Is our industry too frightened to ask customers for more money? That was the opinion expressed to me this week by an advisory board member of Aspire Travel Club, Travel Weekly’s luxury travel brand.

He was commenting on the need to upsell to clients now the market seems to be picking up, but pointed out that consumers have been educated for so long to expect a deal, agents feel more comfortable offering money off than suggesting a more expensive, better-value option.

Only if a product is unique and can’t be sourced cheaper elsewhere are agents confident about higher prices, he added.

But it’s not just about exclusive product. Azamara Club Cruises boss Larry Pimentel told the Clia UK & Ireland Selling Cruise Conference last week how on a recent trip he had flown with three airlines, each operating identical Boeing 777s, but providing very different experiences. That difference was entirely due to the service and atmosphere created by the crews.

While fares were comparable, he said he would have happily paid significantly more for the airline that treated him the best.

He maintained it is agents’ knowledge of the difference in service and the confidence that engenders that is the secret to achieving higher-value sales.

As the Aspire advisory board member said: “It’s always people who make the difference.”

If that’s true, I hope to see the same level of optimism and enthusiasm among travel’s senior executives at next week’s Institute of Travel & Tourism conference as I witnessed among frontline agents at the Clia event.