Printer Friendly

Chapter 3 Qualifying the prospect.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

* Qualify prospects to determine their wants and needs

* Develop an accurate client profile

* Determine the level of quality preferred by the customer for transportation and accommodations

* Determine the prospect's level of commitment to the tourism experience




proof of citizenship

proof of identity


client profile





Qualifying is the process of determining a client's needs to see whether you have a product or service to satisfy those needs.

People who call on your organization either in person or by telephone are prospects. They may or may not become customers. We hope they will become customers. More than in almost any other industry, most tourism industry prospects are qualified prospects. A qualified prospect is a person who could benefit from your product or service. Why else would they go to or telephone a tourism organization if they did not have an interest in traveling to or experiencing a tourist destination?

If the prospect is a qualified prospect, he or she should become a customer if the salesperson does his or her job correctly. If someone approaches an organization for tourist information because he or she really wants to visit a tourist destination and the salesperson is unable to make the necessary arrangements (that is, reservations, bookings, or sale), time has been wasted, not only by the salesperson but the prospect as well.


The salesperson qualifies the prospect as quickly as possible to determine the needs of the customer and whether the salesperson has a product or products that will satisfy those needs. You always need answers to four initial questions before you can make any travel recommendation:

1. Where would you like to travel?

2. When would you like to go?

3. How long would you like to stay?

4. How many people will be traveling?

Answers to three additional questions help refine the recommendation in most situations:

* Ages (where applicable)--"Is there anyone in your party eligible for children's, youth, or senior citizen's discounts?"

* Mode of transportation (If there is a choice)--For example, "Would you prefer to travel from Washington to Boston by Amtrak or by air?" or "Do you wish to travel from Vancouver to Victoria by ferry and motor coach or by air?"

* Class of service (if there is a choice)--"Do you prefer first class or ...?" Do not assume that every prospect wants the least expensive ticket. For as many as 15 percent of customers, convenience and comfort are of primary importance!

After you have answers to these four to seven questions, you need three pieces of additional information to make a booking, reservation, or sale by any other term:

1. Names (family name, first name, initial, and title [e.g., Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms])

2. Contact (phone number of the customer who made the booking with you), preferably a residential and business number

3. Most carriers also request a phone contact number at the destination as well.

With this basic information, you can often go directly to making a reservation, which is indeed closing the sale. If transportation is included in the tourist's arrangements, close the deal on the transportation first. If the client makes a commitment to book the transportation, he or she is going! You now have the opportunity to sell-up and to create time for yourself to look up further information regarding other details requested. Make an appointment to get back to the client either by telephone or an office appointment to take care of the other details.

Note: Regulations for international and transborder travel (travel between Canada and the USA) have recently become much more stringent. Most international travelers to the USA require a passport. The family name, plus the first name in full, and middle initial as listed on one's passport are required on the ticket. For transborder passengers from Canada who were born in Canada, either a passport or birth certificate is required. If the passenger is using a passport, it is important that the name on the ticket be the same as on the passport. If the passenger is using a birth certificate as proof of citizenship, then it is important that the name on the ticket match the name on the birth certificate. Also, if a Canadian citizen is using a birth certificate as proof of citizenship, then he or she needs proof of identity as well. Proof of identity would be a government issued picture identification with a signature. Also an international passenger must register a telephone contact of whom to contact, with the U.S. Immigration Service before embarking on an airplane, ship, or any other mode of transportation in case of emergency.

Because of the heightened security measures in effect since the events of September 11, 2001, it is necessary to check-in at an airport much earlier than previously required. If a passenger has baggage to be checked, it is now necessary to check-in at least 90 minutes before departure for a domestic flight and two hours prior to departure for an international flight. If a passenger has only carry-on baggage, check-in must be at least 60 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights.

Carry-on baggage is limited to one piece with measurements of length plus width plus height totaling 45 inches or less. In addition to this, a passenger may carry on one personal item such as a briefcase, purse, laptop computer, or small backpack.

Passengers must have proof of travel on the same day in the form of a boarding pass, paper ticket, or airline or travel agency-generated printed confirmation for E-ticket travel.


Many prospects enter your office without any idea of actually making a booking on their mind. They come in with the idea that they need some information. To receive the information they require, they ask questions.

To move these casual inquiries toward a booking, the salesperson must qualify the prospect. The salesperson obtains the qualifying information he or she needs by asking questions. It often becomes a game, the salesperson versus the prospect.

John Dalton conceptualized the game that salespeople and prospects play in a form similar to a board game (see Figure 3-1). He simply called it The Game. There are two players, the salesperson and the prospect. Each "Q" represents a question. The players progress toward their goals by asking questions. The one who is first to obtain all the answers he or she needs wins The Game.

If the salesperson obtains all the answers he or she needs first, the salesperson makes the sale. If the prospect obtains all the information he or she requires before the salesperson qualifies, the prospect wins. Whether it is verbalized or not, the prospect will say to himself or herself, "Thank you. I have all the information I need. Good bye!" The prospect does not need the salesperson any more. He or she knows everything needed to make his or her own booking. If the salesperson makes a cardinal error, he or she goes directly to the box. You cannot get out of the box. You lose! You lose the game, and you have lost the sale! Two pieces of advice for the salesperson to stay out of the box:

1. Never, ever, ask a question that can be answered by a "yes" or "no." If the answer is "no," you are in the box. You can't get out. You lose!

