There is so much travel information online nowadays: every lodge and hotel has its own website; there are review sites, travel forums, blogs, guides and booking sites. With all of this data at your fingertips, does it still make sense to use the services of a travel consultant?
The answer lies in the type of trip you have in mind. While websites such as Travelocity or Booking.com can certainly find you the cheapest flight to Spain, if you’re travelling to a destination you don’t know well or your arrangements are a little more complex - then consulting an expert can really enhance (or in some cases save) your holiday plans.
1. Expert, First-Hand Advice
A good travel consultant regularly visits the destinations they sell. Not only that, but they also attend workshops, supplier training sessions and receive up-to-date feedback from their clients. This gives you access to invaluable insider tips. Want to know which safari lodge has the best guides or which beach chalet lies closet to the sea? Easy! Just ask your travel consultant.
2. Saves You Time
As mentioned earlier there’s a lot of information out there; so much so that it can be overwhelming. Try googling “South Africa holiday”; I just did and got 148 million results. Rather than scrolling through lists of hotels, consult a destination expert who can make sound recommendations matched to your requirements - saving you time and a great deal of frustration too!
3. Tailored to Your Needs
A cookie-cutter package can be great for a fun week in the sun, but nothing can compare to a tailor-made itinerary. A good consultant will consider each detail - your interest in cuisine or local culture; whether this is a romantic getaway or a family break - then put together a unique break with hand-picked accommodation and hassle-free logistics matched to your tastes, needs and budget.
Your consultant can put together a detailed itinerary with multiple stops and tried-and-tested accommodation.
4. No Extra Costs
Before beginning the consultation process, check if the agency you have selected charges a service fee. Some do but many don’t, meaning that you’d pay exactly the same were you to book direct. Not only that, but your consultant will give you a detailed quotation with a clear indication of what is included so your trip won’t be marred by any nasty surprises or hidden costs.
5. Excellent Supplier Relationships
Over the years travel consultants build up strong relationships with their suppliers, this gives them access to the best available rates and exclusive travel deals. What’s more they may even call in a favour or two: a wonderful surprise on your special occasion or (having been to the property themselves) the chalet with the perfect view.
6. Financial Peace of Mind
Your holiday is a substantial financial investment booked months in advance. In these turbulent times, what happens to your deposit should a lodge or an airline goes out of business? In South Africa reputable operators are bonded by SATSA (South African Tourism Services Association) which offers a third party financial guarantee. Before booking, ask what kind of travel ffiliations your consultant has.
7. Help Should You Need It
Plans can unexpectedly change when you’re winging your way across the world. If you suddenly find yourself stranded at a foreign airport, you want to be able to make one call to someone you know can sort the problem out. With their invaluable business connections to both airlines and hotels, your travel consultant is in the best position to jump in and assist should you need it.
Find out about new and exciting lodges, such as Kariega Settlers Drift which opened in December 2014.
8. Unbiased Recommendations
The vast majority of travel agencies don’t own any hotels or lodges, so rather than trying to push their own product they’re free to focus on selecting the right places for you. Consultants are passionate about travel, they want you to have the best experience possible - and a happy client could potentially bring them more repeat or referral business for them too. So everyone wins.
9. Up-to-Date Knowledge
Not only does your travel consultant have access to the latest travel deals, they also know about that fantastic new lodge that has just opened up and is receiving rave reviews. Then there all the other details essential to your plans: changing visa requirements and airline regulations, travel warnings, recommended vaccinations and the best insurance cover for your trip.
10. Personal Relationship
While TripAdvisor gives you strangers’ reviews, nothing beats the advice of someone who knows you well. If you’re lucky enough to travel regularly you'll soon build up a personal relationship with your consultant. On your next trip they might recommend an accommodation or off-the-beaten-track destination that you never even knew existed but, once discovered, soon realise is exactly what you needed.