Earlier this week, I blogged about part 1 and part 2 of Larry Olmsted’s articles on “why you need a travel agent” in Forbes’ magazine. See https://www.lushlife.ca/2012/02/why-use-a-travel-agent-part-1-pinging-on-the-forbes-article/ and https://www.lushlife.ca/2012/03/why-you-need-a-travel-agent-part-2-pinging-on-the-forbes-article/. Now, I’m pinging on part 3 of Larry’s article . (See http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2012/01/24/how-to-find-a-superstar-travel-agent-part-3/ )
Larry’s article explained how travel advisors can help make your trips both better experiences, and provide better value; and, of course, I’ve added to his points in my earlier posts. Obviously, it’s important to get a reputable travel advisor who knows what they are doing. That’s why it’s best to deal with a TICO-regulated travel advisor like myself. (https://www.lushlife.ca/2010/12/tico-watchdog-safeguards-you-before-you-book-have-a-look/). And, of course, having Canada’s largest independent travel agency, Vision 2000, behind me only adds to both my buying power, and my ability to get assistance with suppliers if you’re ever in a jam. (see https://www.lushlife.ca/about-lush-life-travel%e2%80%99s-partnerships/)
I have many specialities (Disney college of knowledge, certified adventure travel specialist, Anguilla travel connoisseur, Sandals and Beaches specialist, various cruise line specialty programs.) I’ve won awards for my levels of sales and my customer service. And, I have 20 years in financial services as a business background. If you look at my blog, you’ll also see many guest posts and testimonials from my clients – so that’s a great indication of who I am and how I treat my clients.
And, of course, I am a Virtuoso travel advisor. As Larry’s article notes:
Virtuoso is to travel agents what Relais & Chateaux or Leading Hotels of the World are to properties: an elite consortium of the best in the industry, bound together for mutual marketing benefit and clout, with high standards for membership. There are currently about 350 agencies that belong to Virtuosos, employing around 6,000 agents, or as they call them, “travel advisors.” Of course, given these numbers, not every agency is great, and certainly not every advisor, but I have a lot of years of experience with Virtuoso and to me it gives the confidence of a high quality level across the board, akin to Michelin stars for restaurants. Some agencies are one star and some three, but they are almost all very good….
When travel magazines and trade industry publications print lists of the best and most powerful agents, many are members of Virtuoso. The agents and agencies that I routinely personally recommend to friends, including ones I use myself ….
As the article goes on to note, “Virtuoso recruits and supports the very best agents in the business, they band together to extract concessions from their travel partners, which include cruise lines, airlines, a Who’s Who of the world’s great luxury hotels, and the very best luxury tour operators.”
And what does this mean to you as the client?
Well, every single one of these properties is contractually obligated to give clients of Virtuoso agents a special “amenity package” and these often include room upgrades, free breakfast daily, and welcome gifts like chocolate, wine or champagne, and can even include free nights, private airport transfers, club floor upgrades and free spa treatments. These amenities have a typical value of $250 per night, and in most cases at these hotels, you are also paying the lowest rate you could find elsewhere – or less. In other words if you book it yourself, online or over the phone, it costs you money. It helps that Virtuoso agents collectively booked $9.6 billion in travel in 2010, so the hotels have to cater to their wishes.
I am a Virtuoso travel advisor. I have been to Travel Mart in Vegas, and have learned the power of making one-to-one connections. As my earlier posts note, my clients have come to know the value of being a Virtuoso traveler.
I also believe in “collaborative commerce” with my clients. A trip is meant to focus on delivering their travel dreams – so I have to focus on them, and I have to ensure they are part of the planning process. I have to know whether my client values the service of a Four Seasons, or whether they want an adventure tenting trip. I have to discover what is important to each person so I can help orchestrate their dreams.
Of course you need a travel advisor. Who else will help you maximize your “return on life?” After all, you can’t VIP yourself!