Independents can deliver this and ensure clients come back, says Sharon Fleming, owner of Thompson Travel

If I’ve heard once in the last year that customers are prepared to pay for an ‘experience’ rather than just consider price for their next holiday, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

The trend has been mentioned at a multitude of industry events over the past year or two, but is it true?

There is certainly justification in thinking so. Who doesn’t want journeys that are hassle-free, accommodation that is second to none or the chance to take ‘once in a lifetime’ trips?

But is the extra swimming pool at the resort or the chance to swim with turtles worth the extra £1,000? Do customers think ‘life is too short, let’s do this’ or is a client’s budget still important in finding the best adventure at the right price?

Quality over price

If you needed your home rewired, would you consider price, the quality of the job, the recommendations of those you know, or all of these? Do you take a chance on the safety of your home or choose the highest price believing the ‘experience’ and result will be better?

This compares to buying a holiday. Quite simply, price does not always mean a better result.

Will luxury cruise ship customers pay £500 each for a private tour of Venice, or would they rather pay £39 for the open-top bus? Which allows them to see or do more in Venice for a few hours? Is the experience worth more if you add a private gondola?

How do we convince a first-time cruiser to choose one particular line over another when they have practically the same itineraries? If they both have new ships and the staterooms are similar, how do we convince a family to swap a £4,500 cruise for another brand at £7,500 when the client hasn’t cruised before? Perhaps it is better to try that tactic for a family’s second cruise when they have an experience to compare it to?

I love to stay in a five-star hotel at the beach, but when a very good four-star is available next door with a lesser spa, is the former worth the extra thousands? On the other hand, is the £139 short break to Krakow in a two-star hotel worth it when an extra £30 could get you closer to the centre in a three-star?

Staff are key

Maybe it boils down to getting the right recommendation? Is it other people’s experiences that help us choose?

In your agency, your staff are key to selling an experience over selling on price. If they know the product, they can compare experiences by presenting the facts. In my ‘experience’, customers are always looking for the best experience they can get, but price will remain a factor for the vast majority. They may pay more, but it still has to be value for money and within their means. If you give the wrong advice and the client pays over the odds, then you have lost their next booking.

The key to all of this is that no matter how affluent customers are, there are few who don’t want to know what they are getting for their money. They are prepared to pay for your knowledge, so they book the right holiday and get the right experience. That’s why they come to us in the first place – and why they return to independent travel agents.