To charge service fee or not?

Human interaction is an important asset in the field of travel, tourism and hospitality. However, COVID-19 changed the scenario when technology entered the arena; it started a whole new ball game, to pay for every service rendered. To charge service fee or not? It’s a crucial, game-changing question on the mind of today’s travel agents.

Shehara Rizly

The pandemic taught us many lessons in life, one was that we should treat nature with utmost respect, the other that human interaction is imperative to go ahead in life. Those in isolation, realised this the hard way, families were separated for months, which turned to be almost years in this war against health of the human system.

Travellers from the Middle East plan their holidays with the travel agents, so that 24/7 access is provided for all their important inquiries. The travel trade in the Middle East has been instrumental in providing these services for many years. However, when technology entered the arena, it started a whole new ball game, to pay for every service rendered, but at the end of the day when you try to cancel or rebook, you are charged. What travel agents carried out over such a long period of time, technology tried to sweep in and change it, and before the pandemic some were of the view that traditional travel agents, or whom we like to call as travel curators, would soon come to an end, the pandemic brought everyone to their senses to understand the impact of human interference to better one’s life.

If travellers are willing to pay for services offered online, could they not do the same for those who work 24/7 trying to coordinate and smooth things over to enjoy a hassle free vacation? In other industries everyone charges a service fee, should this be the same in travel? Nasir Jamal Khan, CEO, Al Naboodah Travel shares, “To fee or not to fee? It’s a crucial, game-changing question on the mind of today’s travel agents, and the answer is an unequivocal “yes”. Incorporating a service fees structure requires a well-conceived and easy-to-implement plan aimed at explaining to existing and future clients why travel advisors deserve to be paid.”

Saleem Sharif, Deputy Managing Director at ATS Travel, reiterates, “The kind of service we give our customers is something that clients do not get to experience anywhere in the world. We are unique. It’s got to do with the culture of the region, I guess. Post pandemic, the pricing model and the payment terms have changed to a greater extent in our industry. I am confident, this will continue in the future too – for our industry cannot suffer for eternity.” Ayman Al Qudwa, Manager, Falcon Travel Qatar explained, “Many companies operating in the sector and destinations have re-adjusted and developed their activities according to these changes.” Arup Banik, Country Head at Shiji India & Middle East, states, “Travel has become more complicated with in-country & pre-departure requirements. Travellers also have an opportunity to experience the destination from the local’s perspectives, get the latest information, and enjoy personalized services.”

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