Travel insights from Jenn Lee, VP of Sales and Marketing for Travel Planners International

Your A$$ets are Showing!

Welcome to the new year, folks! By now, your 2019 Financial Worksheet should be completely fleshed out, you’ve nailed your social media strategy, and your clients are salivating to travel! Now, if we were in a perfect world, we would never worry about fraud or pissed off clients demanding a full refund (did they not read the T&C’s!?). Unfortunately, we’re not in this perfect world but that doesn’t mean your business needs to suffer. Remember, you’re more than a travel advisor, you’re a small business owner! Heck, you’re an entrepreneur; and it’s time you start protecting yourself and your business like one.

Hopefully, you’ve already taken out an Errors and Omissions policy – or it’s the first thing on your to-do list. And while that’s a start, here are three crucial tips to cover your assets.

  1. Never book air for clients coming from unsolicited emails or phone calls
    Yes, we’re all waiting for that spectacular prospective client to just fall from the sky and onto our laps but be wary; these potential “clients” can be scam artists. According to a Forbes article, phishing scams have cost American businesses half a billion dollars a year. Here are some red flags to note:

    • Client is asking for last minute travel to an international location. Typically, a country in South America, Asia, or Africa.
    • Client isn’t concerned with price or service fees.
    • Email requests have obvious spelling errors in the body, subject line, or even the sender’s email!

    If you suspect you’re dealing with a scam artist, don’t be afraid to turn their “business” away. Hell, just delete the email.

  2. Strongly offer travel insurance

    If you’re hesitant to offer them insurance because it may come off as an upcharge, don’t be. Focus on the fact that their best interest is your best interest. Use what you’ve learned about your client and offer a plan that works best with their needs and/or budget. Remind them that you’re not a magical genie (even though you come pretty, darn close). And if after all this, your client still denies the insurance, get it in writing!

    Now, this brings me to my last and final point…

  3. Have a paper trail
    Don’t read past this even if you’ve gone fully digital. A good rule of thumb is to have a “paper trail” for anything that requires your client’s approval or rejection. Trust me, this is one of the most efficient ways of protecting yourself that many agents overlook.

    Whenever a client calls asking to make payment on a booking or put a deposit down, make sure that you have a valid and signed Credit Card Authorization form from them. In case there’s ever a charge back (your third reminder that we’re not in a perfect world), physical proof is the only way of protecting yourself. If you don’t already have one, simply search for a template online or ask your host agency.

    Another great example is if you want to make sure your clients understand the cancellation policy, have your clients sign a form that states they’re aware and understand the terms and conditions of their trip. In the event they want to cancel and freak out when you tell them there is a penalty, you have the written and signed proof. “He said, she said” rarely ends well.

While these three tips may seem elementary, they’re so easily forgotten and overlooked because they’re simple. And they’ll remain forgotten until they bite you in the ass(ets). Obviously, there’s plenty of other ways to protect yourself as a business owner. For more tailored advice, I recommend meeting with a business consultant or partnering with a host agency that has your back. 2019 is here – and we have no time to waste.

About the Author

Jenn Lee, Travel Planners International’s VP of Sales and Marketing, isn’t shy about her obsession for guiding and leading today’s entrepreneurial-minded travel advisor community. According to Lee, now’s the moment to remind the world that travel advisors aren’t just booking travel, they’re true curators of the future. She believes that those that find success are going beyond boosting their bank account; they’re building a business. Meeting and strategizing with these hustling entrepreneurs-in-the-making is what keep her going. That and her Bulletproof Coffee.

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