Vacation Travel Tips & Advisories

Why You Should Use A Travel Agent

An Open Letter to Those Who Prefer to Book Direct On Line

Dear Valued Customer:

Naturally, we hope and trust that you will consider booking your next vacation or cruise with us, however, we do know that there are lots of alternatives out there, and we also realize that you are receiving mailings, spam and seeing many ads on the internet that urge you to book directly with a travel vendor online.

I have always believed in the golden rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  With that thought, we want you to know this is our motto in dealing with our customers, treat them like you would want to be treated, and book them with the BEST VALUE that you can as if you were booking for yourself.   We pride ourselves in having an open and honest relationship with all our potential customers, so for that reason, I would like to share some straight talk with you about using websites to book your vacation directly on the web.

First of all, while booking on the web is easy and you believe that you are getting the “best deal” out there, keep in mind, you may not be getting the “best value” for your money.  When booking on the web, you are paying for something that you are not really receiving – that is, the best advice and services of a professional travel consultant.  We know that you are being told that it is easier and cheaper to book your cruise, your resort or vacation online.  Yes, you can do it yourself – just trust that web supplier to take care of everything and have your credit card in hand.  Isn’t it wonderful to live in an age where you can just click and travel?  It’s really easy, right?  Turn over your credit card number and personal information to someone you cannot see in a cubicle in a reservations factory that was outsourced to a foreign country call center.  Don’t worry, your credit card information is somewhere in New Delhi, India or Bangladesh in very good hands and your vacation is being expertly planned and reserved just to your personal wants and needs.  Sounds safe enough to me!

So why in the world would you want to use my service or that of any travel agent when you can just sit there at your computer and trust it to an automated system that will try to look out for your best interests?   Well, the first thing you really need to understand is that you are not paying me anything extra to book your trip;  my fee or commission is paid from the resort or cruise line as it is already built into the price of any fare or cost.  That is the way the industry does things and if you are not using me, they just keep that extra commission for themselves that they do not have to pay to me or any other travel agent.

Tour operators, resorts and cruise lines, even the top-grade hotels, love your direct bookings because the portion that is reserved as the travel agent’s commission simply goes into their pockets.  They believe that it costs them far less to maintain order-takers in a reservations call center.  I won’t mention whom, but one hotel chain some years back was actually using prisoners on a work release to handle your phone reservations.   Most of the telephone reservations agents you speak with on the phone from a web supplier are merely commissioned salespeople hired in a call center who have little knowledge about the travel industry.  Their goal is really simple:  they are telemarketers, they do what they can to get your direct booking, earn a smaller commission and let their parent company pocket the rest of the total commission that is already there and built into the fare prices.

As far as you know, when you book something directly on the web or the web call in number, you are making a wager bet that the person on the other end of the line has your best interests at heart, will look to get you the best price, but more importantly the best value for your money, and that they will be there for you in an emergency.  As a matter of fact, I will be willing to make you a solid guarantee bet – if you have a problem with the resort or cruise you booked with them and need to get in touch with them once you arrive – you will be out of luck.  Make sure you call their main office between 8 am and 5pm because the call center will tell you they can’t help you, you have to call customer service who will basically tell you, they are sorry but that is what YOU chose when you booked.

Otherwise, it is really simple when you make a direct booking.  Your name, birth date, and all personal information is now safely stored on a database in some foreign country, you will receive a computer-generated invoice, and that is it.  You are now another travel statistic.  The computer software that is now your “travel agent” will notify you when final payment is due and you will receive your final e-documents.    Sounds safe enough, yes?  Did they tell you of any special pricing, amenities or extras available, or that a certain time might be better to travel than the one you selected?  Let me state it in another way:  with the exception of airline and hotel websites that run occasional online sales, you will never receive preferred pricing on any online site – rather, you are going to get the one they make the most money on packaged in a way so that it sounds like a good deal to you.

CHEAPEST PRICE IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST VALUE!