2. Never answer two questions without asking one. If you do, you will end up in the box and the prospect will win!


For more complicated tourist arrangements like domestic independent tours or foreign independent tours, much more information is required. When the average person thinks of a tour, one usually imagines an escorted tour, like a group tour by bus, train, or ship, with a tour escort. Or one might think of an inclusive tour charter that includes a charter flight, transfers between the airport and the accommodations, plus the accommodations, and perhaps some other local services or meals, and the services of a destination representative of the tour operator.


However, many people prefer independent tours planned to meet their own specific needs. The differences between an independent tour and independent travel are:

* For independent travel, the traveler makes all or most of his or her own reservations and often does much of this at the location or while he or she is traveling.

* For independent tours, the customer contacts a travel consultant, usually an employee of a travel agency, with a request to plan a tour, custom-made for the customer. The independent tour will be preplanned and usually prepaid. It will include transportation, accommodations, and all or some of the sightseeing. If the tour is within the area comprising the United States of America and Canada, it is considered a domestic independent tour. If the tour is outside of the United States of America or Canada, it is considered a foreign independent tour.

For most travelers seeking a travel package, the travel consultant has to find one or two packages that most closely meet the customer's needs. But, for clients requiring independent tours, there are many more variables. The travel consultant must determine the needs of the customer for each element that will be included in the tour. This requires a lot of research to select all the client's preferences.

Independent tours are more expensive for the customer than package tours and can be very profitable to the travel agency. But, they are very time-consuming and require a lot of expertise. Always require a nonrefundable deposit before preparing such an itinerary. This deposit will be applied to the total cost of the trip if the client does travel.


Identifying special needs and interests will help you to arrive at a suitable recommendation that will satisfy the client. Most tourists are multimotivated. There are a number of continuums on which you have to evaluate your client. I use the term continuum because there can be a wide range of difference between customers and they may be anywhere between the extremes.

Purpose of Travel

There are four parameters to be scrutinized regarding a client's purpose of travel.

Business, Pleasure, or Both?

Is the purpose of travel for business or pleasure or some combination of business and pleasure? The needs and preferences may differ significantly. If an employee has vacation time available, most companies and organizations do not mind the employee taking vacation time before or after a business trip. The advantages for the employee are significant. The cost of the transportation has been paid for as part of the business trip resulting in a very inexpensive vacation.

Circle a number between 1 and 7 in Figure 3-2 to indicate where you feel this customer should be placed on this continuum. Add comments to clarify the situation or to show the differences in this request from the general profile.

To Be Alone or to Meet People?

Does the client wish to be alone or to meet people? At one end of this continuum, people desire to be completely on their own, without any interaction with staff or other tourists except for service needs, which they hope will be satisfied as efficiently as possible. Another client may have a need to be surrounded by many other people constantly. Most people would want something between these two extremes.

One's placement on this continuum may vary from time to time, depending upon one's marital status, social standing, and social needs. Circle a number between 1 and 7 in Figure 3-3 that best represents your client's need to be alone or to meet people. Add comments, which will help you make appropriate recommendations for this customer.

Relaxation or Excitement?

Some clients desire to be active every waking hour of the day and night. Some wish for a wide variety of activities. Others prefer to be immersed in a single activity. And some cherish inactivity.



One factor that affects people with regards to their placement on this continuum is the intensity of stimulation in their daily lives. Some people are extremely stressed in their daily lives and particularly in their jobs. On a vacation, their primary goal is to escape from this stress.

On the other hand, many feel that their daily lives are boring, so they strive for enough excitement on a holiday to carry them through to their next holiday. Of course, the majority of the public is spread out along a continuum between these two extremes. One's placement on this continuum would vary with his or her current stimulation level. Circle a number between 1 and 7 in Figure 3-4 to indicate where you feel this customer should be placed on this continuum. Add comments to clarify which activities the customer seeks or how he or she desires to savor inactivity.



To Stay Put or to See the World?

The fourth variable in one's purpose of travel is the client's desire to stay put or see the world. Initially, this continuum seems much like the relaxation-excitement continuum. In some ways it is, but the difference is that the relaxation-excitement continuum addresses the activity level desired on a holiday. The stay put-see the world continuum addresses whether the client would like to remain in one place or prefer to travel continuously. People who prefer to stay put may vary from those who wish very little activity to those who wish to explore a single destination in great depth.

On the other hand, learning largely motivates those who desire to see the world. Indicate in Figure 3-5 where you feel your customer should be placed on this continuum. Add comments to clarify the situation, or to show the differences in his or her request on this particular occasion.

Quality of Accommodations

Do not ask how much they would like to spend! They probably do not know how much accommodations will cost at the tourist destination.

Do not ask an open-ended question regarding a client's request for quality in accommodations or tour. They will probably not know what is available and will not know the terminology regarding quality. Terminology like star ratings and terms like deluxe, first class, and tourist class vary so much from one location to another that it can be completely confusing to the public. The customer will probably respond with a vague answer like "Not too expensive."

Customers who reply, "Not too expensive," may really be looking for a bargain price on a very good tour or hotel--at special or off-season rates; or they may be looking for the lowest priced budget item that you can find. In these two cases, the needs of the customers are very different. The best way to pin the prospect down regarding quality desired is to offer a choice. "When you are in Washington, would you prefer best available or moderately priced accommodations?" Not only listen, but also closely observe body language to evaluate the reaction.

