You’ve Googled the Caribbean for your next vacation and over 30,700,000 links pop up. Now what? Or Mexico, with 127,000,000 links. Do you need help with those choices? Remember when you used the website with the great pictures of the hotel and booked that resort? But when you arrived to your dream vacation, the junior suite was overlooking a parking lot with huge air conditioning units and there was no availability left to move your room? How many hours were you on hold with the airline when your flight was canceled because of a storm? Did you really mean to spend your honeymoon at the resort whose one tiny pool was filled with the beautiful playfulness of children? It was definitely odd when there were no cab drivers at 2 a.m. when you finally landed in Costa Rica and thought that booking a transfer to your hotel would have been a good thing to remember.
Prior to becoming a travel agent, I must say, some of these unfortunate situations happened to me. The beautiful parking lot view, waiting on an endless line for hours for a cab, saying my prayers as the driver sped off. And looking at beautiful pictures of a resort thinking the suite I booked looked very large, only to find out, it was actually small and the resort was not that great. I learned the hard way. But these and other experiences have proven to be helpful in understanding what questions to ask and what information and recommendations to pass on to my customers. Real life experiences.
There are many misconceptions about travel agents. One question that I always hear is, “why do customers have to pay a fee to an agent when booking a vacation?” The answer, customers do not pay a fee. Travel agents earn commission from suppliers; hotels, airlines, cruise ships, rental cars, not from the customer. Another question you may be asking, “if I can book my trip online, why use a travel agent?” Yes, true, the internet is a great source of information, but only travel agents have access to other resources such as wholesalers, transfer and car rental companies or hotels and airlines that offer agents lower rates. Agents can generally get better pricing than Travelocity or Orbitz or worst case, match the price. Travel agents can sometimes offer an added benefit to customers; an upgraded room, complimentary breakfast daily or complimentary transfers from the airport to the hotel.
In addition, researching the web and trying to piece the trip together with flights, a car rental and hotel rooms is time consuming. A travel agent can recommend relevant offerings and provide cost saving strategies such as moving a date, changing the location of a room or different flight options that will give the best value and itinerary for your vacation. By knowing what questions to ask, an agent can provide an assessment. Is the hotel the right location for you? Is the cruise line one that matches your travel needs? Is the golf course what you had in mind? Is an upgraded hotel room available?
Agents know what destinations are looking for business and often times, prices are slashed. Agents can sift through the different options and deals and help navigate a prospective traveler with the vacation that is best suited for them. For example, during specific times of the year, steep sales take place for cruise vacations or at resorts. Knowing these times of the year, a travel agent can remind a customer of the savings if booked during a sale period.
Did you know the most anticipated top hotel openings in 2012 are in Italy, Thailand, Morocco, England, Switzerland, Dubai, Florida and Turkey? Do you know what cruise ports are growing in popularity? A summer cruise to Alaska is amazing while docking in Juneau or Sitka. While in Juneau, a flight across the glaciers to Taku Lodge is unbelievable. Or a cruise to Hawaii to the smaller islands in October is unique and a memorable trip to consider. American Safari Cruises launched cruises to Molokai, Lanai and Molokini on their 36-passenger Safari Explorer. A travel agent knows the latest news of the industry and will keep you updated on openings of hotels, renovations, the variety of resorts to explore, the many different types of vacations and packages that are available and interesting activities and excursions to think about. Travel agents are a great resource.
Perhaps you may be interested in a cruise to France. Many Mediterranean cruises stop in and around Nice and guests can easily drive or fly from Nice to Monaco for a day-trip or an extended stay. Monaco’s Port Hercules Harbor has been expanded to accommodate twice as many yachts and larger cruise ships, so that people can arrive right at the gate. Once in Monaco, explore Monte Carlo’s cafes before visiting the major attractions like the Palace or the Opera House, go boating around the harbor, or take in a performance of the Philharmonic. What sets Monaco aside is their culture that you don’t find in many resorts. Having been to Monte Carlo myself, I can tell you that the exotic gardens are magnificent. The Old Town area is full of narrow alleys that are lined with pubs, shops and eateries. The Monaco Cathedral is rich in history. Excursions in Italy to Bordighere, one of the oldest towns in Italy, and Ventimiglia and Dulceacquya, are all unique for shopping. One of the highlights of my trip was eating a ten course Italian meal for two hours! Now, how much more personal can you get with a travel agent!
And one last thought, if your feeling the love in 2012, Bermuda is celebrating their annual "Feel the Love Month," taking place Jan. 16-March 3. Sponsored by the Bermuda Department of Tourism, this program offers couples the chance to enjoy the island's cultural offerings through daily activities such as a love cruise, a champagne and strawberries museum reception, salsa dance nights and more. Additionally, travelers can enjoy a free night stay at participating hotels when booking a minimum three-night stay during Feel the Love Month. Perhaps a Valentine’s Day celebration in Bermuda is not a bad idea!