Everyone with a camera thinks they are a photographer and everyone with a blog thinks they are a journalist. Likewise, everyone with a computer thinks they are their own travel agent. The difference in each instance is years of training, experience, intuition, and connections.
January is typically the busiest month of the year for travel professionals. I guess families get together over the holidays and discuss their travel plans for the next year...then when the kids go back to school, they pick up the phone. That’s great for me, as a business owner, but also tends to be a stressful time as my “To Do” list typically grows each day. I wake up with my list of trips to research, documents to deliver, articles to write, emails to return, social media posts to post... and there are usually more new ones added than old ones crossed-off when I leave my desk at the end of the evening. Complaining? No way! I love it! It’s my passion! However, I also have to shake my head repeatedly over some of the requests I receive – and the way in which I receive them. So please permit me to rant a little bit and hopefully clear up some misperceptions of what I do:
When I first meet with a prospective new client, I am used to all of the usual questions; Why should I use a travel agent?, How do you get paid?, What can you do for me that I can’t do for myself online?, etc. I have my responses well- prepared. Here’s the thing...if you want to book round trip air from New York to Atlanta and stay in the Holiday Inn Express on the corner of 1st Avenue and Main Street, you probably don’t need me! I am an expert in custom-crafting vacations that are going to provide you with the EXPERIENCE you are longing for. I don’t just “sell travel”. Sometimes, that amounts to some well-researched advice on which Caribbean resort or which Hawaiian island is the right fit for your dreams. They are all so very different! If you have always dreamed of seeing lava flowing from an active volcano, I’m going to recommend the Big Island of Hawaii, not Maui! If your anniversary getaway brings visions of a child- free pool cabana with a cold tropical drink, I’m going to steer you towards an Adult-Only property with awesome service! Sometimes it involves literally hours and hours of detailed planning, research and jigsaw-puzzle precision to put together a 3-week custom European journey through 3 or 4 different countries for a family who want to immerse themselves into each culture with art or culinary classes. I am happy to go to any lengths necessary to craft that perfect EXPERIENCE for my clients...it’s what I do! And I am very good at it!
If you send me an email that says “I found a deal online for a week in Jamaica at the XYZ resort for $599...Can you beat it?”, I’m going to let out a big sigh and respond with a "No". First of all, how do you even know that the XYZ resort is a good fit for you? Secondly, I have no idea what that “deal” includes – and neither do you. Just this week, a returning client sent me something similar, only he said that the online price included round trip air....I thought it looked “too good to be true” and it was....the price was only for the resort...no air included. Last week, a Hawaii client sent me several screen shots of quotes from BookIt.com for Maui condos that she thought looked cheaper than what I was recommending. The price they were looking at was “per adult” and did not include tax. Saving money is great, and I’m all for staying within budget and getting a good value for my own travel dollars, but don’t reduce your vacation to being treated like a commodity. When an item is a “commodity”, there are no differences between the same item sourced from different places – except price. I really do have your best interests in mind...trust me to do what I do best and find you the perfect fit and the greatest value for your precious vacation time and budget.
Finally, keep this in mind...when you hit the “Buy now” button on Expedia or Orbitz or BookIt.com and purchase that vacation, you receive confirmation numbers and the corporation gets a cut of the cost back into their high-tech wallets. When you give me, or any other hard working travel professional, the “go ahead” to book that same vacation (often at the exact same price, or better), you receive your travel documents, destination information, restaurant recommendations and sightseeing suggestions, along with the promise that we have your back until you return from the trip...and even beyond! If anything goes wrong on the trip, we are that extra security blanket who advocates for YOU and your well-being. Try getting Mr. Orbitz to pick up the phone at 6:00am to argue with a French hotel desk clerk about the noise level, or lack of air conditioning, in your room! Haven’t I done more to justify my commission than an online booking engine? That, my friends, is “VALUE” for your travel dollar...and it’s what I am all about.