Only if you discern that they might be uncomfortable with either of these choices, offer them the budget option. If they choose best available, that is exactly what they want and they will not expect a low price. If they choose moderate, they fully understand that the price will be in the middle range and also understand that they cannot expect top quality. If they do instruct you to book a budget property, they must understand that the property is one of the least expensive available and that they cannot expect anything more than basic accommodations.

Any shortcomings of a property should be made clear before a final decision is made. More complaints are received regarding accommodations than all other travel arrangements combined. It is very important to get this part of the qualifying process right! Pin the client down regarding the quality he or she expects.

There is seldom a misunderstanding regarding the terms budget or moderate. But sometimes the best available might be inappropriate. In a small town not located on the well-beaten tourist circuit, the best available hotel or motel might be the only one you would recommend. In a very large city or world famous resort, very good accommodations might be available at the top end of your client's means, but the best available might be so expensive that only the rich and famous could afford them. In such cases, don't hesitate to substitute a very good or even a good hotel instead of the best available.

When you are qualifying a client regarding his or her preference for quality in accommodations, you want to keep it simple. Offer only two choices at a time. "Would you prefer best available or moderate accommodations when you are in Lake Tahoe?" However, as you get to know your client better, you can fine-tune his or her preferences on the continuum by adding comments.

On this continuum (see Figure 3-6), number 1 would truly represent the best available; 2 would represent very good accommodations, but not the most expensive. Numbers 3, 4, and 5 would represent the moderate range with 3 representing the top end of moderate, but in the client's mind, not too expensive. Number 4 would represent the mid-range of moderate, and number 5 would represent accommodations with the normal amenities expected for a moderate property but at the low end of the price range for moderate properties. This could be because it might be an older property or might not be as well located as other properties.


Number 6 would indicate that the client wants inexpensive accommodations but clean and comfortable, considering the price. Number 7 would indicate that the client seeks the lowest price available and will probably endure some discomfort or inconvenience to obtain this price.

Comments might include preference for certain chains of hotels or motels, or a preference for small or independent properties or ones that are unique to the destination. They may also include requests for certain amenities like a swimming pool, fitness center, shopping center adjacent, or baby sitting service.

Quality of Tours

As with accommodations, do not ask a customer how much he or she would like to spend! Most customers do not know how much it will cost to travel to a particular tourist destination. People are reluctant to tell a salesperson the most they are prepared to pay because they feel that the salesperson will try to sell them the most expensive package within their means, whether they need it or not.

Determine the prospect's needs based on quality of accommodations, what is included, and conversely what is not included. It is easy to sell a less expensive package, but will the customer be satisfied, and will you receive repeat business and referrals?

How Secure Is Your Client?

How secure your client is will probably influence his or her choice for guided or independent travel services and whether he or she wants to travel with a group or would prefer individual travel arrangements. It will also be an important factor in selecting a safe destination.

There are five parameters to be scrutinized regarding a client's concern for security.

Physical Safety

The first parameter of security is concern for physical safety. How well established an air carrier is and their safety record may be primary considerations for some clients. The apparent safety of a destination would be another. Violence of any kind, but particularly violence against tourists, such as the indiscriminate gunning down of a busload of tourists in Egypt in 1997 will surely deter many tourists from visiting Egypt for years to come.

The events of September 11, 2001 have greatly impacted client concerns about physical safety. Counselors should advise travelers regarding the relative safety of destinations. Many clients will be very cautious regarding which carrier to choose and some are reluctant to fly. Rail travel has increased in popularity since September 11, and many people are vacationing closer to home.

I had a client--Ted--who was fascinated by the native cultures of Colombia. I booked Ted on an independent tour, tailored to his specific interests. On the airplane enroute to Colombia, a fellow passenger told Ted that there was a college for pickpockets in Bogota. Ted spoke to the purser (passenger service supervisor) on board and made a reservation for a return flight on the same aircraft.

He never left the airport. After his return, I asked Ted if anyone made an attempt to pickpocket him. "No." I asked him if he saw any attempt to pickpocket anyone else. "No." But his fear for his physical security denied him any opportunity to enjoy a trip that he had anticipated for years. Of course I was wrong! There were so many positive vibrations about his opportunity to research the native cultures of Colombia, I never thought to probe his concern for physical security.

Often, the salesperson can determine how secure the customer is through the client's body language and from his or her conversation. But, sometimes it is important to ask direct questions to determine his or her comfort level before recommending a tourism product.

Other tourists may actually seek out such a destination to see what it is really like and to study the causes of the problems. Circle a number from 1 to 7 in Figure 3-7 to indicate where you feel this customer should be placed on this continuum. Add comments regarding the client's specific concerns.

Travel Experience

The second parameter regarding security refers to travel experience. This can vary from the client who travels every week as part of his or her job, to the client who has never traveled before. (See Figure 3-8.) Comments may be important here because a client may be very experienced with domestic travel but a first time traveler to an international destination. Or, another traveler may be experienced traveling in English-speaking countries and other countries where English is well understood, but may be truly insecure traveling to a country in which hardly anyone speaks English.



Something Familiar or Something Different?

