Over the last few months, I have spoken to a number of people who have booked holidays themselves not knowing that there was a far better deal available at the time. In this article, Simon Stobbs, founder of Diverse Africa recommends why you should have a travel adviser helping you plan your holidays.
The onset of the Internet era and Google has put planning a holiday in the hands of the masses. In spite of this, I am often surprised by some of the choices that people make in terms of where they go on holiday. They either end up paying more than they should have or they do not necessarily select the best place to stay based on what they wanted to experience. In spite of this, I have found that some people are averse to making use of an intermediary to assist them in booking their holidays – we use intermediaries to assist us with insurance, medical aids, investments, buying a house to name a few, so why not for travel?
In this day and age, we are all working extremely hard. Time away is something we all treasure. We view an upcoming holiday as the light at the end of the tunnel. As you read this, how many of you are already counting down to your December break? We need to make sure that we get it right when we take a vacation. We need to stay at the best place that our budget allows for, a place that will offer us the experience that we are looking for and we need to ensure that the trip is well-organised and there is support whilst we are away. A good travel adviser can assist with all of the above.
WILL USING A TRAVEL INTERMEDIARY COST ME MORE?
The most common misconception people have regarding travel intermediaries is that using one will cost more than if they go directly to the establishment themselves. More often than not, this is incorrect as travel agents are given reduced rates from the suppliers. They in turn mark the rates up and that is how they make their profits. Generally speaking, the rates will not be marked up more than those you receive if you went to the supplier directly. In fact, a travel agent can often save you money.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT TRAVEL SPECIALS ARE AVAILABLE?
The economic downturn has made things tricky for those who are planning their holidays online. Why is this, you may ask? More and more establishments are releasing great deals –Stay 3 Pay 2, Stay 4 Pay 3, half-price deals, no single supplements, free flights if you stay a certain number of nights, kids stay free and so it goes on. The tourism market has been flooded with specials and unless you are involved with it on a daily basis, you will not know about these offers. I have chatted with people who have booked to stay at an establishment and not known that if they had stayed an extra night, it would not have cost them any extra. A good travel adviser will utilise what specials are available to ensure that you get the most out of your hard-earned money.
A further point as far as cost goes, is that a travel intermediary is often connected within the industry and has relationships with a number of suppliers. They are often in a better position to negotiate something on your behalf. After all, they will have sent people to the establishment before and they themselves will be a valued client. It is a win-win relationship for establishments to do stuff to impress the agents who send business their way – from complimentary room upgrades, private dinners and ensuring that you get the best guide, the list is endless. Furthermore, having a relationship with the establishment will allow the agent to request the best rooms for you – I recently stayed in a hotel where the air-conditioning did not work on one side of the hotel. It is a great hotel, but you need someone to ensure that you end up in a room with working air-conditioning. A good travel adviser will do this.
HOW DO I SIFT THROUGH ALL THE INFORMATION AVAILABLE ONLINE?
Those of you who have ever tried to plan and book a holiday online will know that there is a wealth of information available on the web. Google “South Africa Safari” or “Serengeti Migration” and start planning your holiday. Good luck. You will be faced with pages and pages of websites and will more than likely need a holiday right there and then. Not wanting to wade through all the options, you restrict yourself to those at the top of the list, the sites with the best web-optimization. That raises the question: Can you be sure that the establishment with the best optimized website is the place where you are going to have the best possible holiday experience? Probably not.
Added to this, you can never be sure which information on the web you can and can’t trust. When last did you see a picture of a grubby, dirty room on the web? Establishments only portray the best of what they have to offer on the web. A good travel adviser can help you sift the good from the bad and provide you with a range of options that are tailored to your needs and budget.
IS IT SAFE TO RELY ON WORD-OF-MOUTH FEEDBACK?
Aside from the internet, people often rely on word-of-mouth feedback. This is a far more reliable source of information however it still has its flaws. Someone may have visited a lodge at the prime game-viewing time and had a great experience and thus recommends it to you. You in turn go at a time when the game-viewing is not quite as hot. You are bound to be disappointed. Take the Serengeti as an example. If you visit the northern Serengeti in January, you may be disappointed as the migration is nowhere to be seen. Visit the northern Serengeti in August and you are in for a mind-blowing experience. Likewise, someone may have had a great guide and your experience may be remarkably different if you do not have the same guide. A good travel adviser is well aware of the seasonality of places within Southern and East Africa and is also up to date with the developments at the respective lodges knowing which guides to recommend to ensure the best experience possible.
YOU MIGHT BE GETTING A GOOD EXPERIENCE, BUT IS IT THE BEST?
There is a further complication with word-of-mouth feedback. If someone goes on safari for the first time in their life, it has to be a shocking experience for them not to be totally in awe. The reality is often that they could have had a better experience at a lodge just down the road at half the price. They don’t know this so when they get home, they naturally recommend the lodge where they stayed to friends and relatives. Sure, you will have a good time if you stay there, but you might not have the best time and you need to ensure that is what you get. The bottom line, is maintain an open mind to word-of-mouth feedback, particularly that which you find on online travel forums and verify what you read with a travel adviser you can trust.
TAKING THE HASSLE OUT OF PLANNING A HOLIDAY
Another benefit of using a travel adviser is that they get to know you. They know what your budget is. They know what you want to experience. They know what your kids want to eat. The list is endless. As the relationship with your travel adviser grows, not only will they save you plenty of time, but you can be sure that you will be getting the best value holiday based on what you are looking to experience. Added to this, while you are away, your travel adviser will be the go-to person who you can contact with any questions or problems.
At Diverse Africa, we are in the business of building relationships with our travellers. Diverse Africa started out as a business that specialised in planning safaris. By providing our guests with an array of solutions, they have kept coming back to us and since 2010, we have assisted in planning and booking beach holidays, golf tours, family getaways, romantic breakaways, conference trips, corporate incentive trips, self-drive tours throughout Southern Africa as well as a host of other trips.
The moral of the story is that if you are looking at traveling in Southern or East Africa, we recommend finding a reputable travel adviser whom you can trust. Once you have found one, we suggest you form a long-standing relationship with them. They will ensure that your holiday experiences are the best they could possibly be. Diverse Africa is one such adviser.