How to keep clients' travel wishes grounded in reality: Travel Weekly

Jamie Biesiada

Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations in Bethlehem, Pa., wants her fellow travel advisors to get on board with normalizing the price of airfare when talking to consumers.

“The deals? There are no deals,” Doncsecz said. “Places that traditionally were very inexpensive to fly to, like Orlando, $99 each way? Forget it.”

As leisure travel seemingly begins its rebound, Doncsecz said the price of air has been much higher than it was, in many cases, during the height of the pandemic when demand was still low.

And with airlines cutting capacity and demand surging, it’s an issue not likely to go away anytime soon.

“With all the rising gas prices and how much milk costs and everything, there needs to be a pushback that you’re not going to find these deals anymore,” Doncsecz said. “You know, we’re turning business away because we know their budget isn’t going to meet what we can find, nor are we going to be able to spin our wheels and try to find something for you. That unicorn doesn’t exist.”

She hopes her fellow advisors will join her in getting word out to consumers that the price of air is just going to be higher than it was before, at least for a while.

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At VIP Vacations, Doncsecz and her agents start the conversation by asking clients for their budget. If they say they don’t know, they’ll throw a number — say, $10,000 — at the wall to see what they say. Usually, they come back with a lower number.

“If they come to us and say that they will do their own flights, I often ask them, ‘Have you looked at flights?'” she said, to ensure they understand the cost of air.

If they come back with a budget that’s low, say $2,500, Doncsecz will say, “I don’t believe that that’s realistic.” She’ll explain how much airfare would eat out of the budget.

Clients usually either say they’ll think about it, or they up their budget.

“But that’s how we deal with it,” she said. “We let them down really easily. We use the expression, ‘As it turns out ….'”

“No budget, no quote” has become something of a mantra for Doncsecz. Clients with no, or low, budgets are turned away because VIP’s agents are already so busy.

Doncsecz believes airfare, especially to the Caribbean and Mexico, will remain high, at least until the peak of the hurricane season in September and October. Europe fares will remain higher than before through November, she said.

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