The third parameter regarding security addresses the desire of a client for something familiar or something really different. Cultural differences may be the primary reason for traveling for one client, but for another that would be a constant source of tension. Ask travel and tourism students to close their eyes and visualize the best place they have ever visited. Then ask them to visualize the place that they have not visited but would most like to visit if they had a chance. Finally, ask them which one they would choose if they had only one choice, their most memorable destination or the most desired location that they have not visited. Travel and tourism students select the most desired location that they have not visited by a large majority. However, pose the same question to the general population, and you will find an almost equal split between those who desire something familiar and those who prefer something different.


Circle the number between 1 and 7 in Figure 3-9 that best represents the client's appetite for something familiar or something different. Add comments regarding tourism experiences that the client desires and any experiences the client wishes to avoid.

Foreign Language

The fourth parameter regarding security concerns language. How comfortable is the customer in a place where his or her language is not well understood? (See Figure 3-10.)



Comfort with a Different Segment of Society

The fifth parameter concerns how comfortable people from one segment of society will be when immersed in a completely different segment of society. (See Figure 3-11.) City people may not feel comfortable in a wilderness setting, and rural people may be apprehensive in a large city environment. Upper-class people may feel very uncomfortable with lower-class people. Likewise, lower-class people may feel just as uncomfortable with upper-class people. In today's society it is quite possible that lower-class people might be able to afford the same holiday as upper-class people. If you discern a possible problem with the type of travel chosen and a particular client, discuss it frankly. Perhaps suggest an alternative destination or make some recommendations on how to cope. Sometimes this might be as simple as what to wear. Be sure to recommend accommodations with an appropriate guest mix for your clients.


A client profile provides the salesperson with the information necessary to make reservations for a client precisely and efficiently. Good listening skills are required to complete an accurate client profile. (See Figure 3-12.) Information obtained on each booking should be added to the profile as well as feedback from follow-up calls. Client profiles make it easier for the salesperson to meet the client's needs more accurately. Also, the most significant function of the client profile is that it makes it unnecessary to ask for all the same information again for a repeat customer.

Cognizance of the prospect's nonverbal messages, including body language, will be combined with the answers to questions and the client profile to make a recommendation that will satisfy the client's wants and needs. Once the salesperson has the client's profile, he or she can make individual travel arrangements tailored to the customer's needs and wants.


Depending on the specific nature of the company or organization with which you are working, some of the information on the usual client profile may not be required. Other information may be required for your specific situation. I suggest that you start with the Client Profile provided in Figure 3-12 and modify it to meet your unique needs using a personal computer. Also, if client profiles are kept on a personal computer, it will be easy to add or change the information included. Birth dates and anniversary dates are included because it is good public relations to send a card on these occasions.

Different Information for Specific Sectors

Examples of different information that may be required for specific sectors of the tourism industry could include the following items.

1. Accommodations sector

* Preference for a smoking or nonsmoking room

* Preference of location of the room

2. Food and Beverage sector

* Favorite table

* Special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries

* Preference for a smoking or nonsmoking table

3. Adventure and Recreation sector

* Does the client have his or her own equipment?

* If not, what are his or her preferences of equipment?

4. Attractions sector

* Time of year he or she likes to visit

* If affiliated with a group, information regarding the group

5. Transportation sector

* Class of service preferred

* Preference for an aisle or window seat

* Preferred carriers

* Frequent flier program memberships

* Preferred travel dates

* Group affiliation

* Information about the group

6. Events and Conferences sector

* Information about groups including:

--"Raison d'etre" (reason for being)

--Important contacts

--Dates for change in leadership

7. Tourism Services sector

* The requirements here would vary so much that each organization would have to discuss the type of information it would require on a client profile form and develop one tailored to its own needs.

8. Travel Trade sector

* The client profile illustrated in Figure 3-12 should be effective for most travel agencies but could always be modified for special needs.

* Tour operators, tour wholesalers, and local sight-seeing companies would want to modify the basic client profile to reflect the specific products they offer.


It is always wise to ask a client if he or she has any special need or request. However, five categories of clients usually have special needs:

* People traveling with young children

* People making arrangements for unaccompanied minors

* People with special dietary needs

* Business travelers

* Physically or mentally challenged travelers

Traveling with Young Children

People traveling with young children, particularly infants, often need assistance in airports, rail stations, and cruise ports. The carriers are pleased to provide assistance. You should request appropriate assistance when making reservations. Also, advise your client that the carriers provide preboarding for travelers with infants and small children. Advise them to listen for preboarding announcements.

Unaccompanied Minors

Check with the airline or other carrier before making reservations for unaccompanied minors. The rules can vary from one airline to another. Children's fares are usually not applicable. The adult fare will be paid plus an escort fee for each flight segment. In the USA, this is normally $30.00 to $60.00 for a round trip. Most U.S. based carriers will accept unaccompanied minors between the ages of 5 and 11.

United Airlines will accept unaccompanied minors between the ages of 5 and 7 only on nonstop flights. Children 8 to 11 are allowed to fly on connecting flights. Unaccompanied children must pay the adult fare plus a $60.00 escort fee for each direction.

Delta will accept children from 5 to 11 years for nonstop, direct, or connecting service. The adult fare must be paid plus a $40.00 escort fee for direct service or $75.00 for connecting service in each direction.

