Travel in 2021 is fraught with uncertainty but there's no reason why it needs to be stressful. A good travel agent specialist will be able to help you navigate common problems and make sure that you can have an enjoyable holiday. Note, there is a very big difference between a travel specialist (someone who works one-on-one for you) and an Online Travel Agent (OTA) who takes bookings through the internet.
Here are five rules we abide by, to help ensure we have stress-free travel:
Ask yourself, "can I be sure I am fully aware what happens if there is a cancellation?" Before we book anything with you, we take you through the T&Cs and get you to sign something to say you've been properly informed. If you tick a box online, to say you've accepted conditions without reading or understanding them, you could find yourself solely responsible for any unforeseen problems.
Hire cars have run out and destinations are experiencing unprecedented visitor-numbers. Popular places, like the Kimberley, are fast approaching 100% fully booked for 2021, as are local cruise ships. If you have any desire to visit one of the more popular places, we STRONGLY advise booking, 3-6 months in advance. For anywhere else, it's wise to plan some time in advance.
TRAVEL AGENTS Travel agents do not necessarily cost you more because they are paid from commission that you are not entitled to. Unlike some OTAs, a reputable travel agent will not tell you to contact the supplier when something goes wrong, they will step in and negotiate a fix for you. Travel agents both manage your money and are responsible for your travel.
SUPPLIERS Suppliers own the tour companies you travel with. Their interest is in you booking only the part of your holiday that's with them, not in managing your trip as a whole. Mostly, suppliers are not accredited with the same skills, professional certification or financial security mechanisms, to which travel agents conform. "Booking direct" means commission that would once have gone to an agent (to manage and protect your travel as a whole), is instead spent on advertising to acquire you as a customer "direct".
ONLINE TRAVEL AGENTS (OTAs) The aim of these companies is to keep the cost of acquiring you as a customer, as low as possible. Often when you book with an OTA, you are agreeing to pass the responsibility for handling any problems, onto the supplier (above). Your money, therefore, can be held by one company while the responsibility is with another.
We mostly work with smaller local suppliers, people who have been representing their region for many years. Our local contacts can negotiate alternatives. Even for a 1-week trip, there are usually a dozen or more suppliers involved, so having a single point of contact to comprehensively assess T&Cs and step in to do amendments, transfers and potentially refunds, provides peace of mind.
There are still last minute deals being offered in the festive season, to destinations where we know, it's virtually impossible to travel. If you pay a deposit for a trip that might be cancelled or can't be fulfilled, how do you know the company won't go bankrupt in the mean time? Or, do you know if your money is being held in a separate trust account? Is it underwriting day-to-day operational costs, while the company can't trade during COVID? In the majority of cases, publicised deals and offers are available to everyone so all booking direct online does, is earn you the same concession you might have got elsewhere. Meanwhile, any cost-saving you make, is because you take on more responsibility for the risk and management of your travel. Most package holidays cost a lot less than if you book them yourself, so ask, is that small saving really worth it? Or would you be better with one-on-one support and something more tailored?