The world certainly has changed during the last two years in the travel industry. The cruise industry shut down, supplier bankruptcies, entire countries shutting their borders, cancellation after cancellation, future travel credits in lieu of refunds and it isn’t over yet. As COVID wears on it is becoming obvious that we will be living in this environment for some time to come.
The pandemic also wreaked havoc on travel agents who were unprepared for the chaos that ensued once the shut down occurred. Clients who were cancelled and offered “future travel credits” in lieu of refunds by companies like Shore Trips ended up not receiving a thing from suppliers after they either ceased operations, or worse simply refused to honor the future travel credits by having them expire. All the time, the travel agent was providing valuable services to their clients generally with no remuneration.
While Plan to Go Agreements were gaining traction by travel agents, the COVID pandemic simply accelerated their functionality and use. It also increased their scope by including more disclosures.
When to Use Plan to Go Agreements
Deciding to use a Plan to Go Agreement really depends on the situation. If it is a new client, by all means use it. If the client has a poor track record with your agency in terms of requesting prices, but not booking, by all means use it. If the client is requesting a lengthy itinerary that will require hours of your time to complete, by all means use it. Or, if a client seems flakey in any way, by all means use one. Plan to Go Agreements should be used in every instance where the possibility exists that you might perform work on behalf of a client not to have it result in a booking.
Many times clients will request pricing and consultation regarding a future travel event only to have you do the work and then client takes the results that you produced and shops it on the Internet and books it with another agency, directly with the supplier, or on sites like AirBnB, VRBO and a myriad of others. Plan to Go Agreements allow you to collect deposits for the work you are about to do so that if the work does not result in a booking with your agency, you do not go unrewarded for your efforts.
The COVID pandemic only exasperated the issue as client’s vacations were cancelled and requesting refunds was almost impossible as suppliers opted for “future travel credits” which were handled by agents who were paid nothing for the work. Then, when companies who issued future travel credits in lieu of refunds went bankrupt, clients held travel agents responsible for the lost investment. And, so it went and continues to go and no one knows when this will all settle down. Hence the need for rock solid Plan to Go Agreements is now necessary in 2022.
Imagine going to an attorney who examines your situation and then advises you as to the exact solution that you will need to seek. What if he or she did not request a retainer and did the work for free? You could then take the information the attorney provided and shop for the result the attorney described based on price on the Internet. I am sure that you can see why lawyers always have a signed attorney/client Agreement and collect a retainer before starting the necessary research on behalf of the client. If the client decides to shop for the solution once the attorney has concluded his or her assessment and advised the client, the retainer would be used to compensate the attorney for his labor and advice. This is the benefit of using Travel Agent Plan to Go Agreements.
Travel professionals are put into the same situation when a client asks an agent to research their vacation. Once the agent understands the client’s needs and wants, they can drill down to the right choice for the client’s consideration. This work takes time, effort and a depth of product knowledge to focus on the perfect match for the client. Once the client knows the exact product, date and category, they will be tempted to shop for the best possible price. Unfortunately, if the travel professional has not garnered a “retainer” from the client by using a Travel Agent Plan To Go Agreement, it is quite likely that his or her efforts might go unrewarded if the client ends up booking online for a perceived discount.
This is where a “Travel Agent Plan to Go” Agreement should enter the relationship between the travel professional and the client. A “Travel Agent Plan to Go Agreement” is different from a “Service Fee Agreement” in that the travel professional is requesting a deposit from the client that will be used as the travel agent’s remuneration should the client not conclude the booking with the agency. Generally, a Travel Agent Plan to Go Agreement deposit (or part of it) is used for the purpose of either the deposit or as part of the final payment towards the client’s vacation if the booking is given to the agent and a commission is earned. However, each agent may have their own formula for their Travel Agent Plan to Go Agreement.
The best time to introduce your Plan to Go Agreement is at the very first meeting with the client. In this way you collect a deposit before you actually start working on a vacation for the client. Explain that you will research and report your findings to the client who is then free to shop the Internet for competitive prices. If he subsequently books the vacation with you, you will apply the deposit towards their final payment. This is the best way to protect yourself from working without remuneration.
While some agents have separate Plan to Go Agreements specifically for the purpose of collecting deposits, it is much better to also include your disclosure statements that include your Agency Disclosure, Infectious Disease Disclosure and Insurance acceptance or rejection at the same time and on the same document.
Sample Plan to Go Agreement and Disclosure Statements
Following is a sample disclosure statement that you can use to have your attorney draft one for your agency. Laws change frequently and each state may have unique disclosure requirements. Do not use this statement as it is, as it is only to give you a sample of a Disclosure Statement.
Your Logo and Info Here
Plan to Go Deposits Are Required On All Itineraries
In order to perform the professional services required to plan and arrange your travel to ______, a deposit is required. The deposit is non-refundable, but 100% is applied toward the cost of your vacation. Vacation planning involves much time. My work is based on years of personal experience and professional expertise. I research cruises, hotels and tours to meet your specific needs, contact suppliers, coordinate transportation, and draft itineraries. Your final itinerary and documents will give you as smooth a vacation as is possible. Once (Your Agency Name)l has constructed your itinerary, you are free to shop it on the Internet, or wherever you would like. If you choose to book your vacation with another agency, the Plan to Go Deposit will be retained by (Your Agency Name)l as payment for services rendered. All vacations arranged through (Your Agency Name) offer peace of mind, as we are experienced professionals in the business of planning individual travel for sophisticated travelers who demand the most professional individual attention to detail and execution of a well planned vacation.
Deposit Required To Plan Vacation
Plan to Go Deposit: ______ passengers @ $_____ each = $ ________ Plan to Go Deposit
TOTAL DEPOSIT DUE: $ _______
If paying by check please make check payable to _______________________________.
Credit Card Deposits
Master Card VISA American Express Discover (please circle type) ($____ fee applies)
We will need a copy of the front and back of your credit card OR the CSC number on your card.
Account #:________________ Exp___/___/___ CSC (Card Security Code)___________
Name as it appears on Credit Card:___________________________________________
Signature:__________________________________ Phone #:______-______-_______
I agree with the above terms and conditions and engage ________ Travel to research my vacation plans. I agree that if I decide not to continue with the vacation or I book it with another agency, that _____ Travel will be entitled to retain the Plan to Go Deposit as remuneration for efforts made on my behalf.