Air Canada will accept unaccompanied minors between 5 and 7 years of age for direct service only. Unaccompanied children between 8 and 11 will be accepted for connecting flights. Unaccompanied children will be charged the adult fare plus a service charge of $40.00 one way, or $80.00 return (in Canadian funds). Japan Airlines will accept unaccompanied minors from 3 months to 11 years of age with no fee for escort service, but the ticket must be paid at the adult fare.

The rules and charges vary greatly from one carrier to another and are subject to change at any time. Therefore, it is essential to check with the carrier at the time of the booking.

Airlines always require full details regarding who is bringing the child to the airport and who is receiving the child at the destination. This information would have to be written and signed by the parent or guardian. Details required would include the name, address, and phone number of the person taking the child to the airport and their relationship to the child. Similar information would be required for the person receiving the child at the destination.

Both the person dropping the child off at the airport and the person receiving the child at the destination would be required to have proof of identity, including a photograph and signature. Many airlines require two pieces of identification. Daytime flights are preferred for unaccompanied children, and most airlines will not book them for the last flight at night. If the flight were to be delayed, they would not want an unaccompanied minor to be stranded in an airport overnight.

For rail travel, Amtrak and Via Rail Canada regulations are similar. They will carry unaccompanied minors between the ages of 8 and 11 on direct service only. Travel is only allowed on trains traveling during daylight hours. The parent or guardian must take the child to the station and introduce him or her to the ticket agent. Forms have to be completed by the parent or guardian. A letter is required stating who will be picking up the child, including address, phone number, and relationship. Via Rail Canada also charges an escort fee, which is presently $10.00.

Special Dietary Needs

Most major airlines have a wide variety of special meals available for passengers with special needs. Special meals are prepared for passengers with special dietary requirements and also for different religious specifications. Usually, special meals have to be ordered at least 24 hours in advance, but normally you would do it at the time of booking. Examples of special meals offered by most major airlines include:

Asian vegetarian

bland (for ulcer problems)


fruit platter

gluten (meat and vegetable diet)



low calorie

low cholesterol

low fat

low salt





vegetarian lacto-ovo

Business Travelers

Some businesses insist that all employees travel at the lowest fare possible. However, many businesses allow their employees or at least their executives to travel first class, where available, or business class on other routes. Always ask business travelers which class they would prefer--first/business class or coach.

When it comes to accommodations, there are two primary considerations for most business travelers:

1. A hotel that is conveniently located, close to where he or she will be conducting business.

2. A hotel that has the amenities required by the business traveler. There are two types of amenities that business travelers require:

a. Amenities within rooms--for example, voice mail, a working desk, and a computer hook-up. Sometimes businesspeople require space for meetings or for entertaining clients. Some hotels have special floors reserved for women business travelers.

b. Amenities available in a business center within the hotel. Many of the top commercial hotels have an amazing array of facilities available for business travelers, including:

* private work space

* telephone and modern access

* hand-free headsets

* conference call capability

* facsimile machine

* photocopier

* private phone booths with comfortable seating and desk space

* local and international newspapers

* business magazines

* computers with Internet access

* a scanner

* laminating machine

* private boardroom

Most businesspeople travel to the same cities frequently and have a favorite hotel in each city. Ask if he or she has a favorite hotel at the destination and make a note in the file so that you do not have to ask the same question again. If the business traveler is not familiar with the destination, ask which of the amenities listed will be required. Research the various possibilities and recommend one or two suitable properties. Once the business traveler has chosen a particular hotel, keep it on file. Subject to follow-up after his or her return, use it next time to avoid going through the same selection process again.

Travelers with Physical or Mental Disabilities

For travel counselors who are servicing travelers with physical or mental disabilities, I highly recommend The Disabled Traveller-A Guide for Travel Counsellors, by Cinnie Noble (Toronto: Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors of Ontario, 1991). Cinnie Noble has also written a useful guide for your clients who are disabled or elderly: Handi-Travel: A Resourcebook for Disabled and Elderly Travellers, available from The Director of Operations, Easter Seals March of Dimes National Council, 90 Eglington Avenue East, Suite 511, Toronto, Ontario M4P2Y3; telephone: 416-932-8382.

A travel consultant requires much more detail when qualifying a client with disabilities as compared to the average traveler. (See Figure 3-13.) Some questions pertain to most disabilities. Others are specific to certain conditions.

"Thinking that disabled and unable are synonymous will interfere with any servicing of people with disabilities as well as the development of this specialized market and their right to integration into the mainstream of travel." (1) "Keep in mind that disabled people are people first." (2) "The handicap is usually one-dimensional and in every other way, most disabled people are the same as others. To make travel arrangements, detailed knowledge of disabilities is not usually necessary, though information about functional limitations is often required, e.g., the person can (or cannot) walk." (3)

Before making reservations, it is necessary to know your client's special needs. Advise your client to contact you well in advance because travel arrangements for people with disabilities are more complicated than for others. Airlines and other carriers often have limits to the number of passengers with disabilities that they will carry. The number of hotels and other facilities that can accommodate guests with disabilities are limited, and those that do usually have only a few rooms that are designed to accommodate people with disabilities.

