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Frustrated travel agent tells it straight

There are few who haven’t been hit hard in some way or another by COVID-19, but many travel agents, who are still advocating on behalf of their clients (while earning no income), have been thrown under the bus by those who simply don’t understand how the industry works.



So upon seeing her news feed once again filled with “the travel industry as a whole being sadly misrepresented in mainstream media”, TravelManager Michelle Desmarchelier decided it was time to clear things up. 


“Many of us (myself included) don't even earn a wage, we get paid when you travel,” Desmarchelier posted to Facebook.


        It’s not commission, it’s my income. 


“My preferred supplier partners pay me a commission to sell their product (BUT from here on I am going to ask you to replace the word ‘commission’ with ‘my income’), it depends on what the product is, however my income earned can range between 8-15% on a booking, airlines even less so, between 2-5% and sometimes even a big fat zero to remain competitive. I don't have a wage as I am a sole trader.” 


        There are no pots of gold.


“I've been lucky enough to have worked on both sides of the fence, and know that when a supplier receives money from me for your booking, they then have to forward the negotiated NETT onto hotels, tour operators, ground handlers and the end supplier of YOUR holiday, so when we're asking for refunds these things will take time as there are no pots of gold and rooms full of cash in suppliers back rooms waiting to be handed back to retail agents immediately.


“Most of that money paid has already been allocated to their running costs, wages, paying to secure hotels, lodges, vehicles and other services etc. so even pre-COVID-19, refunds could take between 8-12 weeks to process.  


“Now, just imagine the influx of refund requests everyone's receiving during a global pandemic and appreciate the roll-on effect of trying to obtain these funds back from the end service provider. 


“As you can imagine, right now in these 'unprecedented times' I'm also being faced with handing back a lot of money to clients, for income already earned, and in many cases the supplier is only able to understandably refund the NETT back to me in order to keep their own income earned as they've paid out to hotels and tour operators etc. etc.... leaving a bit of a gap. 


         You can cut your own hair too, but...


“For those of you who value service and entrust your holiday in the safe hands of a travel professional, then I urge you to please not quibble about the few extra dollars you could have saved had you done it yourself or spend unnecessary time trying to ground everyone down to the lowest dollar, rather think of this extra cost as your travel professional's "income" and your safety net..... or the analogy I like to use "you can cut your own hair too but it's not going to be perfect and risk-free and wouldn't you rather pay a professional to do it properly".” 


Desmarchelier has worked in the travel industry since 1988 and is also an active member of the NSW RFS. 


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Written by: Traveltalk

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