** This is part two of the Guide to Groups Business from the October issue of CT Magazine
It is important to find the right supplier to handle a tour because a travel advisor’s reputation and the client’s experience will be in the supplier’s control. If the air gets cancelled, the hotel overbooked, or the ground transfers don’t work, it will be the supplier who has to resolve the issue. Their overall management of the tour will determine if the advisor does business with them again and if clients return with repeat or referral business to the advisor.
How to acquire group rates from ITC suppliers
Go Direct to the Groups Department
Always speak with the groups department, do not deal with general reservations. This ensures that the best rates, appropriate fare rules and regulations are disclosed. Record the name of the contact spoken with.
Quotes should be sent to the advisor directly to have for future reference. Confirm all the details, including: terms and conditions, cancellation penalties, payment amounts and dates. Ensure clarity around how long group space may be held, what the rules are for changes after booking and what happens if target numbers are not reached.
Prepare a checklist of all of the items that require answers. A checklist will help when an advisor receives more than one proposal that should be compared. It avoids confusion over missing information that may be key tour components.
At a minimum a group proposal should identify the following items:
- Inclusions and amenities
- Volume discounts
- Tour concessions
- Category of accommodation
- Air carrier and class of service
- Air ticket type and restrictions
- Departure /arrival points
- Promotional support
- Payment schedule
- Cancellation/refund policy
- Liability and insurance clauses
Compare Two Quotations
Let’s use a cruise as an example with a direct cruise line booking and an ITC supplier. Things an advisor needs to pay attention to include:
Cabins quoted by the ITC supplier may not be identical to that of the cruise line direct. An ITC quote might not state the number of cabins available per category and it may not always include a reference to specific cabin numbers. An advisor may be able to obtain this information with a direct cruise line booking.
A per person rate may be less expensive from the cruise line direct, specifically with higher classes of cabins such as balconies. Net ITC rates offer the opportunity to mark up a price for higher profit.
Cruise lines often require more money to hold a group booking initially but the subsequent deposit by clients may be less.
It may be possible to negotiate additional amenities direct with a cruise line. For example, both quotes may offer a cocktail party, but only the cruise line may offer a bottle of wine per cabin in addition.
To decide which supplier to sign with, it is important to understand the client and which benefit might be more beneficial to them. For example price or extra amenities.
Sometimes an advisor receives a quote from two ITC wholesalers for the same type of package, but the hotel property listed is different. When this occurs advisors must keep in mind the different prices but also the differences in the properties. With one supplier the rates quoted may be commissionable and with the other supplier the rates are net. One quote may include a choice of flight times. With a net rate it may be difficult to determine how much mark-up may be applied. Rates may be lower because the facilities and services offered to the client are not the same.
Pitfalls & how to avoid them
If an advisor is checking with a couple of wholesalers, they should ensure that they receive the same information from each supplier so that an accurate comparison may be made. The exact meaning of terms must be clear and agreed to so that there are no surprises later.
Reading Terms and Conditions
Ensure the terms and conditions are clear, that there are no misconceptions or any false assumptions made.
A common mistake occurs when a supplier quotes one pax free for “x” number of hotel rooms and one pax free for “x” number of flights, which are not equal in value. A quote may be based on the lower instead of the higher booking number. This can also be a consideration when 3rd and 4th passenger in a cruise cabin are counted towards the group booking numbers but are disqualified since their fare is reduced.
Wedding packages often include the notation that the bride and groom are free when in fact they remain responsible to pay for the taxes. If the taxes are not charged it will significantly reduce the commission earned.
Not Receiving the Correct Accommodation for Clients
Never make assumptions about the accommodation that is required. Always check and confirm with clients and then ensure requirements are clearly outlined to the supplier. For example clients may be a mother-son combination travelling together. When the names are the same and the gender is different it may be assumed that the client wants a double bed instead of two singles. If incorrect accommodation is requested this may lead to check-in delays or unavailable room category which may cause complications. Use a detailed rooming list that specifies occupancy, bed and special requests to help alleviate these issues.
Error messages may occur when processing payments because the billing and home address for a credit card are not the same. Use a payment information form to help track this type of detail.
Contracts will need to meet provincial legislation and local laws and ensure that aspects for potential liability and terms and conditions are outlined. Advisors must protect themselves and their clients by having everything in writing. Verbal agreements are easily forgotten and with staff turnovers, it is difficult to confirm once a staff member has departed. Leave nothing to chance – document everything including costs that may be unknown at the time of booking such as currency fluctuations.
Overall most pitfalls may be avoided by ensuring that all details of any contracts are clear, keeping checklists up to date and ensuring that extra days are built in to collect final payments etc. so that finalization of the booking is not too rushed.