Travel consultants not used to serving travelers with disabilities may be nervous about asking personal questions about a client's disability. But direct questions result in direct answers. "Most people want to share information about their disabilities so that appropriate arrangements are made ..." (4)

The Disabled Traveller ...
Who is "Incapacitated?"
(Courtesy Canadian
Institute of Travel
Counsellors of Ontario)


A passenger is defined by airlines as "incapacitated", "handicapped"
or "disabled" when his or her physical condition or medical disorder,
including mental illness, requires the airline to supply individual
attention which is not normally extended to other passengers, such
as on enplaning or deplaning, during the flight, in an emergency
evacuation, or during ground handling at airports.

This definition covers those who are medically ill or temporarily
disabled persons, both ambulatory or non-ambulatory, and those
whose conditions are considered as variable and who, therefore,
require medical clearance prior to each air journey. It also refers to
the more common cases of permanently disabled persons whose
physical or mental conditions are stable.

Note the captain (pilot) retains the authority to refuse the
transportation of any passenger whose condition would jeopardize his or
her own well-being or that of the other passengers.

Four terms used to describe people with disabilities are important: ambulatory, self-reliant, nonambulatory, and non-self-reliant. (See Figure 3-14.)

Classifications for Special Services

A list of classifications for special services is provided in Figure 3-15.

The Disabled Traveller ...
Definitions pertaining to
airline travel. (Courtesy
Canadian Institute of
Travel Counsellors of


Ambulatory * A person considered as ambulatory is able to walk,
board the aircraft unassisted, (even if slowly), with aids such as a
cane or crutches, and is able to move about in the aircraft cabin
unassisted. In many cases, ambulatory passengers require a wheelchair
for the distance to and from the aircraft, i.e., across the ramp,
finger dock or mobile lounge. Unless a serious medical condition
exists, ambulatory passengers are usually considered self-reliant.

Self-Reliant * The disabled passenger who is independent,
self-sufficient and capable of taking care of all his or her physical
needs in flight, is considered self-reliant. This passenger requires no
special or unusual attention beyond that afforded to the general
public, except that assistance in boarding and deplaning may be

Non-Ambulatory * A person who is non-ambulatory is someone
who is unable to move about within the aircraft unassisted. This person
cannot ascend or descend steps but is able to make his or her
way to and from the cabin seat. He or she requires a wheelchair to
and from the aircraft or mobile lounge and must be carried up and
down steps. He or she is considered self-reliant unless a serious
medical condition exists.

Non-Self-Reliant * The disabled passenger who is incapable of
self-care during the flight and who depends upon another person to
look after personal physical needs, is considered non-self-reliant.
Thus, the non-self-reliant person requires a personal attendant.

A personal qualified attendant is any person who is technically
competent or otherwise capable of assisting the disabled passenger
to an exit in the event of an emergency and attending to his or her
personal needs during the flight.

Note: Determination of self-reliance: Some airlines will accept the
disabled passenger's statement of self-reliance with the knowledge
that a disabled person is well aware of his or her limitations and acts
accordingly. Other airlines, however, request medical confirmation.


The Disabled Traveller ...
Courtesy Canadian
Institute of Travel
Counsellors of Ontario)


Disabilities, in terms of each individual's physical capabilities and
requirements for special services, have been classified into three
major categories in the U.S.A. A fourth category has been added in
Canada. When making an airline booking, you will be required to
determine into which category your client fits.

WCHR * This usually includes persons who are ambulatory as defined [in
Figure 3-14]; that is, someone who can walk, board the aircraft
unassisted, even if slowly, with walking aids, and is able to move
about in the aircraft cabin unassisted. Wheelchair assistance
may be required for long distances. Blind, deaf and developmentally
disabled persons are usually included in this category.
Unless a serious medical condition exists, ambulatory passengers
are usually considered self-reliant.

WCHS * This classification includes those who are considered
non-ambulatory as defined above. The person cannot ascend or descend
steps but is able to make his or her way to and from the cabin
seat. These passengers require a wheelchair to and from the aircraft
and must be carried up and down stairs. They are considered
self-reliant unless a serious medical condition exists.

WCHC * A passenger who is unable to walk from the aircraft door to the
seat or toilet, who is immobile and requires a wheelchair to and
from the aircraft or mobile lounge, who must be carried up and
down steps and to and from the cabin seat, and who cannot take
care of his or her physical needs in flight, is considered
non-self-reliant and requires a personal attendant. See definition of
non-reliant persons and personal attendant [in Figure 3-14]. This
designation does not usually apply to vision- and hearing-impaired
persons unless newly impaired and not able to manage on their
own. The designation does not typically apply to senior citizens
who are capable of self-care during the flights.

It is important to note a fourth classification, WCHP, in Canada.

WCHP * This passenger is immobile but self-reliant, requires a
wheelchair to and from the aircraft or mobile lounge, and must be
carried up and down steps to and from the cabin seat. This passenger is
rehabilitated, self-reliant and capable of taking care of all physical
needs in flight. He or she will have taken precautions to avoid
the necessity of using the aircraft washrooms and requires no
special attention, except boarding or deplaning assistance, beyond
that afforded to the general public. This passenger may
travel without a personal attendant in accordance with approved
numerical restrictions.

Note: This category can only be used when dealing with Canadian
carriers. When using other than a Canadian carrier, and the client
can be classified according to the category WCHP above, refer
to the passenger as "self-reliant" when making the booking.
Other airlines have varying policies regarding the carriage of persons
classified in this way.

