Only a spider trusts the web, trust your travel advisor instead!

For my business networking breakfast this morning, I was asked to speak to “why use a travel advisor”…. a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.  And the first thing I tell all my new clients (especially those who are social media junkies, and who are used to booking their own travel on the internet) – “only a spider trusts the web, trust your travel advisor instead!”

You can sell your own home, take your own wedding photos, or do your own accupuncture. Least that’s what you might believe… you can certainly research how to do all of that on the internet. You can amass info, ask your Aunt Martha, maybe consult Trip Advisor – you can start to feel that you can do it all by yourself. But unless it’s your trade, doing any of these things on your own requires a lot of luck, investment of your valuable time, and your reliance on the advice of amateurs (see my post about the dangers of relying on consumer rating agencies

Let’s not forget that you risk getting the job done wrong. 

Not many people want to stick themselves with needles and do their own accupuncture … but it’s amazing how many feel they can, and should, plan their own holiday.

I am a travel ADVISOR. It is my chosen career. It is not a hobby.  I am passionate about what I do. And the simple truth is that I have knowledge, experience, and resources that you do not.

You can book online with an internet booking engine  – but by doing so, you lose out on having an advocate who is looking out for your best interest.  With catastrophic incidents like today’s earthquake in Japan, folks travelling (or having family in affected areas) will find very little information if they’d booked their holiday online; and very unlikely to find someone acting in their best interests.  You’ll be queuing in the phone systems to talk to someone.

An online booking engine is a virtual travel agent, and like any travel agent, it takes orders only. A travel agent focuses on a quick transaction – indicate you want  ‘abc’ out of a warehouse of cookie-cutter and pre-assembled merchendise, and they’ll deliver a basket of goods to you at price ‘x’.  Now an online booking engine or regular travel agent may work very well. If their automated processes are efficient and effective, you may even get someone who does their job with care and expertise in delivering your order. But don’t expect much individualization, time, or attention – the online booking engines and the normal travel agents are process experts. The relationship is price-based, and there is very little value-added to either the client or the travel agent. It’s a “take’em in, churn’em out” kinda factory with no care to whether the products or services delivered actually met the needs of the client – kinda like MacDonald’s.

Don’t get me wrong – MacDonald’s is very good at what they do. They sell a lot of hamburgers. They have very efficient processes, they transact a lot of business, and the money flows.  But, there isn’t a lot of individualization in their Big Mac’s.  You’re not getting a carefully crafted burger that is made to your specifications. You’re getting a mass-produced, pre-cooked, and somewhat unhealthy, product delivered fast and cheap.

I like to draw parallels between MacDonald’s and the online booking engines and travel agents.  If you want a Big Mac, go to MacDonald’s. If you want the lowest-possible price for a holiday, go to an online booking engine. If you want to savour your meal,  and get something prepared for you, you don’t go to MacDonald’s (and hopefully you’d never go there on a family member’s birthday) – you’d go to a mom-and-pop burger place, or a fine dining establishment. And if you want a holiday that is created with you in mind, working with someone who will act as your advocate in delivering memories you can cherish, you don’t book online or with a travel “agent” – you go to travel advisor. Call me – I’ll be your travel ADVISOR.

Remember – only a spider trusts the web. Trust your travel advisor instead!