When the travel bridges break: why the travel consultant is more important than ever.

If the events of this year meant your travel plans were disrupted, chances are it’s been stressful and worrying for you. With travel disruption commonplace since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen holiday cancellations, airline liquidations, closed hotels and flights grounded across the globe.

More countries were added to the UK government’s quarantine list last night, with just over 24 hours’ notice, so who do you turn to when your travel plans start to unravel?

When things go wrong

If you booked your travel through a travel agent or tour operator, trying to sort out your disrupted plans or refund should have been a lot less stressful than if you took the DIY approach. We’ve all heard stories of customers struggling to get their money back following cancelled travel plans. Our colleagues here at Progressive Travel Recruitment have all had travel plans changed this year.

We get it; some people enjoy booking travel arrangements themselves; others prefer the reassurance of booking with a trusted travel consultant, feeling safe, secure and valued.  In the UK, ATOL, a financial protection scheme, covers most package holidays, so if a travel company with an ATOL licence ceases trading the scheme protects customers who had booked with them, before and during their holiday.  Booking your own trip can leave you unprotected if you’re booking your travel components (flights, hotels, transfers etc.) separately.

My colleague Fiona Morrison-Arnthal recently wrote a blog in response to Michael O’Leary’s (the CEO of Ryanair) comments that ‘the whole tour operator model is finished’.  Only last month the airline was named as one of the worst for customer refunds during the Covid-19 pandemic, receiving terrible feedback.  Incidentally, the homeworking travel agency Travel Counsellors was named the best performer. In fact, within an hour of the announcement of new travel quarantine restrictions last night, Travel Counsellors had published updated advice for its homeworkers and customers.

Many events disrupt travel; civil unrest, strikes, pandemics, volcanic eruptions, weather and airline failures amongst them.  All of them cause one thing: stranded and stressed customers. So how can you lessen the stress when things go wrong?

The travel consultant is your best friend in travel

Our go-to for everything we need is online, but here’s a question.. why do people spend tiresome, valuable hours researching a topic they know little about, booking each travel component separately, flicking from website to website, comparison site to review site, when they could turn to an expert to sort it all for them?  An expert who will hold your hand if things go wrong.

I always use an expert travel consultant with excellent reviews, like gold travel counsellor Emma Parry-Thorpe. She’s my one-stop shop, and can handle every aspect of my travel plans, like booking airline tickets, tours, hotels, insurance, car hire and more.  Emma’s expertise and industry connections saves me time and money, and she can usually source exclusive deals not found online. Most importantly, if something goes wrong, she’s there to get my trip back on track with minimum disruption.  You can’t put a price on that.

Years ago, it was predicted the internet would spell the end of travel agents; that hasn’t happened, and for good reason. So, what’s in it for you when you book your trip through a travel consultant?

Convenience.  Our time is valuable, so why spend it searching for the right travel arrangements when an expert can do this for you, matching your needs and providing you with their excellent insight and personal knowledge?  Online options can be overwhelming and very time consuming, so let an expert efficiently plan it for you.

Expertise knowledge. Do you cut your own hair? Probably not; you go to the expert, right? What’s the difference? Your personal travel consultant is the expert.  Looking for a ski holiday, a luxury spa weekend, an overland trip throughout Chile, or the best small hotel in Marrakech? Your travel expert will help you with all of it.  And more.  Travel consultants regularly participate in familiarisation trips too, so they may have visited the destination you’re enquiring about, giving additional insight and inspiration to your plans.

Saving money.  An expert travel consultant leverages their excellent travel industry supplier relationships, allowing them to pass on savings to you through a variety of initiatives including add-ons included in the price etc. as well as being able to source exclusive-to-them deals you won’t find anywhere else.  Travel consultants have access to a greater range of air fares, and can tailor-make itineraries you can’t book online, or multi-sector flight itineraries that need to be manually built at a more affordable cost than what you see on a website.

Added value.  Ever wondered why the couple you’re chatting to at the pool received a room upgrade at check-in and you didn’t?  Chances are their travel consultant arranged this for them.  It’s all about connections.

One stop shop. Flight, hotel, car hire, currency, airport parking or travel insurance. Your travel consultant can sort it all for you without you having to shop around separately.

Payment plan.  Online, you’ll most likely have to pay for all of your travel at the time of booking. When making your arrangements through a travel consultant, you may be able to set up a payment plan, allowing you to make a small initial deposit and additional incremental payments towards your trip.

Protection. Your travel expert will usually provide you with a package that’s protected by a governing body like ATOL, ensuring your plans are fully covered in the event of disruption.

Hold the booking.  A travel consultant can usually hold a booking for 24 hours or more, giving you time to decide on whether the plans are right for you.  You rarely get this online.

Visa information.  When’s the last time a travel website offered you this? Your travel consultant will ensure you have all the right documentation to travel, along with any travel advice for that destination.

 

We’ve always been passionate about supporting our industry and getting the best advice for our travel plans, and we were delighted to hear TV presenter Eamonn Holmes say he always uses the services of a travel consultant and  “someone who will look after me”.  Watch his Travel Weekly interview.

 

How do you book your travel plans?  Connect with me on LinkedIn and let’s have a conversation about this, recruitment or anything else.