A special client profile form for travelers with disabilities, like the one prepared by Cinnie Noble as shown in Figure 3-16, will help you obtain the information you need when making reservations. It will also make it unnecessary to ask the same questions again for future bookings.

The seat request information regarding smoking or nonsmoking is redundant for most carriers, because most of them do not allow smoking. It is very important to keep the information on the client profile form on file. You will not have to take your time or your client's time to obtain the same information for his or her next trip.

It might be a good point during your follow-up call to say, "Mrs. Petersen, I appreciate your feedback. This information plus the information you gave me before your departure will make it easy for me to serve you more efficiently on your next trip."

When making reservations, be sure to advise the reservationist of your client's disability and any special requests required. For any travelers with disabilities, try to book nonstop transportation, if possible. If not, try to book direct service, which may have intermediate stops but no change of aircraft or vehicle. If connections are necessary, make sure that you allow extra time to move from one aircraft or vehicle to another, considering the disability. Travelers who require assistance are the last to deplane and will be preboarded on the connecting flight.

Air reservations are usually made with the first carrier for domestic or transborder travel. For international trips, reservations should be made with the transatlantic or transpacific carrier. Make sure that other carriers used on your client's itinerary are informed regarding your client's special needs. This will normally be done by the carrier with whom you have made the reservations, but check to make sure that they do this.

Special Requirements for Clients with Mobility Impairments

"Management of the bowels and bladder is a subject that may require consideration when discussing travel for persons who use wheel-chairs." (5) Principal considerations are the duration of the trip and the type of assistance required.

When counseling persons who use wheelchairs, sit down so that you can communicate at eye level. Airlines and other carriers will require information about the passenger's wheelchair. Is it manual or motorized? If motorized, which type of batteries are used? "Non-motorized wheelchairs are usually carried free of charge. Motorized wheelchairs are not always accepted." (6)

If the passenger cannot move about the aircraft without assistance, request a boarding chair, sometimes referred to as a Wellington chair, at the time of the booking. Passengers can be seated in a front row on a Boeing 747, DC 10, or L-1011, making it unnecessary to transfer to a boarding chair. Inform the reservationist that your client will require a wheelchair and assistance with baggage at the destination.


"Some airlines ask for a medical note stating eligibility to travel; some accept non-walking wheelchair users only when accompanied; some accept the person who is required to travel with the person with the disability to travel at 50% of the airfare; while others require disabled people to complete forms about their degree of mobility." (7)

Special Considerations When Counseling a Client Who Is Visually Impaired

"Blind or visually-impaired people do not live in a tragic world of unending darkness. Many do, in fact see in varying degrees and make good use of the vision that remains. If you are not sure how much a person sees, ask.... Speak to a blind person in a normal tone of voice. Do not speak to or question the blind person through another person. Speak directly to him or her, using his or her name.... It is most helpful to provide travel information for your clients who are vision-impaired, by tape." (8)

For those who can see but cannot read normal size print, prepare the details of the trip in large, bold print. Another possibility is to print out the details so that another person can translate them into Braille. In some cases, the blind client may want you to describe the trip itinerary while he or she writes the information in Braille. When doing this, get a feel for pacing so that you know when to pause and when to proceed.

Passengers with vision impairments are eligible for preboarding. Advise the reservationist, at the time of booking, that your client would like assistance and preboarding. Advise your client that he or she will be given assistance with deplaning after the other passengers have departed. For persons with dog guides, window seats are recommended so that other passengers do not have to step over the dog. Instruct your clients to advise airline personnel about their vision impairment, so that the staff and crew will be ready to provide appropriate services.

If you are booking a cruise for a client with a visual impairment, always check with the line whether a guide dog will be accepted, and if so, whether there will be a fee.

Special Considerations When Counseling a Client Who Has a Hearing Impairment

"Do not refer to a hearing-impaired person as a deaf-mute or deaf and dumb. A person with a hearing-impairment is acceptable terminology." (9) "Deafness has often been referred to as The Invisible Handicap since it is often difficult to recognize persons who have impaired hearing." (10) Provide detailed written directions, including maps and diagrams.

Make sure that you communicate face to face with clients who have hearing impairments. Determine if he or she can hear better from one ear or the other. If so, speak to that ear. Reduce unwanted interference. Close the window, turn off the radio or background music, and make sure that your meeting place is free of other outside sound. "Try to speak expressively, using facial expressions and gestures. Maintain eye contact when you are communicating." (11)

Speak directly to your client, even if he or she has an interpreter present. Try using any sign language you know. If the client does not understand, he or she will let you know. But he or she will appreciate that you are trying. Recently, dogs have been trained to assist people with hearing impairments in similar ways that dog guides have been assisting people with visual impairments for years. If your client is traveling with a guide dog, make sure that each airline or other carrier is informed and make sure that there are no restrictions.

Advise passengers to carry a statement that the dog is a hearing-ear dog guide and to carry a certificate of health for the dog. An escort is usually required if a person is both visually and hearing impaired.

When booking hotels for clients with hearing impairments, be sure that this status is recorded in the reservation data in order to alert fire departments or other emergency crews in the event of an emergency.


There are three types of prospects according to their commitment:

1. Prospects committed to a specific type of tourism experience. These prospects are already sold. The job of the counselor is to be a good listener and to fill the order with exactly what the client wants as efficiently as possible.

