduct an expose of yet another injustice happening around us. Then I began to wonder…
Am I not being part of the service industry in a similar plight as the coconut vendor? The difference is the coconut vendor helps you to quench thirst and as a travel consultant or destination expert we help those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of a high pace and stressful city life by planning a wonderful holiday for them. Just as there are many coconut vendors , there are many who claim to be travel experts, although only a handful of them do know what experience to offer at a destination. Just as till you do not know how sweet the coconut water is till you have it , you would not know how good the holiday experience would be till you go and experience it. The travel consultant is at the mercy of the traveller who feels it is his birthright as a consumer to get free advice without showing any gratitude and book with anyone who offers him a better deal, even though he may cut corners which may not be known to them.
There have been several pages in travel media dedicated as to whether there should be a trip planning or consulting fee that should be demanded by a travel consultant, especially if you plan unique holiday experiences as it is your expertise in terms of time and knowledge that goes into planning a holiday. What the consumer does not realize is the cost of sale involved in recommending the best holiday to match his or her interest, time, budget and experiences. A lot goes into advising clients the right properties, the number of days they should spend in a destination and the experiences that one can enjoy whilst visiting a place. The cost of sale is extremely high especially as the tour consultant takes out his time, spends his money to visit a place to come back and share his expertise and experience to offer the best holiday for you. He attends workshops, fam trips, presentations and even sacrifices his personal time after office hours to network with partners to ensure that he can add that value to your holiday by offering complimentary upgrades or pleasant surprises in case of some special celebrations.
Still it is astonishing to note, that inspite of a handful of knowledgeable travel professionals, to save a few dollars, there are still those who come to experts for free advice and then go ahead and book on their own on the internet , using the same expertise given by the consultant, as if getting free advice is their birthright. Should you, as a holiday maker, not be acknowledging the expertise that helps you save hundreds of dollars thru proper planning rather than purchasing a holiday from the cheapest vendor, only to save a few dollars? This is an interesting thought to ponder for both the traveller as well as the travel consultant? Should the traveller start acknowledging that there is a cost to every sale involved especially in planning a memorable holiday and should not the travel consultant start charging a trip planning fee for his expertise?
As a Traveller – if you shortlist the right travel consultant who can plan a perfect holiday for you, it is time you start acknowledging the cost of sale rather than seeking free advice and going to any random agent who will always offer you cheaper holidays as the hard work is done not by them, but by someone else. Do not wait for that moment when you are stranded somewhere and you are in a tight spot and your agent or your internet booking system has no solution for you of how to get you out of distress or trouble. Aren’t you risking in case of any eventuality or calamity?
As a consultant, it is time for you to charge a fee for your expertise. Haven’t we heard, a bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush. By charging a fee, you are eliminating those who are seeking free advice and are able to focus on those who appreciate and acknowledge your expertise. If not your plight will be similar to that of the hapless coconut vendor and instead of serving those who are willing to pay you, you will be in a hapless position to serve those who are looking for free advice and freebies only and consequently you may lose on promptness of service to those who may actually book with you.