If a resort or cruise line did not give us pricing that was equal to or better than what they offer on their web site, no reputable travel agent would ever again sell their product – and word does get around among our forums really quickly.  You can always count on the fact that our pricing will be as good as or better than any resort or cruise prices you can see on direct booking sites.   You might find a better cruise price on a certain web site, but then we get you decent rooms, not the leftovers that are difficult to book by travel agents.  Don’t you wonder why their price is cheaper than anything else you found so far?  We don’t book those unless you want the cheapest price and you don’t care what it looks like or how comfortable it is.  Again, remember we are looking out for your personal comfort and value, not just the cheapest thing we can put you into.

Honestly though, I don’t want you to book with us because it is always a better value than booking directly on the web yourself; there are other more important and logical reasons that have little to do with price.  There are so many reasons I could list and I doubt you would read all of them if I have even kept your attention so far.  We provide much more than merely price, and it is more than the direct web sites will do for you.

First, we are going to offer you comparisons between what other competitive companies offer in the same location.  We are going to advise you on the very best value product to meet your personal needs.  We can point out advantages and disadvantages of several options.  Booking directly on the web puts you in touch with either an automated web program, a single-product person, or a sales person who will recommend the best commission site for them, not you.

We provide you with special documentation and advice about ports, sightseeing options and even some fun activities or great restaurants.  We know the best times to do your itinerary or take that vacation and will let you know that a week or two earlier or later will save you money for the exact same cruise or resort stay.  We often even have affiliated assistance abroad that can make your vacation even more memorable.

Another very important option is that we make sure we offer travel insurance to protect you – we analyze the various travel insurance packages and get you the one that best fits your needs.  When you book direct, you get one option and that is the one they make the most money off without regard to your needs.  We offer various options and often save you money over the web selections.

Let’s also consider the WHAT IF?  What if something goes wrong?  What if someone gets sick and you need help getting home in a hurry?  What if your vacation experience was unsatisfactory or the pictures on the web when you booked direct don’t happen to look like the resort you are at?  Who is going to represent you or help you on the spot when you need it?   Who can you call to get help?  Well, with the web companies, you cannot call their call center, they will tell you to call customer service Monday –Friday between 8am and 5pm.    With us, we are at your service 24/7 period!!!   You call us in the middle of the night and tell us you have to get home for an emergency and we get out of bed and get on the phone to start working for you.  We take care of you and represent you before, during and after your vacation has come to an end.

We also give you our honest, unbiased view of both the upside and downside of the vacation option you are considering.  After all, WE WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY – that’s our job!  Book direct on the web and you get none of that.  Everything about the product will be painted in glowing terms, pictures will be absolutely impeccable and the whole picture will smell like roses.   Sometimes you get lucky and that is exactly what you get, but I can tell you from my own personal experience and experiences I have heard all too often – “It sure was not anything like it looked like on the web.”  Well of course it wasn’t!  Do whoppers actually look like they do in the pictures – all large and stacked up perfectly when you purchase one yourself?  Are you surprised?

Additionally, an honest personal note to you.  When I go to sleep at night, I almost always know where my customers are while on vacation or honeymoon, what the current conditions are and what they might likely encounter.  I am concerned about my clients and I look after their welfare, and after you propose your vacation to me, I think and search ways to enhance your vacation experience so that you will be pleased enough to tell your friends, and come back to us again the following vacation.  Do you think a sales person at a call center does that for you?  Do you think the software program you are using on the web to book your vacation is looking to put you in the best location with ocean view, or close to the beach?  It is merely sticking a number in an open slot and that is all you are to those programs.

Finally, let me ask you one last question.  Something as valuable as your personal relaxation, your personal family vacation, your honeymoon, or whatever reason you are choosing to travel – why would you trust that to a web program or someone in a call center?  Would you allow a computer web site to plan your wedding or anniversary for you and hope that it was a wonderful experience?   Would you buy your home on the internet without ever going to look at it?  Probably not, so why would you trust a computer program or call center to plan your vacation experience?  This is a personal experience and you have expectations of what you’d like to see and do.  You don’t fit into a cookie cutter, so why accept a standardized program.  Don’t you deserve to have someone advise and help you plan your personal experience?  We think you deserve that and more.

Thank you for your time.

Frank Armstrong

Melodyfarms Travel

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