Travel has been one of the industries harshest hit by lockdown teeth. One of the first to feel the bite and, likely, one of the last to recover or flourish fully: international borders may open later and they’ll be a gradual ramp up of both activity and consumer confidence.
Even prior to the significant challenges and closures amidst lockdown there had been a rise of ‘do it yourself’ travel, where through the power of the net you source your own flights, connections and accommodation. A question I was often asked was whether the travel industry was amid its Uber moment?
With research suggesting that close to 4 in 5 holidays are now booked online, one would say the Uber moment is well and truly here.
Having led thousands of people hundreds of thousands of kilometres across the majority of Europe and training tour leaders I’ve learned plenty around travel and the pitfalls of travelling to a destination you do not know.
Given the cost saving of booking online, many travellers roll the dice and hope that they do not experience a ‘that was not on the brochure’ moment.
So, should you take on the role of travel agent for yourself and significant others, or rely on the smiling travel specialist?
My answer to that question depends on a couple of key factors.
If you are you travelling to a destination you know well, or to a place where someone you trust has stayed previously, then playing the role of travel agent is relatively ‘low risk’.
Or even if you feel comfortable and confident in your own ability to remain calm and go with the flow when, invariably, aspects of trips don’t quite work out the way they were planned.
Although you will still need to watch out for complicated connections, as a missed flight can easily result in a delayed and frustrating start to your trip.
If it is a place you do not know as well, seeking out a reputable travel adviser can help greatly in providing you with…
- best methods, partners, timetable and schedules for travel
- basic research and bookings
- improved or bundled modes of transportation or accommodation
- fresh experiences and innovative new hospitality and tourism players
- current hot spots, trending bars, dining and the likes
Yes, I know there’s so much information easily accessible via the internet but again there are a couple of considerations to take into account:
- The cost of time conducting research into all elements
- The credibility of information you find
Whilst it’s been years since I led tours I’m still asked for ideas on itineraries: where to go, where to stay, how to travel.
I gladly offer insights for people in my close circle yet only on those static elements with little risk of having changed in the last 20 years or ones I’ve kept my own knowledge up to speed on.
Italy is still in the same place and major cities or countries may only be millimetres further apart due to the natural movements of tectonic plates or variations to the Earth crust.
The leaning tower of Pisa hasn’t fallen down, yet. The primary museums, sites and lots of little known – best kept secrets (learned from years on the road) still exist, remain funded or are fully open and operational. (Well, they were prior to the temporary hiatus of lockdown at least!)
As for what hotels or accommodation to stay in, where to dine, which nightclubs to explore or routes to fly, I strongly recommend they use a current expert and recommend them on.
I’ve got my own travel manager. Erryn adds value massively both from a time and knowledge perspective. Which then allows me to remain focussed on other personal priorities or strengths aligned with the core of my own business.
If you do go it alone, then the best advice I can offer is to be aware of the pitfalls, as in this digital world, all is not always what it seems.
Those ‘rave reviews’ that you read are a classic example, Oobah Butler used to get paid to write fake reviews for restaurants to boost their digital ranking.
One day he took it one step further, faking a non-existent restaurant called ‘The Shed’ (his actual garden shed) and taking it to the number 1 spot on trip advisor to prove the point of how easy it is to do.
He even opened the restaurant for a night, serving up pre-packaged noodles and basic ingredients to consumers who gladly gulped down the offerings under the guise they were having a ‘trending’ hot spot this experience they could brag about to their friends.
Here’s some considerations for choosing a travel collaborator partner to help avoid being caught in a travel nightmare tale, as even using a travel adviser can be fraught with issues, so the best advice I can give is to do your homework by.
- Looking for a lengthy track record of reviews and credibility, yes reputations can be faked, however building up a solid, consistent track record of contactable, evidence-based reviews over a longer period makes faking it a little more difficult long term.
- Look for accreditations and affiliations and then cross check validity and when it comes to travel make sure they are ATAS accredited
- Ask the tough questions up front – ask about the agent’s processes, confirmation and refund policies and make sure you gauge the level of diligence in response as this will tell you a great deal
- Make sure you are dealing with an experienced agent in your planned area of travel by asking questions around their speciality and experience, if you have done your research you will quickly know if the expertise is genuine
- Do not begrudge paying for travel service and be fair by not ‘ghost’ shopping a travel agency by getting an agent to spend their precious time doing the research and sharing their wisdom and skills for you to only book online
Great travel agents, like any specialist in any field, are exceptionally valuable and well worth the investment. Often they may even have inside knowledge and be aware of potential problems you’re not aware of.
Before lockdown several travel leaders went bust and whilst even some of these catch industry by surprise, others may well have been on the radar of those skilled specialists in the know.
For me we all work too hard and our precious breaks come around so little to leave it up to chance, so I say do what I do, find a travel agent or a travel manager who works for you, stick with them and enjoy your stress free travel, wherever that may take you!
Besides, if we’re going to stay true to the promises we’ve collectively sworn via status updates to support local businesses or be a little more grateful, then maybe now is a great time to truly appreciate the efforts of many specialists in an industry close to all of our hearts.
Protect and support the skills and knowledge that add so much value to one of our greatest past times: the ability to travel and to explore.