To fee or not to fee, that is the question

Hamlet’s soliloquy by Shakespeare is one of the most famous and quoted literature references.

In Act 3, Scene 1, we find the disillusioned, despairing Danish Prince pondering life and death: a state of existing versus not existing.

Metaphorically speaking, many aspects of travel (agencies, consultancies or similar) have been or remain amidst their own inner dialogues. The ongoing suffering from ‘slings and arrows’ are the professional challenges compounded over a period of time:

Act 1 – Travel pre digital

Act 2 – Travel with digital disruption

Act 3 – Travel with digital disruption and post COVID


Scene 1: Business model updates

There’s a compelling case for business model adaptation. Consumers frequently leverage best of both worlds: utilising time, resources, skills and knowledge of travel professionals to then book direct online.

Travel isn’t alone facing such challenges. Anything services related (think retail clothing outlets) are facing the same issues. In general consumers don’t think twice about accepting anything free as part of DIY. That’s not a slur by the way. It’s the digital times we live in.

Equally though, it’s fair that industries embattled by disruption (digital, legislative or hardest hit by excessive lockdowns) adapt their business models. Not only to survive, but to remind customers of the real value they add.

(You can find more on DIY travel in my piece ‘Old school the winner when it comes to travel’)

In the style of Hamlet, ‘taking arms against a sea of troubles’, means two things when facing your own ‘to fee or not to fee’ for service soliloquy.’


1) Value your self, your service and the experiences you deliver. One specific component springs to mind. Personalisation. (Often confused for automation!) We know tech can grab names or notes to then blast audiences with some personalised, relevant communication. That’s not the same as memory recall or documented key points from previous conversations or trips. Details based on human relationship, demonstrable evidence of human effort and touch, are premium. Once you truly value yourself and your service, you can confidently move on to step 2.


2) Adapt your business model. Now is the time to do so! Richard Taylor (Travel Community Hub) and Travel Daily s own Bruce Piper (plus a myriad of other respected industry leaders) have done plenty to serve and support embattled industry peers this past 18-24 months. With fee for service a hot topic.


Some industry media have reported an increase (over 50%) of agents having some kind of fee for service (Host Agency Reviews). Travel professional news lean to it as a must to succeed in our times. There’s no shortage of articles and features from the likes of Forbes or Business Insider highlighting, curiously enough, people value more the things they pay for. Some of the more successful travel businesses aren’t shy invoking a fee for service: you’ll find a myriad case studies and models in public arena.

There are many ways you can land on a fee for service: flat fee, fee for time or variations for different components of service or even potential rebates for confirmed bookings or repeat business.

Do your research, speak to people in industry you trust or have successfully made the change.


Scene 2: Time for your own reflective survival soliloquy

Ultimately Hamlet’s soliloquy addresses a ‘quietus’: a legal term alluding to a definitive end to a debate. There’s no shortage of digital and tech companies (across virtually every industry) who charge a premium for products or services and people are willing to pay.

Sometime those products or services are someone else’s, are completely intangible, esoteric or in a cloud based ether! They do so often with minimal overheads, minimal human connection, effort or touch.

Travel is experiential. The lifelong skills, knowledge and expertise you’ve harnessed are worthy of reward. Fee for service is respect. So, the quietus here is respect yourself and take the opportunity to re-educate a consumer base.


Just make sure your service in Act 3, scene 1, ‘the great rebound’, remains high quality, experiential and on point!