An interesting guest blog from UK Airport Car Parks . . .
In late August 2015, right in the midst of school summer holidays, there was another furor regarding a holiday firm going bust .
Leaving over 1,700 travellers having to re-arrange their trips, claim their money back (if they could) and deal with a huge amount of stress at a time they thought they would be getting in the holiday mood.
In 2010, more than likely as a result of the recession that had hit two years previously, 239 travel companies ceased trading, leaving 189,000 people seeking compensation – and a new holiday deal for that summer.
It’s true to say that these companies are not all based online, but it would seem that that the majority are. Offering great deals with lower overheads, Internet companies, for a while, could offer a deal that was simply not available on the high street – but with a risk that some travellers didn’t realise.
Whilst many companies were part of the ATOL scheme (Air Travel Organisers’ License) and also members of ABTA(Association of British Travel Agents) meaning that refunds, compensation and re-arrangements could be made, it was the not the start to a holiday that many of us would look forward to.
And so, with horror stories filling the press and the internet, travellers started to look once again to the ever-present high street travel agent.
On one hand, the figures make for grim reading – travel agents are closing high street stores, and directing efforts instead to their website booking systems. From 2007 to 2011, holidays booked through a travel agent dropped by 16% with people taking up cheap deals via the Internet.
That said, high street travel agents were still taking an impressive 17 million bookings a year. With some people struggling to find a local branch, it seems odd therefore to suggest that anyone seeking to book should find their way to a travel agent.
1. The trust factor
The online holiday deal can be a nightmare of paperwork, which can trip you up if you have not read the fine print. From understanding that you need to book onto your flight online three days before you board the plane, to hidden deposits and so on.
It’s essential you understand every detail of your booking and there’s something about speaking to a human being that makes this more reassuring.
There is something far more trustworthy about seeking the help of a travel agent to negotiate your way through all this paperwork, making sure that potential pitfalls are safely navigated and so on, allowing you to ask relevant questions you perhaps wouldn’t think of when booking online.
For many people the key benefit of working with a travel agent is the trust factor, knowing that if they have any questions they have an expert to ask and to deal with any issues.. Yes, we know you can also make contact via the phone to an online holiday company but there is definitely something re-assuring about meeting face to face.
2. Knowledgeable and well-travelled people
Clearly, a perk of the job in working in a travel agent must be the ability to enjoy some great holidays in all kinds of destinations all over the world. Whoever heard of a travel agent that didn’t enjoy travelling?
If you are looking for a specific venue or destination, then tapping into the expert knowledge of someone who has already been and thoroughly enjoyed themselves, is nothing short of simply fabulous.
Again, the internet is a great place to do some research and there may be a whole list of customer reviews online but actually talking to someone who has been adds much to the experience.
3. The whole experience
From the moment you walk in to the travel agent, to the moment you arrive back from your holiday, the experience is one of calmness with not a hint of stress. You begin by having a conversation with someone who will ask you want from your holiday, what your priorities for the holiday are and so on.
Is it somewhere where the kids can play non-stop, or if you want a kid-free hotel? Maybe you want a very cheap, no frills, long weekend in the sun or maybe you want luxury from the word go.
You may only have certain dates you can travel, or you may have a fixed budget within which you want everything. You may want self-catering or 5* packaged heaven. One traveller’s idea of holiday heaven is another person’s idea of hell.
The point is that no matter what you are looking for, or how much money you have to spend, the travel agent has the resources to find something for everybody.
4. Someone else does the hard work for you
Many people create their own holidays online, from booking separate flights to separate hotel bookings, to finding and booking the best way to the hotel and so on.
It takes time to research thoroughly all these options so why bother, when at the touch of a few buttons, the stroke of a few keys and a travel agent can have more than one option and all the prices available in one place, allowing you to make your decision much easier?
5. The best deal
Hotel owners, travel operators and so on will offer a great deal to travel agents who despite their business being diminished somewhat, are still considered to be a powerful force within the holiday industry.
For almost guaranteed booking, hotels and so on will offer fabulous deals that are only open to travel agents. Better still – you, as the consumer, can also barter and bargain.
In a recent survey of 44 travel agents, 15 could price match a holiday found on the Internet and 12could come up with the same or similar holiday at a cheaper price.
That said, even at a rock bottom price, if the holiday is not right for you then it is money wasted. Clearly, having the holiday you want is what makes for the perfect break away.
It’s clear to see the high street travel agent still has a lot to offer. From superb advice on destinations, to brilliant packaged deals, flights and that all important personal touch.
The beauty of it all is that with many travel agents, there are deals to be had and some of these are much better than what you can find online. This could be a better price or for a few quid extra, a flight upgrade and a 5* hotel instead of the 4* next to the building site down the road.
So, basically what we are saying is this… Yes, booking your holiday online is good but don’t forget about the high street travel agents because we really do think you’ll be surprised with the costs and especially the extra amount of information and advice you’re likely to get.