2. Prospects committed to a nonspecific tourism experience. These prospects are qualified prospects because they really want to visit a tourism destination but have an unclear idea of the exact type of tourism arrangements they would like. These people require the counseling skills of a good salesperson. Good questioning techniques mixed with small portions of recommendations are required to help these clients clarify exactly what they want included. A competent counselor should be able to successfully book such a sale.

3. The uncommitted prospect. These prospects may have a very vague idea of where they want to go and of what they want to do once they arrive at the tourist destination. They probably have some vague concept of the costs involved and may not be sure whether they would like to spend their disposable income on a tourist destination or some other alternative. These prospects are the most challenging. They may be a complete waste of time. On the other hand, they could become valuable new customers requiring highly personalized counseling skills of a good salesperson.

Some uncertain but likely prospects may not voice their bewilderment and need for information for a variety of psychological reasons. Some are hesitant about stating their wishes to a stranger. Others are suspicious of what you are going to tell them. They may feel that you are going to try to sell them something more expensive than they want. It could be that they have an unclear idea of the role of the tourism counselor and whether the service rendered will cost them anything. Others are afraid of being embarrassed if they cannot afford the tourist experience they have in mind.

The first step with uncommitted prospects is to set them at ease and make them feel comfortable to ask questions. The second and a very important step is to qualify the prospect to determine whether he or she is a realistic prospect. If the prospect is going to travel to a tourist destination, he or she must have two things:

1. the time to travel

2. the money to travel (either now or in the form of credit)

To determine whether the prospect has the time to travel, simply ask questions about when he or she would like to travel. If the prospect cannot give you dates, mention that the price varies dependent on the season and you do not want to misquote the price. Suggest a season first. If there is no objection, suggest a month. "Would you be traveling in July?" If not, the prospect will correct you. Once you have a month, then suggest a particular date or a choice of two dates. If the date is not a possibility, the prospect will correct you.

If this line of questioning is unsuccessful, it is possible that someone else is responsible for selecting the vacation dates. This could be the employer or spouse. Ask when he or she will know the dates. Make arrangements either to telephone him or her or preferably for an office visit once they know. Make arrangements for a definite date and time for a follow-up appointment.

Heighten his or her interest by emphasizing the points that he or she has brought up and assign homework to do--some research or reading about the tourist destination. This should be attraction oriented rather than product centered. For example, if they have expressed an interest in traveling to Churchill, Manitoba (polar bear capital of the world), you could suggest that they do some reading about the polar bears, the Inuit culture, and the flora and fauna of the region. You could give them information available from the Canadian Tourism Commission and Travel Manitoba. You could give them a list of books available at the library or local bookstores.

If you have a videotape on the destination, you might lend it to the prospect. This might pique his or her interest to enable an easy booking. It will also save you time because many of their questions will be answered by viewing the video. Suggestion: Require a refundable deposit on the tape to ensure that the customer returns it to you. It also provides you with another opportunity to close the deal.

There are two principal methods to determine whether prospects have the financial means to travel to a tourist destination. One is to ask them if they have established a budget for their trip. If they have, and it is realistic, proceed towards closing the sale. If they have not, try the other approach, which is to give them a "high average" estimate, watching very closely for their reaction.

Three reactions are possible. One reaction is approval or acceptance. In this case, proceed towards closing and look for the opportunity to sell-up.

The second possible reaction is a neutral response. This usually indicates that the cost is not prohibitive and that you should concentrate your sales approach on other features--quality, value for money paid, inclusive features, and a comparative analysis of how much it would cost to do the trip on their own.

The third possible reaction is one of rejection or disapproval. Try to determine the strength and nature of the disapproval. Use the techniques for overcoming objections discussed in Chapter 8.


Once I spent more than 28 hours, over a three-week period, working out the details of a complex foreign independent tour to Europe for a delightful couple. Delightful couple or not, the short version is that they never did go. I was infuriated that I had spent 28 hours of work for nothing. I vowed that I would never do that again.

I pondered what to do if a similar situation occurred in the future. I thought, "What would an airline or a large tour company do about such a situation?" I knew the answer. They would have required a nonrefundable deposit. If you are a small operator in the tourism industry, study what the large operators and carriers do regarding certain situations and learn from their experience.

Discussion Questions

1. List four initial questions you would always have to ask in qualifying a prospect who is interested in making travel arrangements. What are three additional qualifying questions that need to be asked in most situations?

2. In addition to the answers to the seven qualifying questions, what are the two other pieces of information that you need to make a reservation?

3. Describe how The Game, devised by John Dalton, works.

4. Describe how you would determine the quality of accommodations desired by a prospect.

5. Describe three types of prospects by commitment.


(1.) Cinnie Noble, C.M., LL.B, The Disabled Traveller: A Guide for Travel Counsellors (Toronto: Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors of Ontario, 1991), 7.

(2.) Ibid., p. 8.

(3.) Ibid., p. 3.

(4.) Ibid., p. 9.

(5.) Ibid., p. 6.

(6.) Ibid., p. 99.

(7.) Ibid., p. 47.

(8.) Ibid., p. 16.

(9.) Ibid., p. 22.

(10.) Ibid., p. 18.

(11.) Ibid., p. 21.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Delmar Learning
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Kay, H. Kenner
Publication:Selling Tourism
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:Chapter 2 Approaching the prospect.
Next Article:Chapter 4 Product knowledge.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters