02 Feb Booking Online vs. The Travel Advisor: The Winner Might Surprise You
There’s a reason we use the term advisor to describe professionals in the travel industry today. These experts offer much more than booking services. First and foremost, they can help you decide where to go by walking you through the pros and cons of destinations based on the varying interests (and ages) of the people in your group. Not only that, they’ll deliver insider insights and access. They can tell you how to avoid the crowds at major sights and where the locals eat. They can even get you private tours to popular locations or “front of the line” passes to many global attractions. They can even pair you with designers, architects, and other locals who moonlight as walking-tour guides and direct you to hidden corners of a city. And they also, crucially, know how to put together a seamless itinerary to help you avoid the long delays, missed flights, trains, and other transportation.
Even if you’re not planning a particularly complicated or exotic trip, you should always consider the additional value of professional advice, especially when it comes to travel. Much of the travel industry is built on relationships, both formal and informal, and if your advisor has the right ones that can pay off for you in a huge way, with priceless memories.
- Lower Rates and Fares: Even though the commercials on TV try to convince you that you can find the best price online, the truth is that the most affordable rates and fares aren’t found online at all, especially when it comes to luxury travel. Hotels and cruise lines that don’t drop their prices for online travel agencies often offer special deals and promotions to members of their partner network. These can be everything from four nights for the price of three to an upgrade to first-class tickets on an airfare-cruise package. Similarly, fares for first- and business-class seats on international carriers can vary widely, depending on who is looking for them. Travel advisors frequently have access to lower prices than those available to the public, usually as a result of their network contracts.
- Finding Rooms: That sold-out hotel that you waited too long to book? It’s actually not sold out. Many properties will hold inventory in reserve specifically for luxury travel advisors. Other rooms may be in the hands of local tour operators who dole them out to partner travel companies. For Amalfi in August, Danube cruises in September, or Hawaii over the holidays, top advisors are known for clearing out space for their clients. They’re also skilled at putting travelers in the right rooms, avoiding the misleadingly named “views” that overlook parking lots or cruise cabins set right below the fitness room. Unless you have experience in the industry you would never know these small nuances without using a travel advisor.
- The VIP Experience: Professional travel advisors, like Elite Global Journeys, are part of large consortia that leverage their collective buying power to deliver guaranteed rates as well as perks for their clients. What that may mean for you: if you book a night in a luxury hotel through the right person, you could very easily get an upgrade, daily breakfast for two, a $100 restaurant credit, and late checkout, along with a welcome amenity of wine and treats. On a seven-night cruise, it could be a cabin upgrade and $500 of shipboard credit. And since the advisor is making a commission off the booking, you won’t be charged a markup. In fact, when booking some trips you actually pay less than you would booking it yourself and have an even better experience. A true win-win.
- Troubleshooting: Every trip has its share of hiccups. The small ones can be fun (or at least instructive) to navigate and you end up learning something new about the country you are in. The big ones, like a missed cruise connection; a cloud of volcanic ash falling down on your head or keeping your flight grounded, can be a nightmare. In situations such as these, the value of travel advisors really kick in. They’ll re-book your flights (sometimes via a VIP phone line with the airline that only they have access to), either finding seats on planes that appear to be full or springing you to the top of waiting lists for ones that indeed are. They can also get you last-minute hotel rooms and file insurance claims on your behalf. Lost luggage? They’ll track your bags and have even been known to keep a local store open late so you can buy replacement clothes in the meantime. Ask an advisor about his or her after-hours service before you book. Most advisors are very accommodating when you are away on a long trip.
- Established Reputation: Elite Global Journeys is the only member accepted into the Virtuoso travel network in Central California. Virtuso contracts with more than 1,000 luxury hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators. Advisors who do a lot of business with a particular company may have additional preferred status, which translates into even more perks for clients. And then there are the informal relationships that top advisors cultivate with hotel general managers around the world. So chances are, if you’re looking to book with a major company, there’s someone who can get you more bang for your buck. You should ask your advisor where he or she has connections and what benefits they confer.
What really sets a true luxury travel advisor apart are the little things that are unexpected and can’t be found on your own. We tailor-make experiences. We always strive to create something that can’t be “Googled” — a personal experience that fits your exact vision of travel.